Life of St. Ignatius of Loyola - F. A. Forbes

"Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam"

We have seen how, already in the days of Ignatius' university life at Alcala and Paris, men could find no other explanation of his extraordinary influence over others than that of sorcery. In the sixteenth century witchcraft and enchantment were believed in by many even educated men, and anything extraordinary was satisfactorily put down to their practice. But the belief in sorcery was to die out, and the influence of the Jesuits was to remain. The cunning and the wiliness of the sons of St. Ignatius, said their enemies, explained it all. The fact that wiliness and cunning did not produce quite the same effect when employed by other people, they did not consider worth their notice.

The "wiles" of the Society of Jesus had indeed a deeper root than the world suspected, and they had learnt them from a teacher greater than Ignatius himself. When the Master whose name it was their honour to bear made His dwelling amongst men, it was said of Him in contempt that He ate and drank with publicans and sinners. The name "Friend of sinners" must have indeed been dear to the heart of Christ; but it was none the less used by His enemies as a term of reproach. St. Paul, the great Apostle of the Gentiles, was only treading in his Lord's footsteps when he said, "I became all things to all men that I might save all." Herein lies the secret of that power of the Society of Jesus which has been so much and so often misunderstood and misrepresented. A holiness that draws back its skirts from the erring multitude may be respected and feared; it will be neither loved nor followed.

Ignatius was never tired of impressing on his sons in Christ the necessity of a large-minded and understanding charity in dealing with men, for whom, though they might be living in error or in sin, as much excuse was to be found as they in like case would find for themselves.

"There, but for the grace of God, goes Charles Wesley," said the famous Protestant preacher on seeing a criminal going to execution.

Sts. Ignatius and Francis Borgia


The feeling is that of all honest men who know themselves. "I go in at their door, but I am careful to make them come out at mine," said St. Francis Xavier, or in other words, "I interest myself in what interests them that I may lead them to interest themselves in the things of God." It was a "wile" that he had learnt of his Master, Christ, no less than of his father, Ignatius.

The reader may remember Ortiz, the erstwhile enemy of Loyola, who became later one of his most faithful friends. He determined when at Rome to make the exercises under the saint's direction, and for a time all went well. But Ortiz was not used to solitary 98) ?> prayer, and the loneliness told on his spirits. He gate way to depression, and had almost resolved to give it all up, when Ignatius entered, and seeing at a glance how things were going, asked him if he remembered the national dance. Ortiz, like Ignatius himself, was a Spaniard, and resembled all his countrymen in his love of dancing; he cheered up a little at the question, and forgot to be low-spirited.

Then the saint, calling up all the skill of his youthful days, danced for the greater glory of God, to the delight and enthusiasm of his retreatant. Ortiz took heart and resolved to go on with the exercises. He persevered to the end and came out, having learnt, he said, more theology in four weeks than he had taught, doctor though he was, in his whole life.

When Ignatius was in Paris, he went one day to visit a French doctor of theology, better known as a gambler than as a theologian. The Frenchman, half in jest, invited his guest to a game of billiards; which invitation, perhaps a little to his surprise, the visitor accepted.

"But," said Ignatius, "you are accustomed to play for money, and I have none; I will therefore make a proposal. If you win I will be your servant for a month; if I beat you, you will he at my disposition for the same time, and I promise that it will be for your advantage."

The idea took the gambler's is fancy; the risk besides would not be great. Ignatius could not be much of a player; the Frenchman thought himself safe.

But he had reckoned without his host; the Spaniard won, and promptly demanded his stake. The doctor was to make the spiritual exercises then and there under his direction. There was no help for it, the unwilling retreatant began the exercises; the prayers of the saint and of the sinner together did their work, and in this strange way another soul was won from a life of sin to the service of God.

In this way would Ignatius interest himself in all things that concerned these with whom he came in contact, He would talk of war with the soldier, of commerce with the merchant, of their work with the poor; yet all who spoke to him felt themselves the better for the meeting.

In the early days at Venice Ignatius and his companions had baptized and sheltered in their house a young Jew who desired to become a Christian. His elder brother, hearing of the conversion, pursued the boy to Venice and tracked him to his hiding place. In a state of great indignation he confronted the fathers, who received him with gentle charity and an invitation to remain under their roof that he might be better able to converse with his brother.

In the evening„ according to the custom of the house, they washed his feet, and so touched his heart by their kindness, that he also in due time embraced the faith. He afterwards became a missionary in the East, where his knowledge of the Oriental tongues made him a valuable worker.

Later, when the Society was established in Rome, a young Lutheran, noted for his eloquence, came to preach in the city, and was arrested and imprisoned for denying the doctrines of the Church. Ignatius interceded for the delinquent, and asked that he should be allowed to come to them that they might try what they could do on his behalf. The request was granted, and the unwilling guest, very much on the defensive, and determined not to be moved by anything his hosts should say, awaited the moment of attack. But the attack did not come; he was treated by every one in the house with the greatest consideration and charity, and all questions of doctrine were carefully avoided. A month or two later he was reconciled to the Church.

"We knew that you would be converted by their arguments," said his friends contemptuously, when he left Rome.

"Their arguments did not convert me," replied the young man, "it was the lives they led. 'Men who live like this,' I said to myself, 'must have the truth with them.'"

The first rector of the Douse at Alcala was Francisco de Villanueva, who like Favre was the son of poor and ignorant peasants. Ignatius used to say of the humble and intelligent novice that he had courage enough for anything, and that he would be glad to have twenty more like him in the Society.

At Alcala, in spite of the fact that his wisdom and holiness brought men of the highest rank to seek his advice and guidance, his favourite employment was to help in the kitchen, which he would declare was the right place for such as he. Villanueva had a friend, one Pedro de Aragon, a monk at the convent of Tendilla, a few miles from Alcala, who, yielding to the persuasion of the Jesuit, made the exercises under his direction. The profit he derived was so great that on his return to the monastery he advised all the brethren to follow his example; but the proposal was treated with contempt.

They had grown old in religion, they replied, and had nothing to learn from a young religious and a new order. One only, and that one more from a spirit of contradiction than from anything else, resolved to take the step, his resolution being received with a good deal of merriment. This was an old soldier of such a peppery disposition and uncertain temper that he was only retained in the house on account of the large sums of money he had bestowed on it.

This rather unpromising candidate set off for Alcala in not the most humble of dispositions, and requested to see the rector. But when he was confronted by Villanueva, diffident in manner and wearing a patched old cassock, his disgust knew no bounds, and he was for returning home on the spot. A soft answer, however, turneth away wrath, and somewhat pacified by the gracious charity with which his not over polite remarks were met, he agreed to stay the night, and next day consented to begin his retreat,

In his case the four weeks of the exercises had to be considerably lengthened, but the old nobleman persevered, and when he at length returned to his monastery, the haughty and violent-tempered monk had become gentle and humble. His brethren, in deep astonishment, waited to see how long the transformation was going to last; but though the struggle was sometimes apparent, the change was thorough and enduring. They one and all resolved to take the means to effect a like change in themselves, and made the exercises with great benefit.

It was this desire to do all for the greater glory of God, and to be all things to all men, that made the Jesuit missioners to China and Japan adopt the customs and even the dress of the natives. Living thus in the centre of their flock, making its interests their own, they would lead men almost imperceptibly to God, and so change the face of the land. It was the working out of their great founder's lifelong maxim: "Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam."