July 31: Ignatius of Loyola, Priest and Monastic, 1556

Welcome to the Holy Women, Holy Men blog! We invite you to read about this commemoration, use the collect and lessons in prayer, whether individually or in corporate worship, then tell us what you think. For more information about this project, click here.


About this commemoration

Vision of St. Ignatius of Loyola by Peter Paul Rubens

Ignatius was born into a noble Basque family in 1491. In his
autobiography he tells us, “Up to his twenty-sixth year, he was a man
given over to the vanities of the world and took special delight in the
exercise of arms with a great and vain desire of winning glory.” An
act of reckless heroism at the Battle of Pamplona in 1521 led to his
being seriously wounded. During his convalescence at Loyola, Ignatius
experienced a profound spiritual awakening. Following his recovery
and an arduous period of retreat, a call to be Christ’s knight in the
service of God’s kingdom was deepened and confirmed.

Ignatius began to share the fruits of his experience with others, making
use of a notebook which eventually became the text of the Spiritual
. Since his time, many have found the Exercises to be a way
of encountering Christ as intimate companion and responding to
Christ’s call: “Whoever wishes to come with me must labor with me.”

The fact that Ignatius was an unschooled layman made him suspect in
the eyes of church authorities and led him, at the age of 37, to study
theology at the University of Paris in preparation for the priesthood.
While there, Ignatius gave the Exercises to several of his fellow
students; and in 1534, together with six companions, he took vows
to live lives of strict poverty and to serve the needs of the poor.
Thus, what later came to be known as the Society of Jesus was born.

In 1540 the Society was formally recognized, and Ignatius became
its first Superior General. According to his journals and many of his
letters, a profound sense of sharing God’s work in union with Christ
made the season of intense activity which followed a time of great
blessing and consolation.

Ignatius died on July 31, 1556, in the simple room which served both
as his bedroom and chapel, having sought to find God in all things
and to do all things for God’s greater glory. His life and teaching, as
Evelyn Underhill and others have acknowledged, represents the best of
the Counter-Reformation.


I Almighty God, from whom all good things come: Thou
didst call Ignatius of Loyola to the service of thy Divine
Majesty and to find thee in all things. Inspired by his
example and strengthened by his companionship, may we
labor without counting the cost and seek no reward other
than knowing that we do thy will; through Jesus Christ
our Savior, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy
Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

II Almighty God, from whom all good things come: You
called Ignatius of Loyola to the service of your Divine
Majesty and to find you in all things. Inspired by his
example and strengthened by his companionship, may we
labor without counting the cost and seek no reward other
than knowing that we do your will; through Jesus Christ
our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy
Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.


Proverbs 22:1–6
1 Corinthians 10:31–11:1
Luke 9:57–62

Psalm 34:1–8

Preface of a Saint (3)

Text from Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.


Links related to Ignatius of Loyola

The Society of Jesus in the United States


We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?

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17 thoughts on “July 31: Ignatius of Loyola, Priest and Monastic, 1556

  1. I think the biograpn gives an excellent picture of St. Ignatius. In the short but well-written hagiography, his “setzen im leben”–his situation in life, when and where he lived–is made clear. Evelyn Underhill’s comment is helpful. As we read about his understanding of himself, his conversion from a desire for “vainglory” to a seeking after the will of Christ, followed by a life of service and leadership not only in “corporal works of mercy” but in spiritual ones, we are helped to an understanding of why “Ignatian spirituality” is studied and practiced by so many today.

  2. Michael–could you explain what you mean by the “who he is” and “why he is important” statement? It seemed to me the bio had all that in spades.

  3. I discovered the Spiritual Exercises over 25 years ago through Cursillo. I find them helpful to me and have reccommended them often over the years. Adding Ignatius to the list of Holy Men, Holy Women would be a real boost in promoting healthy spirituality in the Church.

  4. Celinda.
    I am championing to have each bio begin with a ‘who s/he is’ and ‘why s/he statement.

    An example of that is the commemoration for Albert John Luthuli (July 21) whose 1st bio sentence reads: ‘Mvumbi Luthuli was the first African to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of his leadership in South Africa’s non-violent struggle against apartheid.’

    You know immediately who he is and why he is commemorated.

    Admittedly most church people will know ‘who and why’ Ignatius of Loyola is commemorated. But I think that the principle of having a ‘who and why’ statement for each bio is worth lobbying for.

    And, I am afraid that you will see my comment many times through this year of blogging re: HWHM.

