Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

ST. IGNATIUS LOYOLA AND HIS COM

PANIONS.

On the dawn of the day on which, in the year 1534, the Church of Rome celebrated the feast of the Assumption of Our Blessed Lady, a little company of men, whose vestments bespoke their relig

, ious character, emerged in solemn procession from the deep shadows cast by the towers of Notre Dame over the silent city below them. In a silence not less profound, except when broken by the chant of the matins appropriate to that sacred season, they climbed the Hill of Martyrs, and descended into the Crypt, which then ascertained the spot where the Apostle of France had won the crown of martyrdom. With a stately though halting gait, as one accustomed to military command, marched at their head a man of swarthy complexion, baldheaded, and of middle stature, who had passed the meridian of life; his deep-set eyes glowing as with a perennial fire from beneath brows which, had phrenology then been born, she might have portrayed in her loftiest style, but which without her aid, an13

(289)

nounced a commission from on high to subjugate and to rule mankind. So majestic, indeed, was the aspect of Ignatius Loyola, that during the sixteenth century few if any of the books of his order appeared without the impress of that imperial countenance. Beside him in the chapel of St. Denys knelt another worshipper, whose manly bearing, buoyant step, clear blue eye, and finely-chiselled features, contrasted strangely with the solemnities in which he was engaged. Then in early manhood, Francis Xavier united in his person the dignity befitting his birth as a grandee of Spain, and the grace which should adorn a page of the Queen of Castile and Arragon. Not less incongruous with the scene in which they bore their parts, were the slight forms of the boy Alphonso Salmeron, and of his bosom friend, Jago Laynez, the destined successor of Ignatius in his spiritual dynasty. With them Nicholas Alphonso Bobadilla, and Simon Rodriguez—the first a teacher, the second a student of philosophy-prostrated themselves before the altar, where ministered Peter Faber, once a shepherd in the mountains of Savoy, but now a priest in holy orders. By his hands was distributed to his associates the seeming bread, over which he had uttered words of more than miraculous efficacy; and then were lifted up their united voices, uttering, in low but distinct articulation, a vow, at the deep significance of which the nations might have well rejoiced. Never did human lips pronounce a vow more religiously observed, or pregnant with results more momentous.

Descended from an illustrious family, Ignatius had in his youth been a courtier and a cavalier, and if not a poet, at least a cultivator of poetry. At the siege of Pampeluna his leg was broken. Books of knight-errantry relieved the lassitude of sickness, and when these were exhausted, he betook himself to pious books. In the lives of the Saints the disabled soldier discovered a new field of emulation and of glory. Compared with their self-conquest and their high rewards, the achievements and the renown of Roland and of Amadis waxed dim. Compared with the peerless damsels for whose smiles Paladins had fought and died, how transcendently glorious the image of feminine loveliness and angelic purity which had irradiated the hermit's cell and the path of the wayworn pilgrims! Far as the heavens are above the earth would be the plighted fealty of the knight of the Virgin Mother beyond the noblest devotion of mere human chivalry. Nor were these vows unheeded by her to whom they were addressed. Environed in light, and clasping her infant to her bosom, she revealed herself to the adoring gaze of her champion. He rose, suspended at her shrine his secular weapons, performed there his nocturnal vigils, and with returning day retired to consecrate his future life to the glory of the Virgo Deipara.

Standing on the steps of a Dominican church, he recited the office of Our Lady, when suddenly heaven itself was

laid
open
to the

eye

of the worshipper. That ineffable mystery, which the author of the Athanasian creed has so beautifully enunciated in words, was disclosed to him as an object not of faith but of actual sight. The past ages of the world were rolled back in his presence, and he beheld the material fabric of things rising into being, and perceived the motives which had prompted the exercise of the creative energy. To his spiritualized sense was disclosed the actual process by which the Host is transubstantiated; and the other Christian verities which it is permitted to common men to receive but as exercises of their belief, now became to him the objects of immediate inspection and of direct consciousness. For eight successive days his body reposed in an unbroken trance, while his spirit thus imbibed disclosures for which the tongues of men have no appropriate language.

On his restoration to human society, Ignatius reappeared in the garb, and addressed himself to the

[ocr errors]

occupations of other religious men. The first fruit of his labors was the book of “Spiritual Exercises.” It was originally written in Spanish, and appeared in a Latin version. By the order of the present Pope, Loyola's manuscript, still remaining in the Vatican, has been again translated. In this new form the book is commended to the devout study of the faithful by a bull of Pope Paul III., and by an Encyclical Epistle from the present General of the Order of Jesus.

From the publication of the “Spiritual Exercises” to the vow of Montmartre, nine years elapsed. They wore away in pilgrimages, in the working of miracles, and in escapes all but miraculous, from dangers which the martial spirit of the saint, no less than his piety, impelled him to incur. In the caverns of Manresa he had vowed to scale the heights of “perfection," and it therefore behooved him thus to climb that obstinate eminence, in the path already trodden by all the canonized and beatified heroes of the Church. But he had also vowed to conduct his fellow-pilgrims from the city of destruction to the land of Beulah. In prison . and in shipwreck, fainting with hunger or wasted with disease. his inflexible spirit still meditated over that bright, though as yet shapeless vision ; until at length it assumed a coherent form as he

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »