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Reminiscences (Autobiography)

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Reminiscences (Autobiography) is the title given to the first section of Ignatius’ Autobiography. The headings below correspond to the major and minor headings in Remininscences.

Introduction to The Reminiscences

This account of Ignatius's life, constructed from his own spoken narrative, was largely crafted from initiatives by two of his followers: Jerónimo Nadal, a man who did more than possibly anyone else to consolidate and institutionalize the Society of Jesus, and Luis Gonçalves de Câmara, Ignatius' personal scribe who took note of his pilgrimage and travels[1].


Injury in Battle

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The story of St. Ignatius of Loyola begins with his military action. While engaged in battle with the French for Pamplona’s fortress, Ignatius was struck with a cannonball leaving one leg shattered and the other significantly damaged. Even though the French ultimately captured the fortress, they took time to help Ignatius heal and mend his broken legs. Although the pain was unbearable, Ignatius was adamant to heal quickly and during the surgical operations would not show pain in front of his capturers.

The attending medical staff suspected he was close to death, but Ignatius persevered and continued to defy the laws of survival. Later, when it became apparent that one leg would be longer than the other, Ignatius alerted the surgeon and his leg was re-broken and reset. He was determined to have identical, functioning legs, rather than be disfigured for life. While bedridden but healing, he was given the Life of Christ by Ludolph of Saxony and a book about the Saints.

Conversion on a Sickbed

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As he read the books he began to think, "How would it be, if I did this which St. Francis did, and this which St. Dominic did?" Contemplating his thoughts, he realized the spiritual importance and compassion the Saints possessed. This revelation captivated him and inspired him to live his life in similar fashion. The process soon began; Ignatius originally dedicating his life to the sword would now find a belief in God and his own life much differently.

Over time he came to understand his inner thoughts, and believed that the origins of these interior “movements” arose either from the Devil or from God. This process would eventually be a primary basis for his [[[Spiritual Exercises]]. Ignatius was now so inspired by God that he could only think about what would become of his definitive pilgrimage to Jerusalem, a pilgrimage much like other Saints. He felt this was a necessary journey as he had committed many acts in vain through his years; it was time to persevere and serve penance.

While living with his brother, Ignatius thought of nothing else besides his pilgrimage. He was begged not to go but he felt obligated. Soon thereafter he gave up all earthly and fleshly desires and matters.

To Manresa via Montserrat

The Journey to Montserrat

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The Journey to Montserratbegins with Ignatius and his brother traveling to Our Lady of Aránzazu. Ignatius held a vigil and began to again experience feelings which aligned him closer to God. He began to realize the importance of trying to follow God rather than simply trying to redeem his sins for his own benefit. He recognized that he should do good deeds not for himself, but rather for the greater will of God. Shortly after meeting up with a Moor, Ignatius chose to wear similar clothes to those of the impoverished. He would wear clothes that resembled burlap sacks and live a life of poverty similar to Saint Francis.

Before the Black Madonna

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Ignatius upon traveling to the Church at the altar of Our Lady, gave up his dagger and sword, eventually giving his garments to a homeless man. During his journey to Montserrat another man approached him inquiring about the garments he had just given away. When Ignatius admitted that he had donated the clothes, he soon came to understand that the homeless man was being accused of stealing them. This caused Ignatius great pain, but he knew that it was for the betterment of the individual.

First Disturbances

In Manresa, Ignatius soon began to give up food and drink, having only a slight bit of wine on the Sacrament. He also let his hair become disheveled and long, his finger and toe nails grew significantly, and his general disposition was that of an impoverished fellow.

He began to see a spirit during the daylight hours. Although Ignatius couldn't discern what it was, he would become overcome with feelings of anguish upon its disappearance. When he began to enter the Church, he would walk quietly into mass and feel a great "consolation."

Ensnarement by Scruples

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Ignatius also began to encounter strange feelings when he prayed. He no longer took delight in following typical church proceedings or individual prayer. He soon realized that this was a new step towards enlightenment. He no longer felt desolation or sadness but felt that something was being lifted from his soul.

When Ignatius came down with an instance of Scruples he sought the healing through spiritual means and persons. Although nothing helped, he was determined to be cured of the disease. He began to think of the sins he had committed over the years, and although he had already once confessed these sins they were still overpowering him. He came to the conclusion that it would be best if he did not confess any more of the sins of his past. He would move forward and be saved by God.

