catholic saints of the counter reformation

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Four Saints of the Counter Reformation: Iganatius of Loyola, Francis Xavier, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross


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Saints of The Counter Reformation:

Saints of The Counter Reformation Two Jesuits & Two Carmelites

Saint Ignatius Of Loyola 1491– July 31, 1556:

Saint Ignatius Of Loyola 1491– July 31, 1556 The turning-point of his life came in 1521 when he was injured in battle - a cannon ball, passing between Ignatius's legs, tore open the left calf, and broke the right shin. Well treated by the victorious French army, he was sent back to Loyola where he had to have his leg rebroken, bone sawed off, and the shortened limb stretched by weights – all without anaesthetic! Ignatius was born in the Basque region of Spain in 1491, the youngest of thirteen children. His mother died when he was 7 years old and he went into service as page of a relative, who was the treasurer of the kingdom of Castile. He was said to have been extravagant with his hair and clothes, consumed with the desire of winning glory, and sometimes involved in plots and intrigues . In 1517 Ignatius joined the Spanish army.

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During his period of convalescence Ignatius read a series of religious texts, on the life of Jesus and on the lives of the saints. He became determined to lead a life emulating the heroic deeds of Francis of Assisi and other great monastics, and to devote himself to the conversion of non-Christians in the Holy Land . Ignatius also had several visionary experiences. Upon recovery, he visited the Benedictine monastery, Santa Maria de Montserrat (March 25, 1522), where he hung his military armour before an image of the Virgin. He then travelled to the town of Manresa, and spent several months in a cave absorbed in prayer for hours on end. It was here that he began to write the "Spiritual Exercises", a guide for a month of prayer.

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I n early 1523, Ignatius resumed his pilgrimage, and arrived in Jerusalem in 3 rd September . However , he was not permitted to stay there, so he returned to Barcelona, where he began to preach on the streets, and to study Latin. During this time he encountered difficulties with the Spanish Inquisition , so he left Spain and went to study at the University of Paris. I n Paris, h e met Francis Xavier and together with five other students, they began to do the Spiritual Exercises. On 15 th August, 1534, in the Church of Saint-Pierre de Montmartre the men took private vows of Poverty, Chastity, (and later) Obedience (especially to the Pope) . In 1539, they formed the Compania de Jesus ( Society of Jesus ), and after an unsuccessful attempt to go to Jerusalem as missionaries, they went to Rome and put themselves at the disposal of the Pope.

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Pope Paul III approved t heir rule of common life on 27 th September, 1540. Ignatius was chosen as the first Superior General of his order , invested with the title of Father General. He sent his companions as missionaries around Europe to create schools, colleges, and seminaries. He completed writing the Jesuit Constitutions in 1551, which created a monarchical organization and stressed absolute self-abnegation and obedience to Pope and superiors. Ignatius was very vigorous in opposing the Protestant Reformation and promoting the Counter-Reformation. T he Society was established in Spain, Portugal, France, the Low Countries, and Germany. Jesuit missionaries were sent to Africa, India and North and South America, and closer to home – protestant England! Ignatius died of a Malaria fever on 31 st July, 1556. There were at least one thousand Jesuits at the time of their founder's death.

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Ignatius is buried in the Church of the Gésu in Rome, at the centre of Jesuit institutions of education and formation to this day. He was canonized, along with Francis Xavier, in 1622 by Pope Gregory XV .

Slide 7:

Teach us, Good Lord, To Serve Thee as Thou deservest; To give and not to count the cost; To fight and not to heed the wounds; To labour and not to ask for any reward, save that of knowing that we do Thy will. Through Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen. Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will. All I have and call my own. Whatever I have or hold, you have given me. I return it all to you and surrender it wholly to be governed by your will. Give me only your love and your grace and I am rich enough and ask for nothing more. Amen.

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam:

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam also known by the abbreviation AMDG , is the motto of the Society of Jesus. The motto means " To the greater glory of God " and is believed to have been coined by Saint Ignatius of Loyola, as a cornerstone of the society's philosophy. This phrase is designed to reflect the idea that any work that is not evil can be meritorious for the spiritual life if it is performed with this intention, even things considered normally indifferent . When images of Saint Ignatius depict him carrying a book, the motto is often inscribed within—representative of the religious writings of the saint .

Saint Francis Xavier 7th April, 1506 – 3rd December,1552:

Saint Francis Xavier 7 th April, 1506 – 3 rd December,1552 Francis Xavier, Apostle of India and Japan and perhaps the greatest missionary of the Church since Saint Paul, was born on April 7, 1506 near Sanguesa in Spain. After completing his preliminary studies in his own country, he went to Paris in 1525 and entered the College of Sainte- Barbe . In 1526, he met Pierre Favre and a warm friendship sprang between them. Ignatius Loyola , resided at this same college.  He won the confidence of the two young men and they were amongst the first to join with him in the formation of a new religious order – The Society of Jesus. They made their vows on 15 th August, 1534, binding themselves to the service of God.

