Common section

1. Loyola


[1] Until the age of twenty-six he was a man given up to the vanities of the world, and his chief delight used to be in the exercise of arms, with a great and vain desire to gain honour. And so, being in a stronghold which the French were attacking,1 and with everyone being of the opinion they should give themselves up and save their lives (for they saw clearly that they could not defend themselves), he gave so many arguments to the commandant that even then he persuaded him to make a defence, though against the opinion of all the knights.

These, however, were taking heart at his spirit and vigour. And, the day having come when the attack was expected, he made his confession with one of those companions of his in arms.2 And, after the attack had lasted a good time, a shot hit him in one leg, completely shattering it for him; and because the ball passed between both legs, the other was badly wounded too. [2] And so, with him falling, those in the stronghold then gave themselves up to the French.

These, having taken possession of the fortress, treated the wounded man very well, treating him courteously and in a friendly way.3 And after he had been twelve or fifteen days in Pamplona, they carried him on a litter to his home country. There, with him being in a very bad state and calling doctors and surgeons from many quarters, they judged that the leg had to be pulled apart again and the bones set in their places again, saying that, because they had been badly set on the other occasion or because they had become dislocated on the journey, they were out of place and in this state it couldn’t heal. And this butchery was done again, during which, just as during all the others he had previously undergone and later underwent, he never spoke a word, nor showed any sign of pain other than clenching his fists tightly.

[3] And he was still getting worse, without being able to eat, and had the other symptoms that are normally a signal of death. When the feast of St John the Baptist arrived, since the doctors had very little confidence in his health, he was advised to make his confession. And as he was receiving the sacraments on the eve of the feast of Sts Peter and Paul,4 the doctors said that unless he felt improvement by midnight he could be counted as dead. The said patient had a regular devotion to St Peter, and so Our Lord willed that that same midnight he should begin to find himself better.5And the improvement went on increasing so much that within a few days it was judged he was out of danger of death.

[4] And as the bones were at this point coming to knit one with another, he was left with one bone above his knee mounted on top of the other. Thus the leg was left shorter and the bone at that point protruded so much as to be something ugly. As he could not bear this (for he was set on following the world and he considered this would disfigure him), he found out from the surgeons whether it could be cut. They said that it certainly could be cut, but that the pain would be greater than all those he had undergone before, given it was now healed and it would need time to cut it. And still he decided to make a martyr of himself out of self-will, though his elder brother was horrified and was saying that such pain he himself wouldn’t dare suffer. The injured man suffered it with his usual forbearance. [5] And once the flesh and the excess bone at that point had been cut, the concern was to use remedies whereby the leg would not be left so short, applying many ointments to it and stretching it continually with appliances, which on many days were making a martyr of him.

But Our Lord was gradually giving him health, and he was in such a good state that he was cured in all other respects except that he could not hold himself well on his leg, and thus he was forced to be in bed. And because he was much given to reading worldly and false books, which they normally call ‘tales of chivalry’, he asked, once he was feeling well, that they give him some of these to pass the time. But in that house none of those books which he normally read could be found, and so they gave him a life of Christ and a book of the lives of the saints in Spanish.6


[6] Reading through these often, he was becoming rather attached to what he found written there. But, on ceasing to read them, he would stop to think: sometimes about the things he had read, at other times about the things of the world he had been accustomed to think about before. And, out of many vain things which had previously presented themselves to him, one held his heart in such deep possession that he was subsequently absorbed in thought about it for two and three and four hours without noticing it, imagining what he was to do in the service of a certain lady: the means he would take so as to be able to reach the country where she was, the witty love poems,7 the words he would say to her, the deeds of arms that he would do in her service. He was so carried away by all this that he had no consideration of how impossible it was to be able to attain it. For the lady was not of the ordinary nobility, nor a countess nor a duchess: rather her state was higher than any of these.

[7] Still, Our Lord was helping him, causing other thoughts, which were born of the things he was reading, to follow these. For, while reading the lives of Our Lord and the saints, he would stop to think, reasoning with himself: ‘How would it be, if I did this which St Francis did, and this which St Dominic did?’ And thus he used to think over many things which he was finding good, always proposing to himself difficult and laborious things. And as he was proposing these, it seemed to him he was finding in himself an ease as regards putting them into practice. But his whole way of thinking was to say to himself: ‘St Francis did this, so I must do it; St Dominic did this, so I must do it’.