Further Discernment

Ignatius began to encounter spiritual feelings during his sleep. These episodes had begun to disrupt his night. He realized that he should set aside these feelings in order to fully dedicate his waking hours to praying. Ignatius also was fasting from meat and felt this act was utterly critical to his commitment and dedication. However, one day the image of flesh came before him and he felt compelled to give up his fast and begin eating meat again.

God's Teaching

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In the autobiography, we read, "At this time God was dealing with him in the same way as a schoolteacher deals with a child, teaching him." There would be 5 apparent points which could be used to justify this and how God was dealing with him in the same manner.

1. The Most Holy Trinity has distinctively influenced his life, such that he was overcome with consolation, emotion, and relish.
2. As Ignatius began to truly understand God he began to see the light of the world being emitted through rays of light. Although he could not explain where they were originating from, they left a valid, significant mark on his soul.
3. A short time later Ignatius was in mass and while seeing a statute of the Lord being elevated above the altar, he glimpsed a beam of light coming from the Lord's eye. He felt this was a sign showing how Jesus Christ was present in his life.
4. "He used to see with his interior eyes the humanity of Christ." Ignatius saw images of an unknown form appear before him, with the shape of a person but without distinctive features.
5. Ignatius then traveled to a river, submerged his face, and became completely enthralled by the word of God. God opened his eyes, allowed him to have a great understanding of the world as he never had before.

While kneeling in front of the cross Ignatius saw an image of the devil appear before him, as this was not the first time it had occurred he was able to recognize and disperse the image.

Being Near Death

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One time while at Manresa, Ignatius was very close to death again. He was running a very high fever and felt death was upon him. While consulting with a number of passing women, he told them to shout, "Sinner!" at him, such that he would remember the offenses against God.

In another instance when Ignatius was close to death, he had thoroughly come to the realization that death was upon him. This brought him to tears as he was very joyful of the impeding entrance into God's kingdom. However, he began to sequester the tears as to not show consolation.

Winter in Manresa Ignatius also became very ill during a winter season. Some of the local townspeople provided food and warmth. While recovering from the ordeal he became energized and excited with speaking about the spirits.

The Pilgrimage to Jerusalem

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In 1523 Ignatius would finally travel to Jerusalem aboard a boat departing from Barcelona. He felt that if he had an accomplice he would rely on them for food and assistance so he came to the conclusion that traveling alone would be best. He did not carry any money with him, and only ate biscuits on the boat for sustenance.

When asked where he was traveling, he responded, "Rome". He felt that saying Jerusalem would be in vain and did not want any part of that. While previously Ignatius had been excited to talk of the spirit, in Barcelona he found it rather difficult to find those as interested as he, in the Lord. He soon lost the desire to converse with others about spiritual things.

The Outward Journey

Upon leaving the boat Ignatius traveled with a mother and daughter to a soldiers homestead. After a night of drinking the soldiers began to make motions upon the women, Ignatius awoke to their cries and shouted, "Does one really have to put up with this?" The manner in which Ignatius spoke invoked fear in the soldiers, they quit their actions and left the house immediately.

Ignatius soon faced a shortage of funds and was forced to beg on the streets in order to complete his trip to Jerusalem. Upon receiving the blessing from Pope Adrian VI, he became determined to finish his goal and promptly left Rome to complete his task.

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On his way to Jerusalem he encountered some inhabitants who supported his cause and made the determination to go to Padua for his health certificate, although he was unable to accompany them due to his weakness. He slept in a large field that evening and prior to falling asleep he again saw the vision of Christ. Although his followers were able to secure health certificates for themselves, he was unable to attain one. Regardless, the guards on the boat to did not check him, and he was allowed to go to Venice.

While sleeping in Saint Mark's Square in Venice, he encountered a number of individuals including a Spanish man who gave him food and housing. Although he would have supper with the man, Ignatius would not speak aloud for a long period of time, but would rather absorb what was being said and speak about God to the man.

While Ignatius was on the ship destined for Jaffa, much of the crew made crude comments and performed disingenuous acts; Ignatius was quick to criticize.

The Holy Places

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Ignatius had the "firm intention to remain in Jerusalem, forever visiting those holy places." While he was visiting he accompanied a number of people who were interested in the Mount of Olives. However they would not dare venture alone due to the treacherous terrain. Ignatius however, traveled to the Mount of Olives without a companion, to see the footsteps of where God ascended into Heaven.

