Ignatius of Loyola was born in 1491, at Loyola, Guipuzcoa, Spain, the youngest of 13 children. When he was 16 years old, Ignatius got a job serving as a page to the treasurer of the Kingdom of Castille. Being at the court, Ignatius developed many of the vices associated with courtly living.
Ignatius was trained in the military arts and in May 1521, at the age of 30, was "an officer defending the fortress of the town of Pamplona against the French." Ignatius was hit by a cannonball which broke one of his legs. The French showed compassion on this brave young soldier and allowed him to return to Loyola for recovery. For the rest of his life, Ignatius would walk with a limp.
Being increasingly bored throughout his recovery, Ignatius asked for novels to read but the only books to be found were on the life of Christ and the lives of the saints. Desperate, Ignatius began to read these. These books opened Ignatius' eyes to the joy of following Christ.
Once he was completely recovered, Ignatius left Loyola and lived for 10 months as a hermit outside the town of Manresa. He then made a pilgrimage to Rome where he asked permission of the Holy Father, Pope Adrian VI, to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The Pope assented but when Ignatius arrived the Franciscan superior, having authority over the Catholics in the Holy Land, told Ignatius that it was too dangerous and ordered him to leave. Ignatius refused until he was threatened with excommunication.
At 33 years old, Ignatius went back to Barcelona to begin studying for the priesthood. He later went to the University of Paris to finish his studies. It was here that he met Francis Xavier and Peter Faber and the three, along with others, eventually founded the Society of Jesus, or Jesuits. Ignatius was unanimously elected superior. He served as superior for 15 years, along with teaching the Catechism and serving the poor.
On July 31, 1556 Ignatius succumbed to fever. He was canonized by Pope Gregory XV on March 12, 1622. St. Ignatius is the patron: of Basque; of the diocese of Bilbao, Spain; of Bizkaia, Spain; of Gipuzkoa, Spain; of the Jesuit order; of Jesuits; of the military ordinariate of the Philippines; of retreats; of soldiers; of Spiritual Exercises; and of Vizcaya, Spain.