    * * * *

    And to my friend Harry – Ignatius of Loyola is not being added. He has already been approved by General Convention as a commemoration in the previous LFF

  5. I’m not crazy about that “unschooled layman” sentence. Even if it reflects the period, we should know better than to say it that way.

    His reasons for seeking ordination are not totally inspiring. (You’d think “Continuing the Reformation” hadn’t been written when this was drafted. God bless you, Ruth! And, Thank you!)

  6. Need to fix the “numbers agreement” in the following::”… together with six companions, he took vows
    to live lives of strict poverty….”

  7. This is an odd feast for Anglicans, given that we also celebrate Latimer, Ridley, and Cranmer, thus giving us saints on both ends of the match at Oxford. (I know Ignatius wasn’t personally involved, but the order he founded was.) I suspose we have to keep him, but let’s give July 31 back to its traditional saint (Joseph of Arimathaea) and celebrate Ignatius on August 1.

    1) Price and Weil (Liturgy for Living, 239, f.) write, “The men and women dignified by black-letter days [i.e., the lesser feasts] are not called saints. There is no procedure in the Anglican communion (sic) for recognizing sainthood. We have, on the whole, preferred the New Testament understanding of a saint as any Christian believer. “The saints who are at Corinth” is for St. Paul synonymous with the Christian congregation at Corinth. In the Old Testament the saints are Hasidim, those who belong to the covenant people and are bound to God and to each other by the covenant loyalty (hesed), which God requires of us and himself gives. All baptized Christians are saints in this sense. Black-letter days, then, commemorate not saints, but great persons in the Christian tradition. . . .
    QUESTION: Noting especially the discourse in this blog, is this still a reasonable statement of our belief, terminology and practice regarding the lesser feasts in the Episcopal Church, namely, that we don’t use “saint” for those commemorated on minor feasts?
    2) The same source continues (240) “We do speak of those persons given red-letter days [ i.e., the major feasts] as “saints,” in a significant exception to the general principle. . . . [T]hese are recognized as saints in a special though not exclusive sense. . . . ” [Bracked comments added.]
    QUESTION: Similar to the question above — is this still a reasonable statement of our belief and practice regarding the major feasts in the Episcopal Church, namely, that we do use “saint” for those commemorated on major feasts?
    3) Again, in the same source (239) it says, [The BCP] “contains outstanding men and women recognized by the universal church before the Reformation. After the Reformation, only persons in the Anglican tradition appear; after 1789, they are chiefly Americans.”
    QUESTION: It’s obvious that this norm no longer applies. Are there ANY guidelines besides those in the back of HWHM (742, ff.) to assist in judging what contributes to a meaningfully constructed calendar, or (just as important) what may be edifying but not optimally fit for inclusion in the official calendar?
    COMMENT: Every parish knows of baptized Christians whose lives are quietly heroic, or even not-so-quietly outstanding in terms of faithfulness, devotion, prayer, and all the rest. Surely, not ALL should be included?
    4) QUESTION: Are we working towards a goal of any sort? For instance, an optional commemoration for every day in the year? A distribution according to constituencies previously neglected? An ecumenical representation (and if so, would there be any criteria of unacceptability by religion, by practice,or by idiosyncratic creedal anomaly)?
    COMMENT: I know someone who will go to a furniture store (couches, upholstered chairs, side chairs, area rugs, kitchens, bedrooms, living rooms, dining rooms, outdoor pieces, wall decorations, wallpaper books, etc.) and when asked “can I help you” will answer, “I like blue.” There’s no punch line to this story. It illustrates making decisions based on likes (or dislikes) but lacking a sense of context, goal, or finished product. It’s a little crazy. Or, to put it differently, it’s a case of “Ready! Fire! Aim!”
    5) QUESTION: Does it make sense (or even, has it been agreed) that having MORE THAN a single optional observance for a given calendar day is an acceptable working norm for this kind of book?
    COMMENT: I don’t like THAT shade of blue.

