Sophia University

About Ignatius and the Jesuit religious order

Ignatius and the Jesuit religious order

Ignatius and the Jesuit religious order

With the end of the Second World War, peace returned to Japan. Sophia University has continued to develop. Now (at the moment of writing), the university has seven undergraduate faculties with thirty departments serving about ten thousand students. Seven graduate divisions with a total of twenty-six graduate programs serve a student body of some 950 graduate students, who are pursuing master's degrees or doctoral degrees. The number of Sophia graduates now exceeds 70,000. To what driving force can we ascribe such growth? The Society of Jesus that founded Sophia University has a set of educational principles. To understand these principles, one must go back in history to the Renaissance, to the Humanism of the 16th century in Europe, and to the founder of the Society of Jesus, Ignatius of Loyola.

Ignatius was born in 1491, but the month and day of his birth are not known.
He was the youngest of twelve siblings. His place of birth was the castle of Loyola in the Basque region of northern Spain. The noble rank of the Loyola family had continued for many generations. The young Ignatius was brought up by his uncle, who made sure that he received excellent training as a military officer and a nobleman. Ignatius records in his memoirs, however, that "as a youth, I was accustomed to sinning. I was especially fond of gambling, womanizing, and dueling. My life was quite disordered."

In 1521, the French army was conducting a siege of Pamplona, which at that time the Spanish army was defending. Ignatius was the captain of the defending troops; he argued in favor of continuing to fight to the end, against his comrades who argued that their situation was hopeless and they had better surrender. A cannon ball struck his leg, inflicting a life-threatening wound. His wounded leg was more or less repaired by surgery but, during his recovery, he noticed that one leg was shorter than the other. Since at that time Ignatius was still dreaming of a life of showing off in the courtly world, he ordered the doctors to use a very painful instrument to stretch the shorter leg back to its normal length.

After this surgery, however, Ignatius determined to devote his life to the glory of God rather than to worldly fame. During the following year, 1522, he spent a year in a cave at Manresa, near the city of Barcelona. Spending his time in prayer and fasting, he thought over the direction of his life. The book that Ignatius wrote in 1548, the Spiritual Exercises, was based on writings he composed at this time.