Saint Ignatius: From Soldier to Saint

Let Julie Onderko introduce you to Saint Ignatius of Loyola on this episode of Your Next Mission From God! Below is the story of Saint Ignatius’ conversion, but listen to the full episode for further reflections on C.S. Lewis, Saint John Paul II, and how to remove distractions from our lives in order to better hear God’s voice.

Sometimes the Lord orchestrates situations in our lives that force the point. And one of the stories I want to share with you today is a story of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. He was a 16th century Spanish commander in the military, best known for establishing the Jesuit order. Our world is so much better because of his influence, but here is how is story began.

In a battle with the French, Ignatius was struck in the leg by a cannonball. This injury caused him to have to go to the castle of Loyola and have some excruciating operations without anesthesia, one of which was not necessary. Ignatius didn’t like the way it looked as his bones were growing back together, since the bones protruded and he wanted to have a perfect leg. He was very vain guy at the time! But this was a life altering-situation, because he would not be able to be a soldier again and lived the life that he lived.

Ignatius was stuck in this castle for almost a year to convalesce and recuperate, often laying in his bed in pain. He asked his sister-in-law for some entertainment to make the time go a little bit quicker and take his mind off his sufferings. He would have preferred romantic novels – he was the type of man wanting to save the damsel in distress and was proud of his military accomplishments.

However, it seemed that in the whole castle in Loyola there were only two books! One was on the life of Christ, the other about the saints, specifically Saint Francis and Saint Dominic. So out of boredom, Ignatius read them. He would then imagine life doing what the saints did – being all in for God and giving everything to the Lord. He would also imagine a life after he recuperated, not in the military anymore, but maybe as a businessman or a merchant. He was from a family that had some influence, so he could have had a worldly life, even without his military career. But in the end, this led to his conversion and later his founding of the Society of Jesus.

I wonder about his sister-in-law. If she would have brought Ignatius the romantic novels he wanted, would he have given the book on the life of Christ and the book on the saints his undivided attention? Probably not. I think there is something we need to learn from that. It’s not that things in this world are all necessarily bad, but that these things can displace God. There’s nothing more satisfying or exciting in life than the missions (plural), the things that God has for us to do in our relationship with Him.

What are those distractions that could keep us from becoming the person we’re meant to become, from following that mission that the Lord has for us? What would the world be like if Saint Ignatius of Loyola didn’t have those books there in that castle?