Once it was known that Ignatius had traveled there by himself, a number of guards proceeded to look for him. He was found descending from the Mount, was grabbed harshly and since he did not resist, he was quickly escorted to the monastery.

The Return to Spain

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Following the incident at the Mount of Olives, Ignatius and other pilgrims left Jerusalem following the stern command of the Franciscans and traveled to Cyprus. Although his ship was lost at sea for a full month, he finally arrived at Venice in 1524. While in Venice a number of poor individuals began asking Ignatius for alms. While originally he was able to give out funds, he soon ran out and asked their forgiveness.

Later, while traveling towards Genoa, Ignatius walked upon a war zone cut between the French and the Spanish Imperials. He continued to walk down the center of the path, ignoring the pleas for him to do otherwise. Eventually he entered a burned village and found neither food nor shelter. He was then stopped and accused of being a spy for the military. While he fervently denied the accusation, he was stripped of his clothing and interrogated.

Ignatius was then escorted to a Captain's chambers for further questions; the Captain came to the conclusion that Ignatius was crazy and should be released immediately for there was no chance of him being a legitimate spy.

Studies and Conflicts in Spain

Latin in Barcelona

Upon returning to Barcelona, Ignatius began to dedicate his time to continuing his studies. He was unable to eliminate the episodes of spiritual visions and was unable to learn as a result. He traveled to the church of Santa María del Mar to speak with a teacher about these incidents. Later, as a result of consolation, he was able to focus exclusively on his studies.

As stomach pains returned to Ignatius, he returned to penance, even going as far as to eliminate the soles of his shoes and walking barefoot. After Ignatius completed his two years of study, he was told by his master to study an arts course in Alcalá, and went alone to the city.

Alcalá- Settling in and the First Process

Upon arriving in Alcalá, Ignatius was ridiculed by the locals due to his living an impoverished life. While he was being insulted, a passerby who was in charge of the Antezana almshouse offered Ignatius a place to stay. Ignatius studied for the following year and a half.

As the Alumbradoscame to Alcalá, many in the land were scared of being found guilty of heresy. As a result, pilgrims dyed their hair and were forced to wear shoes, they did this without argument.

Alcalá- The Second Process

A married woman then entered the same room as the pilgrim's in the morning, uncovered herself; she was not reported to the Vicar General.

Alcalá- The Third Process

Four months after the incident with the woman, Ignatius was summoned by a police officer. He was brought to a local jail and held for a number of months without cause or reason. He continued to go over the Exercises. He also was provided with a lawyer, but declined the services.

He was eventually notified from the Vicar General the reason he was held was due to the mother and daughter dedicating their lives to serving the poor. From traveling around, living impoverished lives in almshouse, Ignatius felt this was dangerous for the young lady as she was very young and pretty; subject to mistreatment.

After 42 days of being left in prison, Ignatius was released after the women had returned. He was only released under the conditions that he not speak to others regarding his faith practices as he had not fully finished his studies. After speaking with the Archbishop in Valladolid he was allowed to enter a college in Salamanca.

Salamanca: Encounter with the Dominicans

While in Salamanca and making a confession, a Dominican spoke to Ignatius indicating that he would be invited to dinner in the upcoming days with the other Friars. Ignatius was told that at the supper he would be asked many questions, Ignatius agreed to the dinner and soon was informed how the Friars had received positive feedback regarding Ignatius' works.

He was asked if he "preaches" to anyone, Ignatius responded with, "we don't preach, but speak about things of God with certain people in an informal way." Ignatius began to become reluctant to answer further questions, as his obedience did not permit him to without the consultation of his superiors. Ignatius was then put in prison again.

Salamanca: The Prison

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Ignatius was put in front of four judges: three doctors and Frías the bachelor. While all of them had already seen the Exercises they still confronted him with a multitude of questions pertaining to Ignatius' beliefs. The main question which was directed at Ignatius was when a venial sin is different from a mortal sin. They were concerned that he was preaching the differences while not having been fully educated on the matter. Ignatius replied that if they thought he was uneducated and intentionally speaking of concepts without full knowledge of the topic, then condemn him; otherwise let him go. Ignatius was not charged or condemned from that point on.

Ignatius was then held for 22 days, with a verdict being read on the final day. The verdict read that no error could be found in Ignatius' life or teachings; Ignatius would continue to speak of his beliefs within the Salamanca territory.

Ignatius then began a journey to Paris to further his studies.


