Today I want to call to your attention the tremendous position that our saint of this day, Ignatius Loyola, occupies in the history of the Church.
Saint Ignatius was born in 1491,2,or 3: there is some uncertainty about that, in the northern part of Spain among the Basque people, of whom he was one. Born and raised Catholic, he became a soldier, living the life that that entailed at the time. But in a skirmish with the French along the Pyrenean border, he was struck by an enemy cannonball which shattered one of his legs. That cannonball changed the course of the world. He had to spend long, boring hours in bed as his leg mended, and when he found out that he would limp and be unable to dance in the future, he made the surgeon rebreak the leg and stretch it so that he could dance again! God had other plans for this young Spanish soldier. Asking for something to read to while away the long hours of recuperation, he was given the life of Christ and of the saints—the only things that the devout family had in their library. That reading was the channel of grace; he realized that there was more to life than fighting in political armies, dancing, and living the life of a mercenary soldier of the time. He began to look into the condition of his soul and his relationship with God. Being a soldier, he thought in military terms. God was his Commander in Chief; the spread of the Kingdom of Christ on earth was something like the spread of the Spanish kingdom throughout the newly discovered Americas and the Far East. He wanted to fight a spiritual battle for the divine Emperor, spreading the Kingdom of Christ from pole to pole. He would form a military company or battalion, which he would call the Company of Jesus like the companies of soldiers in the armies of this world.
When he could walk again, he gave up his position in the army and went to school to learn Latin so that he could then enter a seminary. In Paris, not only did he study the sacred sciences but he met a number of other young Spaniards studying there. He persuaded them to join with him in founding his “Company of Jesus.” The word “company” was rendered into Latin as “societas,” from which we get “society.” So the Jesuits are called the Society of Jesus because of a slight mistranslation of the Latin. The word misses the military overtones of Saint Ignatius’s intention.
The group of men went to Rome where they received the approbation of Pope Paul III in 1540, and the new Society or Company of Jesus came into being. Since then, the followers of Ignatius Loyola have grown to be the largest religious community of men in the Church, and certainly one of the most influential because of their schools all over the world. My father was, and I am, products of Jesuit education. And I am eternally grateful for the education and spiritual formation that they gave me.
Recently, the Jesuits of the world have come upon bad times in that a number of them have embraced the erroneous theology which claims to be “in the spirit of Vatican II.” In this country, some of our Jesuit colleges and universities have abandoned any real Catholicism and have done more damage than benefit to their students. We must hope and pray that these evil days will pass, and the Society of Jesus, which Saint Ignatius intended to be unswervingly loyal to the Pope, will return to that splendid goal and to the excellence that marked it for more than four centuries. Thank you for seeking God’s truth, God Bless you. Father Victor Brown.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.