These thoughts too used to last a good space, and, after other things between, the thoughts of the world mentioned above would follow, and on these too he would stop for a long while. And this succession of such different kinds of thoughts lasted a considerable time for him, with him always dwelling on the thought whose turn it was, whether this was of the former worldly deeds which he wanted to do, or of these latter from God which were occurring to his imagination, until the point came when he would leave them because of tiredness and attend to other things.

[8] Still, there was this difference: that when he was thinking about that worldly stuff he would take much delight, but when he left it aside after getting tired, he would find himself dry and discontented. But when about going to Jerusalem barefoot, and about not eating except herbs, and about doing all the other rigours he was seeing the saints had done, not only used he to be consoled8 while in such thoughts, but he would remain content and happy even after having left them aside. But he wasn’t investigating this, nor stopping to ponder this difference, until one time when his eyes were opened a little, and he began to marvel at this difference in kind and to reflect on it, picking it up from experience that from some thoughts he would be left sad and from others happy, and little by little coming to know the difference in kind of spirits that were stirring: the one from the devil, and the other from God.*

[9] And having received no small clarity from this reading, he began to think more in earnest about his past life, and about how much need he had to do penance for it.

And here the desires to imitate the saints were occurring to him, not considering details beyond promising himself, with the grace of God, to ‘do it as they had done it’. All he wanted to do, once he was better, was the journey to Jerusalem as mentioned above, with all the acts of discipline and all the acts of self-denial that a generous spirit, fired with God, generally wants to do. [10] And now he was coming to forget his past thoughts with these holy desires he was having.

These desires were confirmed for him by a visitation as follows: being awake one night, he saw clearly a likeness of Our Lady with the Holy Child Jesus, at the sight of which, for an appreciable time, he received a very extraordinary consolation. He was left so sickened at his whole past life, and especially at matters of the flesh, that it seemed to him that there had been removed from his soul all the likenesses that he had previously had painted in it.9 Thus, from that hour until August 1553, when this is being written, he never again had even the slightest complicity in matters of the flesh. On the basis of this effect one can judge that the thing has been of God, although he himself did not venture to define it, nor was he saying more than to affirm the abovesaid. But as a result his brother, like everyone else in the house, gradually realized from the outside the change that had been made inwardly in his soul.

[11] He, not troubling himself with anything, was persevering in his reading and his good intentions, and the whole time he spoke with those in the house he used to spend on things of God, with which he did their souls good. And, liking those books a lot, he had the idea of extracting certain things, briefly and in their essentials, from the lives of Christ and the saints. And so he set to writing a book with great industry (this had about 300 leaves, all written in quarto) for now he was beginning to get up a bit around the house. The words of Christ were in red ink; those of Our Lady in blue ink. The paper was glazed and ruled, and it was with good lettering, because he was a very good scribe. Part of the time he would spend in writing, part in prayer. And the greatest consolation he used to receive was to look at the sky and the stars, which he did often and for a long time, because with this he used to feel in himself a great impetus towards serving Our Lord.10

He often used to think about his intention, wishing he was already completely well so as to begin on his way. [12] And taking stock as to what he would do after he came back from Jerusalem so as always to live in penance, it occurred to him to go into the Charterhouse in Seville, without saying who he was so that they would take less notice of him, and there never to eat anything except herbs. But whenever he returned once more to thinking about the penances he wanted to do while wandering through the world, the desire for the Charterhouse would go cold on him: he was afraid he wouldn’t be able to practise the hatred he had conceived against himself. Still, he instructed a house-servant, who was going to Burgos, to find out about the Rule of the Charterhouse, and the information he got about it seemed to him good.11 But, for the reason stated above, and because he was completely absorbed in the journey he was thinking of making immediately whereas that matter didn’t have to be dealt with until after his return, he wasn’t looking into it all that much. Instead, finding himself now with some strength, it seemed to him it was time to take his leave, and he said to his brother: ‘Sir, the Duke of Nájera,12 as you know, now knows that I am well. It will be good for me to go to Navarrete’ (the Duke was there at the time).

His brother took him to one room and then to another, and with many warnings began to beg him not to throw himself away: he should have regard for all the hopes people had of him and how much he could count for, and similar words, all with the purpose of detaching him from the good desire he had. His brother, and some of those in the house, suspected that he wanted to make some kind of major change. But the reply was in such a style that, without departing from the truth (because now he had a great scruple about that), he slipped away from his brother.

If you find an error or have any questions, please email us at Thank you!