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On April 7, 1541, Francis departed for India as the Jesuits’ first foreign missionary. He landed in Goa and immediately began to learn the language, preach, minister to the sick and compose a catechism. His success there was most notable.  Multitudes flocked to hear him, and he won many converts to the faith.  He also faced many hardships. He had less success with the Brahman sect and a years’ worth of work among them resulted in only one convert. Francis Xavier’s converts in India were persecuted mercilessly and were often abused by the Protégées officials and merchants . On April 17, 1549, he set sail for Japan filled with great zeal at the prospect of introducing Christianity to this country. After an apostolate of two years and three months, the Christian community in that nation numbered some two thousand and continued to grow rapidly.

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He then set his sights on China.  He arranged passage there on a merchant ship in August of 1552. The ship reached the desolate island of Shangchuan near the Chinese coast not far from Canton. While there, Francis was seized with a fever on November 21, 1552.  He grew weaker and died on December 3, 1552. He was buried the following day.  After more than two months, the grave and coffin were opened and his body found incorrupt. His body was taken back to Goa, India and is enshrined in the Church of the Good Jesus. Francis Xavier was beatified in 1619 and canonized 1622. In 1748 he was named the Patron Saint of the Orient. In 1904 he was declared the patron saint for the Propagation of the Faith and in 1927 named the patron of missions. Francis Xavier is also the Patron Saint of all Navigators.

Saint Francis Xavier + Relics:

Saint Francis Xavier + Relics

Saint Teresa Of Avila 28th March, 1515 – 4th October, 1582:

Saint Teresa Of Avila 28 th March, 1515 – 4 th October, 1582 Saint Teresa of Jesus, also known as Teresa of Avila, was born Teresa de Cepeda y Ahumada in Avila on March 28, 1515. As a young child, her courage and enthusiasm were readily kindled - at the age of 7 she left home with her brother Rodrigo with the intention of going to Moorish territory to be beheaded for Christ! Fortunately , they were frustrated by their uncle, who met the children as they were leaving the city and brought them home. In her early teens, she was educated in an Augustinian convent were her sense of vocation was kindled. In 1535, at the age of 17, and against her father’s wishes, she entered the local Carmelite Convent of the Incarnation. In time, after seeing her devotion and dedication to God’s call, her father gave his consent.

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Through her writing we know that Teresa didn’t always have an easy time in her spiritual life. She writes, “ I was more anxious for the hour of prayer to be over than I was to remain there. I don’t know what heavy penance I would not have gladly undertaken rather than practice prayer .” She also found distraction a constant battle, “ All the trials we endure cannot be compared to these interior battles . ” However, in time, after many spiritual trials and through much perseverance, she experienced deep union with God. She was known to spend extended periods of time in spiritual ecstasy and even experienced levitation . Teresa had visions of Jesus Christ, hell, angels, and demons; at times she felt sharp pains that she claimed were caused by the tip of an angel’s lance piercing her heart.

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This is a picture of Bernini’s famous sculpture of St Teresa in ecstasy , and an angel standing over her with an arrow in his hand.  This is the transverberation of St Teresa. Transverberation : a mystical grace whereby an angel pierces the heart with a dart of love. St John of the Cross says, “ It will happen that while the soul is inflamed with the Love of God, it will feel that a seraph is assailing it by means of an arrow or dart which is all afire with love. And the seraph pierces and in an instant cauterizes this soul, which, like a red-hot coal, or better a flame, is already enkindled. The soul is converted into an immense fire of Love. Few persons have reached these heights.”

Teresa - The Reformer Of The Carmelites:

Teresa - The Reformer Of T he Carmelites Teresa was born shortly before the start of the Protestant Reformation. Like Martin Luther, she saw the wrongs in the Church and they must be righted. But unlike Martin Luther, she sought to ‘reform’ from within. She enforced strict observance of the original, severe Carmelite rules at the convent. Her reforms won the approval of the head of the order, and in 1567 she was authorized to establish similar religious houses for men. With the aid of Saint John of the Cross, Teresa organized the new branch of the old order. Long troubled by the slack discipline into which the Carmelites had lapse , Teresa determined to devote herself to the reform of the order. Through papal intervention on her behalf, she overcame the bitter opposition of her immediate superiors and in 1562 succeeded in founding at Avila the Convent of Saint Joseph , the first community of reformed, or discalced, Carmelite nuns .

