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

The Warfare

In the winter of 1536, Ignatius summoned his little band of disciples, who had remained behind in Paris to complete their studies, to meet him at Venice. He himself had spent the interval preaching in Spain and Italy revisiting the scenes of his boyhood, and founding in his native town of Azpeitia an association for the poor, which he endowed with the income from his own property. Don Martin, his brother, had strongly disapproved of the preaching and prophesied with true brotherly candor that no one would listen. He soon learnt his mistake, for Ignatius was fairly driven out of the town by the crowds which followed him; and in the country, when there was no more standing room round the preacher, the peasants climbed the trees.

The Spanish mission ended, Ignatius, on foot as usual, made his way to Venire to await the arrival of the travellers. Many had been their trials by the way. Sickness and peril, cold and want, had been their portion; but, true soldiers of Christ, they had trudged on manfully to their journey's end; and in the meeting with their chief, all their woes were forgotten. For some time the little army, strengthened by recruits from Venice, worked together in the hospitals, young Francis Xavier sucking the wounds of the patients, a remedy then much believed in.

The time was now come to think of the projected mission to Palestine, but the league against the Turks made the seas impassable for pilgrims. To Loyola and his companions it was the hand of God that barred the way; they resolved to remain where they were. In the early summer Ignatius and six others received ordination, and separating, the little army went forth two by two, as the Apostles of old, to preach the Gospel of Christ.

"Set all in fire and flame," were Ignatius' customary words of farewell to his companions; and with this precept in their hearts they spoke.

Everywhere at their burning words faith cod love rekindled; clergy and people cast off the bonds that held them, and awoke to a new life. But the success was never to be uninterrupted for long. The old accusation of heresy was brought up, to be once more publicly and triumphantly refuted. Then it was that Ignatius resolved to undertake the long postponed journey to Rome.

Setting out in company with Favre and Lainez, he arrived at the Eternal City in the late autumn. On the way thither, while praying in a wayside chapel, Our Lord appeared to him in a vision, bending under the burden of the Cross.

"I will have you to serve me," He said; "I will be propitious to you in Rome,"

To Paul III, engaged as he was in the laborious and difficult work of reform, the proffered service of Ignatius was very welcome. Favre and Lainez he appointed at once to lecture at the University, while Ignatius devoted himself to his beloved poor. In the spring of 1538 the disciples whose mission had been abundantly blessed by God were recalled to Rome, where they found Ignatius established in a house that had been given to the Society by its first Roman member. Rome for the time was to be their field of action, and there the apostolate began in good earnest. As in Venice, before their burning zeal the fire kindled and men changed their lives.

As in Venice also, the enemy of mankind was active against them. The Pope had left the city to confer with Francis I and Charles V on the subject of a proposed Crusade. The moment was ripe.

Francis Xavier, when a student in Paris, had a young friend, one Miguel Navarro, whose anger and jealousy had been aroused by his conversion. Climbing up one night to the window of Ignatius' room with a dagger between his teeth, he determined to put an end once for all to his influence over the young professor; but a voice from heaven struck terror to his guilty soul. Falling at the feet of his intended victim, he confessed his sin and implored pardon. The conversion seemed genuine; he even joined the Society, but soon left it—to seek readmission at a later period. This was however refused him, and, resolved on vengeance, he joined forces with one Fra Agostino, an Augustinian friar and secret disciple of Luther. They came to Rome, where the friar began at once to preach, drawing large audiences.

At first all seemed to be well, but gradually the Lutheran doctrines insinuated themselves, and the watchful began to see how the wind was blowing. Lainez and Salmeron privately warned Agostino that his teaching was unorthodox, but an insulting defiance was the only reply. The friar then resolved on a bold move. From the pulpit he openly denounced Ignatius and his disciples as heretics. Three times, he declared, had they been tried and convicted: in Salamanca, Paris, and Venice. He had witnesses to prove the truth of all he said. Navarro was produced, and the tide of popular feeling began to turn against the Jesuits. Ignatius was advised to appeal to Cardinal de Cupis, the head of the Sacred College, but the Cardinal was strongly against him, and refused audience. A mutual friend at last prevailed on him to change his mind, but it was surely against the grain.

"Let him come," he said, "but he shall get what he deserves." Ignatius came, and the two were alone for a time together. Once again, as so many times before, intercourse with the man converted the bitterest enemies into the warmest friends. The Cardinal himself accompanied his visitor to the door, proffering all the help in his power. Ignatius requested an instant trial, that he might be confronted by his enemies.

