St. Ignatius of Loyola

Feast • JULY 31

Church • Lowell

If God does indeed inspire the right saint to act at the right time, then St. Ignatius of Loyola was certainly one of them. The Society of Jesus, which he founded, was unquestionably one of the most important religious orders to come into existence during the time of the Catholic Counter-Reformation.

Like many saints, Ignatius did not start out on a path of sanctity. Born into a noble Basque family in 1491, this Spanish knight had hoped for a career of military fame; however, while fighting in the Battle of Pamplona in 1521, his leg was shattered by a cannon ball. His military career now at an end, during his convalescence Ignatius began to read about the life of Christ and the saints; this led him to become a different kind of soldier — a soldier for Christ.

A period of spiritual peace was followed by a harrowing year full of fear and scruples, which nearly led him to despair. But out of this came perhaps one of his greatest spiritual works, which is still practiced today — the “Spiritual Exercises.” These would eventually become the basis for his order’s “Ignatian” method of both spiritual direction and the discernment of spirits.

In 1534, at the age of 43, Ignatius gathered around him six like-minded men who vowed to live in poverty and chastity in order to serve the Church, offering themselves in apostolic service to the pope. In 1540, Pope Paul III made this association permanent and approved the rule of the new order which was called the Society of Jesus, or the Jesuits.

The order soon became known — and still is known — as a teaching order; members also became missionaries, sent out to both teach and minister to those in need. Perhaps the most famous of these early missionaries was St. Francis Xavier, one of Ignatius’ original companions, who was declared a patron of foreign missionaries by Pope St. Pius X.

St. Ignatius remained in Rome to govern the order from 1541 until his death in 1556. His feast day is July 31, and he is the patron saint of retreats.

St. Ignatius of Loyola Parish was established in 1875 and blessed by first Burlington Bishop Louis de Goësbriand in 1886. It is now part of St. Andre Bessette Parish.

A statue of St. Ignatius is located in the church. Whenever possible, there is a Mass and Benediction celebrated on the feast of St. Ignatius, July 31.“We are blessed to have parishioners that cover all the of needed ministries in our parish, as well as the youth who cover altar serving and music ministry and serve as lectors,” said Father Sahaya Paul Siluvai Sebastian, administrator of St. Andre Bessette Parish. “We are a parish rich in tradition and still active after all these years!”

—Originally published in the Summer 2020 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.

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