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Although she was harassed at every step by the powerful and hostile church officials, she helped to establish 16 foundations for women and 14 for men. Two years before her death the Discalced Carmelites received papal recognition as an independent monastic body. Teresa’s writings, all published after her death, are valued as unique contributions to mystical and devotional literature and as masterpieces of Spanish prose. Her works include her autobiography, The Life of Teresa of Jesus , and her best known work, El Castillo Interior (The Interior Castle), where she teaches on the progression in the life of prayer and the effects it has upon every other phase one’s life. Her other important work Camino de Perfección (The Way of Perfection) focuses on Christian mysticism and Christian meditation practices . The emblem used by the Carmelites is old, but no printed copy appears before about 1500. It shows the mountain Carmel (in the Holy Land) with a cross on top of it, and three stars. Mount Carmel is where the first hermits gathered in imitation of the lives of the prophets. The cross on it reminds us of the central importance of the victorious death of Christ. Below is one star, representing Mary, first among the redeemed, who stood at the foot of the Cross, and on either side two others, to represent the prophets most associated with the Carmelite origins and ideals, Elijah and John the Baptist.

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At the age of 67, Teresa died in Carmelite Convent of the Annunciation at Alba de Tormes on 4 th October, 1582. Her last recorded words were: " My Lord, it is time to move on. Well then, may your will be done. O My Lord and my Spouse, the hour that I have longed for has come. It is time to meet one another .

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Nine months after she was buried in a wooden coffin, her body was exhumed.  Her clothes had started to deteriorate, but her body was incorrupt, and while her body was being re-clothed in the Carmel, a perfumed scent filled the monastery. When her heart was later removed and placed in a crystal reliquary, a wound from the angel’s dart was visible.  It can still be seen today at the Carmelite Monastery in Alba de Tormes .  Her heart has maintained its colour and three sharp thorns at the base of the heart have been visible since the nineteenth century. Forty years after her death, Teresa was canonized in 1622 by Pope Gregory XV at the same time as Ignatius of Loyola and Francis Xavier ; she was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church, the first woman to be so named, in 1970 by Pope Paul VI. Her feast day is 15 th October.

Slide 20:

After her death, in one of the pockets of her habit, the following poem was found : Let nothing disturb you, Let nothing frighten you All things pass away; God never changes; Patience can obtain anything He who has God within, does not lack anything; Alone God suffices.

Saint John of The Cross 1542-1591:

Saint John of The Cross 1542-1591 Juan de Yepes , later St John of the Cross, was born at Fontiveros in Spain in 1542 His father died when Juan was 2 years old and left the family of three children penniless. His mother kept the destitute family together as they wandered homeless in search of work. Aged 14, John took a job caring for hospital patients who suffered from incurable diseases and madness (Jesuit Institution). It was out of this poverty and suffering, that John learned to search for beauty and happiness not in the world, but in God. Excellent at school, he was able to continue his studies at the Jesuit College in Medina del Campo (1559-1563). In 1563 he became a novice at the monastery of St Ana in Medina. His superiors sent him to the University of Salamanca, where he was ordained a priest in 1567.

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In 1568, Teresa visited John to discuss the possibility of including male monasteries in her reform of the Carmelite order. John supported her belief that the order should return to its life of prayer . Both John and the prior of the house went over to the Primitive Rule, and John was the first friar to enter the first foundation, Duruelo . Later, John became Teresa’s confessor in the reformed Carmelite convent of Ávila. Meanwhile, the tension between Discalced (reformed) and Calced Carmelites, which had existed from the beginning, took on alarming proportions. In 1575 John was abducted and imprisoned by the Calced friars. He was locked in a cell six feet by ten feet and beaten three times a week by the monks. There was only one tiny window high up near the ceiling. Yet in that unbearable dark, cold, and desolation, his love and faith were like fire and light. He had nothing left but God - and God brought John his greatest joys in that tiny cell.

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He was eventually set free at the request of the papal nuncio. However, he was imprisoned again in 1577, and this time he had to escape by unscrewing the lock on his door and creeping past the guard. Taking only the mystical poetry he had written in his cell, he climbed out a window using a rope made of strips of blankets. He hid from pursuers in a convent infirmary where he read his poetry to the nuns. From then on his life was devoted to sharing and explaining his experience of God's love. For safety he stayed in remote places in Andalusia. During those years of obscurity he wrote most of his mystical works. Eventually, after the two branches finally split, John went on to become Prior of the house in Sergovia . He died on 14 December 1591, of erysipelas, after an excruciating agony. He was canonized in 1726 and pronounced a Doctor of the Church in 1926.

The Shrine of St John of the Cross + Sergovia:

The Shrine of St John of the Cross + Sergovia It was in Segovia that St John of the Cross had another vision of Christ crucified in which Jesus asked him what he desired. John replied , "Lord, give me trials to suffer for You that I may be despised and held in no account .” He died in the Carmelite Monastery in Sergovia on 14 th December, 1591.


Conclusion These four Saints from the era of Counter Reformation all acknowledged that not all was right with the Roman Catholic Church of their time set about the task about reform ‘from within’. Despite indifference, opposition, persecution and great personal suffering, their labours, in time, bore much fruit. Their writings and prayers continue to provide the wider church of today with a rich treasury of spiritual teachings and insights.

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