Ignatius of Loyola's Society

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Since chivalry dominated the personality of Íñigo de Loyola, it set the undertone to his prayer life and his relationships with his fellow men. Consequently, it imbued the spirit, structure, organization and aims of the Spiritual Exercises as can be seen in the author’s instructions on the attitude of soul for how to give and do the Spiritual Exercises: “como noble caballero de Christo” [ like a noble knight of Christ]. As one of his spiritual sons stated, the phrase is “the distilled essence of his whole personality and, consequently, of the ideal of perfection in the Company; it is a ringing challenge to the best souls of our age, souls who feel called to give their whole service to the Church ‘like noble knights of Christ’!” (Hugh Rahner)

This influence of chivalry naturally drenched the ideal, goals, methods and lifestyle of his foundation, the Compañía de Jesus. The name itself, Compañía de Jesus, is an explicit reference to its militant inspiration. Coincidentally, the name Societas Iesu had already been borne by a military order recognized by Pope Pius II in 1450 whose goal was the military defense of Christendom and the spread of the Faith.

In the foundational document entitled the “Formula of the Institute of the Society of Jesus”, this conviction of being called to combat on the front lines for the Church Militant is present from the opening line:

“Whoever desires to serve as a soldier of God beneath the banner of the Cross in our Society, which we desire to be designated by the Name of Jesus, and to serve the Lord alone and the Church, his spouse, under the Roman Pontiff, the Vicar of Christ on earth, should, after a solemn vow of perpetual chastity, poverty and obedience, keep what follows in mind. He is a member of a Society founded chiefly for this purpose: to strive especially for the defense and propagation of the faith and for the progress of souls in Christian life and doctrine…”.

In the vision of St. Ignatius the members of the Compañía de Jesus are therefore a band of Christian men bonded by the chivalric ideal. The Ignatian is a spiritual warrior who has asked for “the favor of being admitted under Christ’s flag” (Spiritual Exercises) and who, once enlisted in the army of the “supreme Commander-in-Chief of the forces of good, Christ our Lord” (Spiritual Exercises) dedicates his life to “understanding the life of truth exemplified by our true Commander-in Chief…and for imitating Him”(Spiritual Exercises), fighting the enemy by “understanding the wiles of the evil leader…guarding against them” (Spiritual Exercises) fighting “throughout the whole world, sowing the seed of His [Christ’s] sacred teaching in the hearts of men of every rank and condition” (Spiritual Exercises).

Therefore, the Ignatian’s goal is the conquest of souls from love, through love, for love; vigorously fighting to protect them from evil with all of the masculine drive for combat sublimely focused; ever alert to the dangers and enemies from the “Father of Lies”, and his conscious or unconscious allies among men.

No wonder such a combative force provoked fierce hostility and persecution unto dungeon, fire, and martyrdom.

The Ignatian, in the mind of St. Ignatius of Loyola, is therefore a disciplined man. His acceptance of the discipline of the corporate body of Ignatians is due to his own deep conviction of its vital necessity for spiritual warfare and for achieving the ad majorem Dei gloriam. It’s expression in obedience is looked upon as obedience to the supreme Commander-in-chief, the Lord Jesus Christ; its difficulties the opportunity to be a Simon of Cyrene; it’s effect a freedom from egotism and the chains of the passions; its glory is to be able “to make up in one’s flesh what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ for the sake of His Body, the Church.” (Col. 1:24).