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Our Lady Guided Ignatius Along the way

Updated: May 27

St. Ignatius was born in 1491, in the Castle Loyola in the Basque country of Spain. His mother, Marina Sanchez de Licona and father, Don Beltran were both children of devoted Catholic parents and patron-lay leaders to their parishes. As Patron to the Church of San Sebastian de Soreasu, the parish of the Loyola family, Don Beltran would have frequently attended with his children feast days, devotions and weekly Masses. There, St. Ignatus’ devotion to Our Lady began at the former monastery of the Knights Templar.

Another statue featured on the family estate was a statue of Mater Dolorosa, which illustrated Mary’s pierced heart with seven swords. Each sword demonstrating compassion for her son, Jesus, who bled from his circumcision, agon in the garden, his hands and feet nailed to the cross and his side which was pierced from the spear.  

St. Ignatius hardly knew his own mother, who died while he was very young. Maria Garin, a devout Basque woman became his nurse. She spent a good deal of quality time with Ignatius as a young boy. He accompanied her to the Shrine of Our Lady of Olaz which featured a carved wooden statue of Our Lady, wearing a crown and holding the Child Jesus. 
Additionally, his sister in-law, Magdalena Araoz, became like a surrogate mother for him. Under her care, the young Ignatius would have visited the family chapel which featured Our Lady of the Annunciation, as well additional hermitages and shrines on the property of the Loyola Estate associated with Our Lady like Aranzazu and Montserrat. 

Later, Ignatius would serve as a Page in the Court of King Ferdinand. That atmosphere would be conducive to enhancing Ignatius’ secular and religious attitude as a knight as well as his devotion to Mary. Contemporaries of St. Ignatius attested to his expressed devotion to Mary in times of distress. There, he wrote prayers to honor Mary, and possibly prayers for her protection as well. He prayed for her intercession before devotionals, including Saturday devotions with practices of abstinence on Fridays and Saturday. The significance of these 2 days of devotions illustrate Ignatius' focus of his prayer on Mary as Madonna and Dolorosa, the Sorrowful Mother who stood at the foot of the cross. 

It is said that St. Ignatius was under the protection of the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary during his time as a soldier for the king when he sustained a serious injury during a battle. During his long and painful period of convalescence, he received the graces for his conversion of heart, and where he began his journey as a soldier of Christ. He notes in his autobiography that while he was recovering, he received his first vision of our Lady, the Madonna; she was holding the holy Child Jesus. This was his first noticing of her intercession that continued throughout the rest of his life of her pointing the way to Christ.

As soon as he was healed enough, he began a pilgrimage to Jerusalem so that he could “kiss the earth where the Lord had walked”. (autobiography) First he stopped at the shrine of Our Lady of Arantzazu (#13), where he took a vow of chastity and prayed for her intercession for strength for his journey. There he left funds for her statue to be cared for. He then traveled on to the Benedictine Abbey of Montserrat. 
Along the way he encountered a Moor and became agitated by the Moor’s suggestion that Mary was not a perpetual virgin. Ignatius felt he should give him “a few stabs”, to protect her honor. He left it up to his Mule which lead him instead to the monastery of Our Lady of Monsterrat. First he met with a spiritual director and make a general confession detailing all of the sins of his life. 
There before the altar of Our Lady of Montserrat, he held an all-night vigil where he laid his sword, exchanging it for the armor of Christ (#17). On the eve of Our Lady’s Annunciation during an all-night vigil, he took the vow of poverty and asked Our Lady to protect him from sins of the flesh. He Prayed there all night standing or kneeling. Before the altar of the Virgin, He dedicated himself to God and her.  That night he exchanged his fine clothing with a beggar to become poor in every way (#18). Ignatius’ conversion was now complete; he old life was over and his new life as a soldier for Christ had begun. 

On the way to Manresa tradition has it that he visited the image of Madonna Della Strada or Santa Maria Della Strada. Translated, means Our Lady of the Way, the image is a painting of Mary, the mother of Jesus. 
During his time in Manresa, he felt many consolations while praying the Office of Our Lady (#28). While reciting the office, he described an experience of being elevated to a place where he saw the Holy Trinity as the figure of three musical keys thus understating the mystery. There and in other places he traveled, he continued to experience visions of Jesus and Our Lady (#29). He revealed to the laity in Manresa that Our Lady inspired his compilation of the Spiritual Exercises. 
At Montmartre in Paris, Ignatius and his first companions took their first vows on the Feast of the Assumption. After the approval of the Society by the Pope, their first profession of solemn vows was celebrated at Our Lady’s altar in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome. 
​When writing up the Constitution, he shares how Our Lady interceded for him and, often at times, confirmed what he had written (#100).

Ignatius' veneration of Our Lady was a deep and profound part of his spirituality in his journey as a pilgrim and in the founding of the Society of Jesus. Her intercession had a powerful impact on his soul, as well as on anyone who has fled to her protection. In the account of his life, we find he referred to himself as the pilgrim, one who travels with a spiritual purpose. Through his life and writings, one can see why Our Lady of the Way became the patroness of the Society and of pilgrims.
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