Beginning Again

Approximately in the year 1528 he arrived in Paris by foot. Ignatius was again forced to beg as he had upheld his vow of poverty, and took refuge at an almshouse of Saint Jacques. Ignatius continually tried to find an employer while simultaneously naming his followers as if they were Apostles, and he the master being Christ.


Ignatius began to allocate more of his time to his "spiritual conversations" than in the past. While instructing a number of people, they felt as if significant changes had occurred within their souls. They soon began to lead a life similar to Ignatius; donating their belongings, helping the poor, living at almshouses. While this originally was good for all, there were accusations that Ignatius had caused one of the disciples, Amador, to go insane. This led to much "anti-Ignatius" thought, culminating with a threat of beating; if Ignatius was seen again.

Loose Ends

First vows at Montmartre

First vows of Ignatius and companions at Montmartre.

Ignatius also encountered a significant fear which prevented him from carrying out daily tasks. Upon arriving at Argenteuil where the "garment of Our Lord is said to be" and passing through the walls of the community, the fear began to lift. Ignatius became ecstatic and yelled God's name in happiness.

Ignatius continued to be compassionate towards the less fortunate, by both lodging with the poor and treating those who could not take care of themselves. The passage further depicts the ongoing lives of Ignatius' followers, with each encountering differing views of the world.

Studies and Definitive Companions

A summons to appear in court was issued against Ignatius due to what happened with two of his followers, Castro and Peralta. Castro and Peralta were two of his believers that left his side. Castro ended up becoming a monk in Valencia and Peralta was forced to live in Spain, both did not lead the lives they envisioned while originally traveling with Ignatius. Ignatius requested that prior to the court issue; he wished to enter an Arts course. As he was granted this wish, he stated that he "would not talk to anyone about the things of God." This prevented him from being publicly prosecuted.

Illness and Separation

Ignatius' stomach ailment was continuing to flare up, lasting many hours on end. This pain was becoming increasingly worse and the only cure available was "native air." Ignatius soon left for Venice.

The Inquisition Again

Just as Ignatius was prepared to leave Paris, he was falsely led to believe he was accused of a crime. Rather, the inquisitor simply wanted a copy of the Exercises. After Ignatius presented him with a copy, the inquisitor was pleased and Ignatius went on his way out of the country.

Interlude at Home

The Home Reformer

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As Ignatius traveled to his home land, he took the mountain pass on his horse rather than the main road. Two men began to approach him, passed him, and then quickly turned around to address him. While he was frightened, they told him they were sent by Ignatius' brother to escort him back to the house.

Once Ignatius was back at his brother's house, he began to teach all the children in the town Christian doctrine. Although Ignatius' brother originally disagreed out of a fear of a lack of attendance, Ignatius stated that if even one child comes, it will be worth the time. Eventually a large audience grew and it was a successful proposition.

Ignatius also preached against common vices: gambling and the misdeeds to women. After he established public provisions to help the poor, Ignatius went on his way out of the town with the eventual goal of reaching Genoa.


The Time of Waiting

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Upon entering wp:Bologna Ignatius could not find any alms, and eventually traveled to Venice. While in Venice he continued to give the Exercises and help those understand other spiritual movements. One follower soon became quite astute with the amount of knowledge in the Exercises, although Ignatius was pleased, this follower soon died.

Also in Venice, he was accused again, this time for an effigy being burnt in Spain and Paris. The verdict was eventually in favor of Ignatius.

The Companions Reassemble Although nine companions arrived in Venice, many had split from Ignatius. Those that remained stayed with Ignatius for the following 40 days. The 40 days were dedicated to praying. After the 40 days were over, Ignatius began to speak publicly with his listeners who were fully dedicated to his words.

When Ignatius then went to Vicenza, he continued to have many spiritual visions, many of which culminated prior to Ignatius becoming a priest.

To Rome

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Once Ignatius arrived in Rome with some of his companions, he began to see his soul change for the better. He was enlightened by God but soon became troubled when one of his followers was summoned by the Governor and told to leave Rome. After meeting with the Pope, the Pope ruled in favor of Ignatius and his companions. The group was founded in Rome and the Society would commence.

Epilogue (Gonçalves Da Câmara)

The conclusion of the Reminiscences, as portrayed by Gonçalves Da Câmara speaks to his various discussions with Ignatius regarding his Spiritual Exercises and the Constitutions. Ignatius then tells Gonçalves how he has a collection of his own works which were not made available to the public. The Autobiography ends with Ignatius being reluctant to share his works with Gonçalves.


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