Saint Ignatius, A Pilgrim Spirit

The life of Saint Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556), founder of the Society of Jesus, illustrates a pilgrim spirit. Ignatius lived out his transformative faith while in motion, whether physically, intellectually, apostolically, or spiritually. Coming of age at the dawn of an era of expanded geographical horizons and religious reforms, Ignatius wanted to go back to the style of the apostles, the vita apostolica which implied a radical availability to be sent where one was most needed. The gospels recall an initial sending of the disciples in a pilgrim style, with no money, no extra sandals, relying on the hospitality of those to whom they were sent (e.g., Luke 9:1-6). This apostolic style was the ideal of the first Jesuit companions, as exemplified by St. Francis Xavier, patron saint of missions. Moreover, Ignatius came to see his existence as a process of striving after God, a pilgrim’s journey enmeshed with constant discernment and spiritual growth. While he was supervising the growth of the Society of Jesus from Rome, Ignatius remained in one place for years on end. But he had been a pilgrim – to Jerusalem, no less. He remained a pilgrim, according to his own retelling of his life. Finally, he inscribed pilgrimage at the heart of Jesuit formation.