Memorial of Saint Ignatius Loyola, priest
(Jeremiah 14:22-27; Matthew 13:36-43)
The Catholic Church in the sixteenth century may be compared to Jerusalem as Jeremiah sees it in the first reading today. The revolts by Luther in Germany, Calvin and Zwingli in Switzerland, and
Henry VIII in England left the Church reeling. Ecclesiastical structures were abolished in places with Church possessions confiscated. Religious monasteries, convents and other institutions were devastated. The system may have completely broken down without the emergence of the Society of Jesus under the wise leadership of St. Ignatius Loyola whom the Church celebrates today.
Ignatius formed a body of men to respond to the challenges of the times. Their minds were acutely formed to meet Protestant intellectual critiques. Their wills were also fortified to suffer deprivation if necessary for the sake of the Church. Certainly the Jesuits more than any other religious congregation are responsible for the Church’s renewal and indeed prominence in the last five hundred years.
We recognize a Jesuit by the initials “S.J.” which stand for the “Society of Jesus.” But Jesuits themselves often refer to their fraternity as the “Company of Jesus.” This name rings of the military discipline with which St. Ignatius instilled them. But it more poignantly connotes the intimacy that each member feels with the Lord Jesus who, like many of them, gave up the glory of heaven to raise humanity from sin and death.