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The Comrades of Ignatius and the Founding of the Jesuits

The Comrades of Ignatius and the Founding of the Jesuits

After leaving Manresa, Ignatius made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, where he decided for sure that he should become a priest. In 1524, he entered the University of Salamanca in Salamanca, Spain, to begin his studies of the Latin language, being at the time already thirty-two years old. Two years later, he studied at the University of Alcala (near Madrid). In 1528, he headed for Paris.

At this period, the students who entered the lower-division courses at the University of Paris were typically fifteen or sixteen years old. They would finish their first (bachelor's) degree about the age of twenty, and some would then continue into higher studies, for example in theology or law or medicine. Among the fifty or more residential colleges at the University of Paris, Ignatius chose to enter the College of Sante Barbe. Here he kept up with the studies of students much younger than he was and finished his first-degree studies. He continued into the higher studies program in theology and received his Master's degree in 1534, at the age of forty-three. For many years, the University of Paris had refused to accept the new teaching known as Humanism, but the College of Sante Barbe had started to use this teaching two years before Ignatius enrolled there. This kind of education clearly had a great influence on the educational principles of the educational institutions that were founded by the Jesuit order in later years. Among those living in the student residence at Sante Barbe when Ignatius was studying there was Francis Xavier, who would assist in the founding of the Jesuit religious order.

Six scholars including Xavier were directed in the Spiritual Exercises by Ignatius during his time at Sante Barbe. The group of these "seven Companions", with Ignatius himself included, swore the same promises before God and to each other in 1534 on August 15th, the feast of the Assumption of Mary, in a small chapel at the foot of a hill in Montmartre in Paris.

These promises included the following points: to live lives of holy poverty so as to imitate Christ; to devote themselves to the service of their neighbors; to live chaste lives; to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem; to devote their lives to giving spiritual direction to suitable persons. If their plan to stay forever in Jerusalem did not work out, they promised to go to Rome, seek an audience with the Vicar of Christ, the Pope, and obey his wishes, asking to be sent anywhere in the world where there was a chance to promote the greater glory of God. This phrase "to promote the greater glory of God" is now the motto of the Society of Jesus.

Ignatius and his companions looked for a bishop who would ordain them as priests. They were ordained in Venice in 1537 by bishop Vincenzo Negusanti. While they were living as a community, they debated about the advisability of forming a new religious order. They wrote an outline of the proposal for a new order and presented it to the Roman Pontiff (the Pope). On September 27th 1540, Pope Paul III officially approved the proposal for a new order called the Society of Jesus. On April 14th of the following year, 1541, Ignatius was elected by a majority of votes of his comrades to be the first superior general of the Jesuits. The current superior general, Fr. Hans Kolvenbach, is incidentally the 29th superior general of the Jesuit order.


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