To mark Monday's feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, Pope Francis as usual visited his brother Jesuits at their General Curia house in Rome. The Church's first Jesuit Pope, who is taking a break from all public audiences during July, was welcomed by the Father General of the Jesuits, Fr. Arturo Sosa.
Earlier in the day Pope Francis sent a tweet honoring St. Ignatius and asking for his prayers, telling his 35 million followers: “Like Saint Ignatius of Loyola, let us be won over by the Lord Jesus and, led by Him, place ourselves at the service of others.”
Pope Francis has made a point to visit the Jesuits on the feast of their founder every year since his election. Shortly after he was elected Bishop of Rome in 2013, Francis marked the July 31 feast of the saint by celebrating Mass at the Church of the Gesù, the mother church of the Jesuit order and where St. Ignatius is buried. Every year since Francis has made a point to visit the order's headquarters, whether for lunch or for dinner, to celebrate the feast with his brothers.
St. Ignatius was born into a noble family in Guipuzcoa, Spain 1491. He served as a page in the Spanish court of Ferdinand and Isabella before becoming a soldier in the Spanish army. He wounded his leg during the siege of Pamplona in 1521. While recovering, Ignatius read lives of the saints, an experience that led to a deep conversion, and he dedicated himself to the Catholic faith.
After making a general confession at a monastery in Montserrat, Ignatius spent nearly a year in solitude, during which he wrote his Spiritual Exercises and afterward made a pilgrimage to Rome and the Holy Land, where he worked to convert Muslims. St. Ignatius returned to complete his studies in Spain and then France, where he received a degree in theology. While many were jealous or resentful of his holy lifestyle, the saint's wisdom and virtue attracted numerous followers, and the Society of Jesus was created. The Society was approved by Paul III in 1540, and grew rapidly.
St. Ignatius remained in Rome, where he governed the Society and became friends with St. Philip Neri. He died July 31, 1556, and was canonized by Gregory XV in 1622.
Pope Francis entered the novitiate of the Society of Jesus in 1958. He received a philosophy degree in 1963 and spent the next three years teaching literature and psychology. The now-Roman Pontiff then studied theology from 1967 to 1970, during which time he was ordained a priest. His priestly ordination was Dec. 13, 1969.
He did the final state of Jesuit formation from 1970 to 1971, and was novice master at the Jesuit seminary in San Miguel, a Buenos Aires suburb, from 1972 to 1973, where he taught theology. In 1973, he made his perpetual vows in the Society, and that year was elected provincial for Argentina. After his time as provincial, from 1980 to 1986, he served as rector of the seminary at San Miguel, where he had studied, and was pastor of a parish in the city. He was elected Bishop of Rome March 13, 2013.