St. Ignatius, the founder of the Jesuit order, aspired to be a famous soldier as a young man. But his military career came to an abrupt end on May 20, 1521, when a cannonball injured his right leg while he was defending the city of Pamplona in northern Spain.
He experienced a spiritual awakening while recovering from surgery. When he could walk again, he decided to embark on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
He went to a Benedictine abbey in Montserrat, where he confessed his sins, exchanged his expensive clothes for sackcloth, and left his sword before an altar dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
He then walked to Manresa, arriving on March 25, 1522, and settling in a natural cave where he would spend the next 11 months. It was there that he underwent the religious experiences that led him to write the Spiritual Exercises, the foundation of Ignatian spirituality.
The pope said: “God’s dream for Ignatius was not about Ignatius. It was about helping souls. It was a dream of redemption, a dream of going out into the world, accompanied by Jesus, humble and poor.”
He explained that although Ignatius’ conversion began in Pamplona, it did not end there.
“He converted throughout his life, day after day,” he said. “And this means that throughout his life he put Christ at the center.”
The Ignatian Year formally opened on May 20 with a live-streamed Mass at Pamplona Cathedral, celebrated by local Archbishop Francisco Pérez González with a homily by Fr. Sosa.
Another highlight of the Ignatian Year will take place on March 12, 2022, when a Mass is offered at the Church of the Gesù in Rome marking the 400th anniversary of St. Ignatius’ canonization. The commemorative year will end on July 31, 2022, the Jesuit founder’s feast day.
In his video message, the pope said that St. Ignatius’ conversion deepened through a practice known as discernment.