How Saint Ignatius Became a Saint

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By Rev. D Chisolm

Conversion of Saint Ignatius

The Soldier

Ignatius Loyola was a young man whose only ambition in life was to gain for himself a great name by his bravery and deeds of valor. He had forgotten altogether the one great end of his creation and lived as if he had nothing to hope for hereafter.

He had not, it is true lost the gift of faith, but had imbibed so much spirit of the world that all his thoughts were fixed upon it, and although he never yielded to any dishonorable act or anything that would stain his moral character, yet he lived at enmity with God, and thought only of the honors and the pleasures of this present life.

An occasion soon occurred which gave him the opportunity he continually aspired after, of gaining renown. A war broke out between Charles V, Emperor of Germany, and the King of France. Ignatius hastened to offer his services to aid in the defense of Pampeluna against the attack of the French army, which was advancing to besiege it. His offer was accepted, and he was left in Pampeluna by the Viceroy, not to command, but to encourage the garrison. He did all in his power to defend the city, but in vain.

However, when he saw them open the gates to the enemy, to save his own honor he retired into the citadel with only one soldier who had the courage to follow him. The garrison of this fortress deliberated likewise whether they should surrender, but Ignatius encouraged them to stand their ground.

The French attacked the place with great fury, and with their artillery made a wide breach in the wall, and attempted to take it by assault. Ignatius appeared upon the breach at the head of the bravest part of the garrison, and with his sword in his hand endeavored to drive back the enemy; but in the heat of the combat a shot from a cannon broke from the wall a bit of stone, which struck and bruised his left leg, and the ball itself in the rebound broke and shattered his right leg. The garrison, seeing him fall, surrendered at discretion.

The French used their victory with moderation, and treated the prisoners well, especially Ignatius, in consideration of his quality and valor. They carried him at first to the General’s quarters, and soon after sent him in a litter carried by two men to the castle of Loyola, which was not far from Pampeluna.


It was long before he could be removed from his couch even after his legs had begun to heal. He was in perfect health, but found the time of inaction tedious to his martial spirit. As he had a special attraction for tales of chivalry, he asked his attendant to bring him some book of romances, or the fabulous histories of knight-errantry. None such books then being found in the castle of Loyola, his servant brought him books containing the lives of our Divine Saviour, of His Blessed Mother, and of the saints. This kind of reading was not what the wounded man would have chosen, but as no others could be procured he was glad to read them to pass away the time.

He read first one and then the other, and soon began to relish them and to spend whole days in reading them. He chiefly admired in the saints their love of solitude and of the Cross. He learned there also that among the anchorites there had been many persons of quality and possessing great riches, who, renouncing all these things for God’s sake, buried themselves alive in caves and dens, pale with fasting and covered  with haircloth, and he said to himself, “These men were of the same nature and frame as I am; why, then, should I not do what they have done?”

As he read the life of Our Divine Redeemer, he felt his heart inflamed with the great desire to love Him more and more. Not only did he read it over and over again, but he wrote down in a book the pious thoughts that moved his heart for now he could think of nothing else. The world had now passed out of his mind, and he thought only of God and heavenly things. It is related that in this book whenever he wrote the Holy Name of Jesus he always did so in letters of gold, and that he always wrote in letters of silver the august name of Mary.

It was thus that, by reading pious books, one of the greatest saints in Heaven, and the founder of the Society of Jesus, was changed from being a child of the world to become the means of leading myriad souls to God and to Heaven.

Let us, then, feed our souls daily with this same spiritual food, that we also may become more and more fervent in the love of God.

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