ST. IGNATIUS DE LOYOLA was born in the province of Guipuzcoa, Spain, in 1491. His family was a noble one. In 1521 he was wounded and captured at the siege of Pampeluna, but sent home by his captors. While here he became interested in a religious life. He went to Jerusalem to convert the Mohammedans, but was compelled to return by the Franciscan provincial. Then he took up the study of Latin at Barcelona and in 1526 attended the new university of Alcala. Here he began to formulate his idea for a society on different lines from those of the monks.
When the Reformation began to spread over northern Europe, there was no active missionary force in the Catholic church to oppose it. The idea of the monasteries was to draw men from the world and let them busy themselves in their own salvation in seclusion. Loyola formed an order to be sent out into the world to be active missionaries of the Catholic Church.
The foundation of the society was laid by the constitution drawn up by Loyola and approved by Pope Paul III. in 1540. Loyola was chosen to be the first general of the society. The original powers granted were greatly enlarged in 1546.
The efforts of the society have been exerted chiefly through direct missionary efforts and education. The members are under the military- like command of their superior, and are liable to be sent to any part of the world. The influence of the company has been enormous. The conversion of heathens to Catholicism has been done mostly by them, and they have been the most powerful influence in preserving southern Europe to the Roman church.
They have been fiercely attacked by Protestants and their great power has at times caused factions in the Roman church itself, but it is unquestionable that they greatly aided to save the church when the old monastic orders were tottering, and from their very nature, helpless.
Loyola died in 1556
Excerpt from The Library of Original Sources 1907