St. Ignatius of Loyola 1491-1556

St Ignatius of Loyola – full name Inigo Lopez de Loyola – was the youngest son of a Spanish nobleman born in Loyola in the Basque country of Spain in 1491. He became a soldier at the age of 16 and fought against the French when they invaded Spain. At the Battle of Pamplona in 1521 his right leg was shattered by a cannonball and as the wounded leg was mending he suffered great pain.

Inigo was taken prisoner by the French and was sent back to Loyola. During this time while he was recovering from injury he read about the life of Jesus Christ. As hospitals were run by religious orders such texts were often the only ones available to patients. Reading about Jesus moved him very much and he decided to give up his career as a soldier and follow the example of Jesus.

Inigo spent a long time in prayer in a monastery, giving away all his money and belongings. In 1523 he made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land to see where Jesus had lived.

At the age of 33 he returned to study and he went to a boys’ school in Barcelona to learn more about Jesus. In 1524 he went on to university to study Theology and Latin at the University of Alcala in Madrid and then to Paris. He finally received his degree at the age of 43. He became one of a group of seven men, including St. Francis Xavier, who met at university and vowed to live in poverty and give up their lives to help the sick.

In 1540 the group asked Pope Paul III for permission to start a new religious order. They took the name the Society of Jesus and the Jesuit Order was founded. Inigo now called himself Ignatius. He was given the title Father General by the newly formed Jesuits.

In 1548 papal approval was given for the publication of Ignatius’s Spiritual Exercises. It is a set of mediations and prayers designed to be used over a period of 28 to 30 days in religious retreats. The publication is still used by the Jesuits and others today.

Ignatius spent the rest of his life training his followers and opening colleges for boys in Europe. He sent his priests as missionaries to India, Japan and North America to spread the word of Jesus.

St Ignatius’s motto was “For the greater glory of God”. He died in Rome on 31st July 1556 of malaria and was made a saint in 1622.

We celebrate his feast day on 31 July.

Account written by parishioner Yvonne Craig

St Ignatius features in a window in the nave of the church. It was installed in memory of the service of Father Patrick Murray, who served as the parish priest for 29 years until his death on 14 February 1952 at the age of 77. He had been a priest for 49 years.

Prayer of St Ignatius

Dearest Lord,
teach me to be generous;
teach me to serve You as You deserve;
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labour and not to ask for reward
save that of knowing I am doing Your Will.

The Jesuit Connection to Sunbury

The first known Jesuit connection with Sunbury came around the 1850s through Beaumont College in Windsor. The college housed Jesuit novices until 1861 when they moved to Manresa House in Roehampton. The Jesuits, founded by St Ignatius of Loyola in 1540, had been entrusted by the bishops to provide spiritual leadership to many of the burgeoning Catholic parishes in England at this time.

The Jesuit novices from Beaumont prepared the local Catholic children for Confirmation. It is known that around 1854, fifty to sixty of these children walked to Weybridge (some bare-footed for lack of shoes) to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. The Jesuits preached to the Catholic community of Sunbury and one of these, Father Foley, even preached in their native Gaelic tongue.