St Ignatius of Loyola lived at the turn of the 16th century, and yet he is as relevant a patron as saints who lived closer to our age. Better known for being one of the founders of the Society of Jesus (popularly known as the Jesuits) and as the author of the spiritual exercises that are well loved beyond the confines of the Catholic Church, he started his life with a military career and underwent a conversion during a period of convalescence after a serious injury.
The Society of Jesus, whose motto is “Ad majorem Dei gloriam”, is a missionary order; its members take a fourth vow with the traditional vows of religious orders: to go wherever the pope should send them for the salvation of souls. This promise reinforces the centrality of obedience to the callings of a Jesuit. The order’s missionary work, and by extension the ecumenical work that has been done since the 20th century (even though its seed was planted in his lifetime, when he said that “Great care must be taken to show forth orthodox truth in such a way that if any heretics happen to be present they may have an example of charity and Christian moderation. No hard words should be used nor any sort of contempt for their errors be shown.”), is done always out of love for the Church as the Church as Jesus had founded it.
Ignatius’ own spirituality was founded on the Trinity, Jesus (as implied by the name of his order) and the Eucharist, and was deeply mystical, and his successors in the Society of Jesus have been deeply involved in the New Evangelisation, as well as in the use of modern media to help Catholics live a life of faith in their own circumstances. They Jesuits are behind beloved online initiatives such as Pray-as-you-go, an app with audio of short Bible passages and reflections to use for personal prayer in the contemplative style of Ignatian imaginative prayer, or the 3 Minutes Retreats and Sacred Space apps (which provide an oasis of peace in a busy world) and the daily examen in app form. They also offer many day and longer retreats around the world, as Ignatius is patron saints of retreats. He is also the patron saint of education and educators.
One of the most interesting facts about Ignatius life was how he achieved higher education in his 40s, which is a testament to both perseverance and how God’s hand guides situations that appear impossible to us. Even if we never face drastic career changes, we can be intentional about embracing the Jesuit way, and live out our day to day life in a way that gives all glory to God.