    • What follows are personal cmments, and should not be read as speaking for the Calendar Comm. or the SCLM. In reference to your points 1-4, I would urge another reading of “Guideliunes and Procedures,” which has been concurred twice by General Convention. On the one hand, Baptism is “a necessary prerequisit for inclusion…” On the other hand, our original charge encouraged ecumenical study & greater representation of the laity and the many ethnic groups who were underrepresented. In reference to your point 5, we decided not to follow the Roman model of tripartite ranking adopted by the Anglican Ch. of Canada and others. Particularly since most moderns cannot be considered ‘saints’ we did not presume to rank them. There are two types of multiple observances. The first has been in LFF for some time. The second – discrete offerings – were presented with the idea that some congregations would find some more helpful than others, or could use them in every other year, in the same way that we use the Office Lectionary. Since all are optional, we thought that local discernment was important. We claim no responsibility for shades of blue – that should be addressed to CPI. Greg Howe

  9. Thanks, Steve Lusk, for the historical reminders. I had stupidly assumed that the Counter Reformation took place after the deaths of the major Protestant reformers like Cranmer, but I see now that Cranmer and Ignatius were almost exact contemporaries (Cranmer 1489-1556, Ignatius Loyola 1491-1556). Loyola’s Society of Jesus (Jesuits) was approved by the pope in 1540. Steve–can you tell us more about the role of the Jesuits ini the trial and execution of Cranmer? –It does indeed seem ironic that we honor both Cranmer and Loyola, a leader of the Counter Reformation, which made some reforms we all would think were needed (better education for priests, less absenteeism, etc.) but also tried to undo what Cranmer was doing theologically. Two things Cranmer and the Counter Reformation, starting with the Council of Trent (1545-1563) disagreed on were the doctrine of salvation (for Cranmer and Luther it was by faith; for the Counter Reformation, it was insisted that faith and to be accompanied by works, which to many Protestants then and now seemed like Pelagianism) and Transubstantiation, which Cranmer died preaching against. How DO we reconcile this honoring of a person who founded a society which executed the person most responsible for the foundations of Anglicanism, with honoring our own Cranmer as well?

    • Thanks for your response, too. On further checking, it was actually a Dominican friar, Juan de Villagarcia, who played the good cop role (as opposed to the torturers’ bad cop) in the interrogation of Thomas Cranmer. But Jesuits played prominent roles in Mary’s attempts to reimpose Roman Catholicism and in Papal and Spanish efforts to foment rebellion against Queen Elizabeth. Perhaps Foxe’s Book of Martyrs needs to be more widely read in seminaries, if only as a corrective for those who insist that we are not now and never have been a Protestant church.
      One of the glories of our church is that we don’t try to reconcile these differences, at least not with regards to the Reformation-era saints. We honor their contributions and discount those of their failings that can be attributed being people of their own time.
      We honor “that monster of wickedness” (Archbishop Laud), despite the fact that the Constitution contains a number of articles that almost seem calculated to drive stakes through his heart (no bills of attainder, no secret trials, no cruel and unusual punishments, no established church). And, HWHM praises the “perseverance” of Samuel Seabury, despite his distasteful views on church polity and organization. (To my mind, at least, LFF had it right, commemorating only his consecration. It’s amazing how much we’ll overlook once someone gets labeled a defender of High Churchmanship.)
      Perhaps one day we’ll be able to look past the now-unforgivable sin of being both Low Church and a Confederate to consider some exemplary Episcopalians like Richard Channing Moore, William Meade, John Johns, and Robert E. Lee. (William Porcher DuBose suggests that you can be a Confederate as long as you “reflect” a sufficient degree of Oxford Tractarianism.)

  10. Interesting. About Seabury–I very much enjoyed Bp Marshall’s _One, Catholic, and Apostolic_, which used primary sources to show what Seabury’s real contributions were. For instance, if I remember the book right, Seabury insisted important early decisions couldn’t be made without a bishop on board (seems like a good idea to me) and that the first American BCP be less “liberal” than those who wanted it to be in order to please people like Benjamin Franklin and John Jay. In other words, it wasn’t that Seabury was “high church,” it was that he believed in the creeds (the more liberal thinkers didn’t want to emphasize Jesus’ divinity) and he believed in what seemed to me a more Cranmerian Eucharistic doctrine than the more liberal thinkers wanted. My impression was that the compromises he and Bishop White (that is, the first bishop of PA) achieved were good for the church. I’d like to see his commemoration mention some of that.

  11. I just want to say thank you for the continued discussion about Ignatius of Loyola. Being a cradle Episcopalian, coming from a low-church background, and descended from a family deeply steeped in Reformed and Calvinist theology, I cringe each year when we get to Ignatius of Loyola. I never quite understood how he came to be included in the liturgical calendar. So the discussion is very enlightening.

  12. It may be a bit late to mention this, but Loyola wasn’t a “monastic,” but rather a “religious.” He didn’t live in a monastery and had an active ministry outside of anything like a cloister.

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