Saint Ignatius of Loyola founded the Society of Jesus, also known as the Jesuit Brotherhood, in 1540. The Jesuits played an integral role in the foundation of Saint Louis University and the statue, “The Pilgrim,” on Saint Louis University’s campus pays homage to that foundation.
Saint Ignatius of Loyola was born in 1491, in the ancestral home of Loyola, on the borders of Azpeitia, in the province of Guipuzcoa. His parents were named Don Beltran Yanez de Onez e Loyola, and Dona Maria Saenz de Licona y Balda. Inigo, later changed to Ignatius, was the last of thirteen children: eight boys and five girls.
In 1521, Ignatius bravely helped defend a castle in Pamplona, being one of the few men who wished to stand against the French, and fight ‘until death or victory’. While defending his post, Ignatius was hit with a cannon ball in his right leg, badly injuring it, while sustaining other injuries to his other leg and the rest of his body. The French, astonished by his bravery, removed him from his post and gave him first aid for his injuries.
During his recovery, he read the Bible and other holy books, where he became enthralled in the stories of the saints. As his health improved, he decided to do penance for his sins by going on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
In Montserrat, where he made a confession of his whole life, he confessed how he wanted to lead a new life. Before he left, he hung up his sword and dagger before the altar of the Virgin of Montserrat. Late that night, he exchanged his expensive clothing for a beggar’s clothing. This begun Ignatius’ new life of a dedication to God.
Ignatius sought an education at the University of Paris; here, he met nine men with whom he created a brotherhood of servitude to God. These men were Francis Xavier, Simon Rodriguez, Peter Faber, Nicolas Bobadilla, James Lainez, Alonso Salmeron, Claude le Jay, Paschase Broet, and Jean Cordure. The men dedicated their lives to not only the greater glory of God, but the greater good of humanity by serving under the Pope. The Pope determined where the brotherhood relocated to best serve the needs of the world. During this time, St. Ignatius termed their band of brothers as the “Friends of Jesus,” later becoming the Society of Jesus. St. Ignatius became the first Superior General of the order. The Jesuits chose their motto of “Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam,” a Latin phrase meaning “for the greater glory of God”.
St. Ignatius of Loyola created a book of prayers and meditations called the Spiritual Exercises. The Exercises “are to the Constitutions what the soul is to the body” (Purcell. 1957). They are formatted to be carried out over a period of 28-30 days with a resulting enlightenment of the soul. Any layman can complete the exercises. Saint Ignatius included the “Examen” in his Spiritual Exercises. Jesuits complete the Daily Examen every day as they reflect on five major points: gratitude, review, sorrow, forgiveness, and grace.
The Jesuits are the largest male Catholic order in the world, with 17,000 members today. The Jesuit’s mission is, “to work for reconciliation every day--- with God, with human beings and with the environment” (Jesuits). Early on, the Jesuits became known for the education they provided while doing missionary work. The Jesuits started multiple schools and seminaries. Less than twenty years after the order was founded, Jesuits had established 74 colleges on three continents. The Jesuits are guided by the questions St. Ignatius suggested to his first brothers: What have I done for Christ? What am I doing for Christ? What will I do for Christ? The Jesuits seek to care for the entire person: body, mind, and soul. While the Jesuits place a large amount of emphasis on contemplation, their brotherhood encourages action and helpfulness. The Society of Jesus is divided into geographical territories called provinces. There are over 80 provinces all over the world. Their headquarters are in Rome, Italy.
While Saint Louis University was founded in 1818, the Jesuits did not assume control over the university until 1829. The first Jesuit president of Saint Louis University was Peter J. Verhaegen, S.J.. The Jesuit tradition of educating the mind, body, and spirit is an integral part of SLU’s mission; Saint Louis University seeks to educate the mind, body, and spirit of each student. Saint Louis University endeavors to cultivate well rounded people who contribute to the greater good. Students take a broad range of studies, in the Jesuit tradition. Undergraduates are expected to take “core classes” which are grounded in the theological and philosophical foundations of the Catholic intellectual tradition. This practice is inspired by the Jesuit practice of “finding God in all things.” The Jesuit education prepares students to become, “men and women for and with others.”
Saint Louis University has hundreds of statues on its campus, but one that stands out is that of Saint Ignatius of Loyola that stands in the quad between Dubourg Hall and the library. This statue of Ignatius is named The Pilgrim, created by Vicki Reid in May of 2000. Under the statue is a plaque commemorating Mary A. Bruemmer, “for her commitment and dedication to the Jesuit ideas of education.” Mary A. Bruemmer attended Saint Louis University starting in 1938. She started multiple Catholic Youth Organizations in her home state of Illinois, and came back to SLU to assume the role of Dean of Women in 1967. In 1975, the multiple “dean” roles combined into one, and Bruemmer was named the overall dean of students. On September 12, 2016, Ms. Bruemmer was awarded with the title Dame Commander of the Order of St. Sylvester, Pope and Martyr by Pope Francis. Of her numerous awards, this one is the most prestigious. It is easy to see why the statue of St. Ignatius was dedicated to Mary, as she has dedicated her entire life to serving others and educating people in the Jesuit spirit. Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Mary Bruemmer, and Jesuit crusades are forever honored by the statue in the heart of Saint Louis University’s campus.
Saint Ignatius of Loyola’s foundation of the Society of Jesus initiated a nearly 500 year tradition of dedication to the greater glory of God. Jesuits and lay Catholics alike can all follow the mission of the Jesuit Brotherhood. Saint Louis University’s foundation is rooted in the Jesuit tradition, and the university seeks to educate the mind, body, and spirit of students. The statue, The Pilgrim, that stands tall in the heart of Saint Louis University's campus honors the Jesuit spirit of both St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, and Mary Bruemmer, an influential figure in the Jesuit history of SLU.
Researched and written by Sam Agnew, Claire Eby, Iulia Stefanescu
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