Today the Church commemorates the glorious Knight-founder of the Jesuit Order, St. Ignatius Loyola. “In the year 1521 a cannon ball fractured the left leg of Captain Ignatius Loyola, the future founder of the Jesuits. While he was convalescing, Ignatius read about Christ and His saints and thus turned wholly to God. He then undertook to equip himself for Christ’s service by acquiring a good classical and theological education. On the feast of the Assumption, 1534, the seven pioneer Jesuits pronounced their vows in Paris. The members of the Society of Jesus became the shock troops of the Church in the battle against the spread of Protestantism in Europe, as well as one of the greatest foreign mission organizations that the world has known. Ignatius died on July 31, 1556.” source
The following describes the beginnings of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius:
“Ignatius was passionately fond of reading worldly books of fiction and tales of knight-errantry. When he felt he was getting better from a wound he had received in battle, he asked for some of these books to pass the time. But no book of that sort could be found in the house; instead they gave him a life of Christ and a collection of the lives of saints written in Spanish.
By constantly reading these books he began to be attracted to what he found narrated there. Sometimes in the midst of his reading he would reflect on what he had read. Yet at other times he would dwell on many of the things which he had been accustomed to dwell on previously. But at this point our Lord came to his assistance, insuring that these thoughts were followed by others which arose from his current reading.
While reading the life of Christ our Lord or lives of the saints, he would reflect and reason with himself: ‘What if I should do what Saint Francis or Saint Dominic did?’ In this way he let his mind dwell on many thoughts; they lasted a while until other things took their place. Then those vain and worldly images would come into his mind and remain a long time.
But there was a difference. When Ignatius reflected on worldly thoughts, he felt intense pleasure; but when he gave them up out of weariness, he felt dry and depressed. Yet when he thought of living the rigorous sort of life he knew the saints had lived, he not only experienced pleasure when he actually thought about it, but even after he dismissed these thoughts, he still experienced great joy. Yet he did not pay attention to this, nor did he appreciate it, until one day, in a moment of insight he began to marvel at the difference. Then he understood his experience. Thoughts of one kind left him sad, the others full of joy. – from the life of Saint Ignatius, from his own words, by Luis Gonzalez”
The following are two spiritual “tips” from St. Ignatius:
“Do not let any occasion of gaining merit pass without taking care to draw some spiritual profit from it; as, for example, from a sharp word which someone may say to you; from an act of obedience imposed against your will; from an opportunity which may occur to humble yourself, or to practice charity, sweetness, and patience. All of these occasions are gain for you, and you should seek to procure them; and at the close of that day, when the greatest number of them have come to you, you should go to rest most cheerful and pleased, as the merchant does on the day when he had had most chance for making money; for on that day business has prospered with him.”
“If God causes you to suffer much, it is a sign that He has great designs for you, and that He certainly intends to make you a saint. And if you wish to become a great saint, entreat Him yourself to give you much opportunity for suffering; for there is no wood better to kindle the fire of holy love than the wood of the cross, which Christ used for His own great sacrifice of boundless charity.” (all three quotes, above, from this source )
St. Ignatius was a devotee of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and has been called a Knight of Mary. Details of his Marian devotion, which played a major role in his conversion, and was an intricate part of his spiritual life, can be read here.
From the Collect of today’s Mass, the Church prays: “O God, in order to promote the greater glory of Your name, You fortified Your Church militant with a new army through the work of blessed Ignatius. May his help and example bring us through our battle on earth to be crowned with him in heaven. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who lives and reigns with Thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, forever, and ever.” source