Navarro repeated his charge, but on Loyola's producing a letter written by Miguel himself, warm in praise of the little Company and of their chief, the evidence broke down completely. Agostino professed himself ready to recant, but Ignatius was resolved to put an end once for all to these continued assaults which promised to be such a hindrance to the work of the Society. On the Pope's return he laid the whole matter before him, and the proceedings were again opened.

By the extraordinary Providence of God, the three very men who had tried and acquitted Ignatius at Alcala, Paris, and Venice, were together in Rome at the time, and united their evidence in his favour. Testimonies came from all districts where his disciples had worked, and their innocence was formally attested. Navarro and Agostino were forced to flee to escape the punishment of their calumny.

At Christmas Ignatius said his first Mass; and then turned his attention to a work of mercy that was sadly in need of volunteers. Famine was in Rome, and the people were dying of hunger in the streets. Over four hundred were sheltered in the new house of the Company, tended, fed, and clothed. The rich, moved by their example, gave generously. The Pope was learning the value of the little army of devoted men who feared neither hardship nor labour in the service of Christ.

It was in these early days at Rome that Pedro Ribadeneira joined the Company of Jesus.

This madcap boy of fifteen was a page in the household of Cardinal Farnese, kinsman of Paul III, and many were the pranks he played. At a stately function where the Pope himself was present, and the pages of the household were in attendance with lighted torches, he had dashed from the ranks to beat a brother page about the head, because, as he remarked indignantly, he had made a face at him.

The Cardinal having one day ordered his attendance on a short journey, into the country, Pedro, whose fancy the country did not please, ran off and spent the day strolling about the town. With nightfall carne the prospect of a thrashing from the master of the pages; so, remembering opportunely that he had promised a. friend to visit Ignatius when in Rome, the runaway knocked at the door of the Jesuit house, to find himself face to face with Loyola on the doorstep. The two understood each other at once, and on the boy's explaining the situation to his new friend, Ignatius offered him a bed, and promised to intercede for him on the morrow.

The Cardinal only laughed, for Pedro was a general favourite, and told them to send him back; but a fresh complication had arisen. Back Pedro would not go. He liked Ignatius; he liked the fathers; they suited him; he was going to remain; he would be a Jesuit too. No persuasions could prevail on him to change his mind; and in the end, with the consent of his family, Ignatius kept him. Then began such a noviceship as surely no religious house had seen before.

It was not in a day, nor yet in a year, that the reckless, wilful nature of Ribadeneira was to learn the "strength that comes of self-control." The pranks he played were endless; the noise he made was unparalleled. The novice-master complained again and again that the boy would never do any good. Ignatius alone saw all the possibilities that lay hidden under the wild untamed nature. Such a character would be strong for good or evil; here was no nonentity but; Ignatius not like nonentities.

"If Pedro lives," he would say, "he will do great things for God."

Ribadeneira's love and admiration for his master were boundless, and he tried his best to please him, though his efforts were not always crowned with success.

By degrees, with a persevering patience, Ignatius led him to make the exercises. After that things went better, though two years later, when the boy was sent to the University of Paris, we catch a glimpse of the old mischievous spirit still alive. The little party lodged for a night in the hospital at Viterbo. Here Pedro amused himself by a voyage of discovery which ended in the church. Climbing into the pulpit he made as if he were addressing an imaginary congregation, while the old sexton, who had been sweeping in a corner, promptly set to work to ring the bell. It was the hour for a sermon, the people flocked in.

"But who is going to preach?" asked Pedro, a little taken aback.

"You, of course," replied the sacristan. Here was a situation!

The novice was luckily not troubled by shyness; a few weeks before he had been obliged, as were all novices in the Society, to preach a trial sermon before the Community. Happily he remembered it, and gave it out in his best manner; though, the ordeal once over, he was not sorry to make his escape. But not so fast! He was waylaid by an old man who had kept a grudge against a neighbour for years. The sermon, he said, had done him good; he wanted to go to confession. Pedro fetched one of his companions who was a priest, and congratulated himself that his prank had had no worse ending.

Ignatius' prophecy was fulfilled; the mad-cap Pedro became in later years a true and faithful soldier of Christ, and one of the most famous writers of the Society.