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Ignatius of Loyola (Feast day 31 July)

To reflect on the life and ministry of Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Roman Catholic Jesuit movement.

by Rebecca Parkinson

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To reflect on the life and ministry of Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Roman Catholic Jesuit movement.

Preparation and materials

  • Whiteboard or flip-chart.
  • Cards with the words ‘Preschool’, ‘Primary’ and ‘Secondary’ written on them.


  1. Ask one of the younger children the name of your school and write it on the whiteboard.

    Now ask the children if they know the names of any other local schools – primary or secondary. Record, or ask the children to record, these on the board.

    Explain to the children that you are going to tell them about a boy who grew up to be responsible for the formation of many schools all over the world.
  2. Ignatius was born in Spain in1491. He was the youngest of 11 children and when he was only 7 years old his mum died. A short while later Ignatius became a pageboy (a type of servant training for knighthood in a nobleman’s household). At the age of 18, he became a soldier.

    Ignatius was a good soldier and was considered very brave by the men he fought alongside. However, 12 years after joining the army he was hit by a cannon ball which seriously injured one of his legs. The injury was made worse by poor treatment in the hospital, and he was left with a bad limp

    When he was in hospital, Ignatius asked if he could be brought something to read – he was given a book about the life of Jesus and some stories of Christian saints.

    These books had a huge impact on Ignatius and he decided that he would dedicate the rest of his life to God. However, there was a problem. In those days priests were expected to speak to people in Latin, the Bible was all in Latin and church services could only be conducted in Latin. Ignatius could not speak a word of Latin!

    So Ignatius decided to go back to school! He was 33 years old when he joined a class that was made up of 10-year-old boys. He was laughed at and found it difficult but he was determined to succeed – and eventually he did! It took him ten years to become a priest!

    After this Ignatius gathered a group of six friends. Together they took vows of poverty and holiness and promised to serve the Church. They were ready to go wherever the Pope sent them. Together they set off to travel the world, telling people about God wherever they went.

    Ignatius had an exciting life. Many people began to follow God because of him; sometimes countries welcomed him, sometimes they didn’t. He wrote a number of books and spent some time in prison because of what he believed.

    Over time, many people began to follow Ignatius’ teaching. They became known as Jesuits. When Ignatius got older and couldn’t travel so easily, he spent his time sending other Jesuits to different parts of the world. As well as telling people about God, their purpose was to set up schools and colleges because Ignatius thought that a vital part of education was teaching pupils about God.

    Ignatius died suddenly on 31 July 1556. Today all over the world Jesuits hold feasts and celebrations on this date to remember him. 

  3. Many people have been influenced by the life of Ignatius of Loyola. Today the Jesuits are the largest single order of priests and brothers in the Roman Catholic Church.

    Jesuits are still involved in education. There are over 500 Jesuit universities and colleges throughout the world, teaching over 20,000 students each year.
  4. Ignatius thought he had his life mapped out – but things went wrong! When he was badly injured, he could have been miserable, blamed God and given up. Instead, he began to follow God’s plan for his life and was brave enough to take the action needed to change his life. It must have been very hard for him to go back to school with 10-year-olds but he was determined to do this if it meant that his life would not be wasted.
  5. What do we do when things go wrong in our lives? Do we grumble and complain and feel sorry for ourselves? Ignatius shows us that we should never give up hope, because positive things can come out of bad situations. We need to have a positive attitude and grasp every opportunity we get in life!

    The festival of Ignatius of Loyola helps us to focus on the good that can come out of bad situations.

Time for reflection

Ignatius wrote these words to God: ‘Give me only your love and your grace. With this I am rich enough and I have no more to ask.’

Stop for a moment and think about your day so far. Have you already complained because things haven’t quite gone as you wanted?

–  Maybe you didn’t want to get up!
–  Maybe what you would have liked for breakfast wasn’t available.
–  Maybe something went wrong in the playground.

Let’s ask God to help us to be like Ignatius of Loyola, always looking for the best in every situation, and always being satisfied with what we have.


Dear God,
when things go wrong, help us to realize that you are always there.
Even when we don’t understand why things happen,
help us to know that you have a plan for our lives.
Thank you for the work of Ignatius of Loyola.
Thank you that because of the things he did during his life so many people still benefit today.Please help us to live our lives in a way that benefits other people.


‘Make me a channel of your peace’ (Come and Praise, 147)

Publication date: July 2012   (Vol.14 No.7)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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