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In the year 1491 there was standing on the banks of the Bay of Biscay an ancestral castle, belonging to Ber. tram, Lord of Ognez, and Loyola ; and in this year was born to the family the thirteenth child, and eighth son, whom they christened Ignatius. The Spanish baby opened his eyes upon the world at a time when the first faint glimmerings of the morning of the Reformation began to streak the religious heavens. The gleam, how. ever, did not cast sufficient light for men to see their way clearly out of the darkness that rested upon the middle ages. It was, however, a time when great thoughts and great events were laboring for birth. In the same year Columbus stood in the imperial presence of Ferdinand and Isabella, pleading for assistance to enable him to cross a sea whose waters no keel had cut, to find a land which only thought had traced upon his map. In Flor. ence, the treacherous Lorenzo de Medici, worn out with gluttony and intrigue, was preparing to go to his grave to die without securing absolution for his sins from the proud monk Savonarola, to whom he applied. At Rome, Roderic Borgia, "the incarnation of evil," was gazing with intense solicitude towards the chair of St. Peter, impatiently biding the time when he should be the supreme head of the church, in the person of Alexander the Sixth. In Germany, a little boy eight years old, called Martin Luther, was picking up his bundle of faggots in the woods of Mansfeld. These are some of the settings of the picture in which we put the little Spanish boy, whose career forms the subject of this article ; they make some of the surroundings which must more or less influence his character.
The intelligent and handsome Spaniard, the pet of the household, when only six years of age, left his home for the gay court of Ferdinand and Isabella, to become their page. How long he remained in this charcter, we are unable to say; but he grew up a gay, brave, and gallant youth, and longed to go forth with his brothers to fight the battles of his country. Amoral sensitiveness distinguishes the youth's nature above that of his associates. He abhors profane language, and reprimands his companions for indulgence in the vice; he condemns gambling, and reverently listens to the messages of the ministers of religion. When he entered the army, he would accept no share in the spoils of war, feeling that he had no right to another's goods; the law of God was to him above the law of nations. He is said to have been proud of his personal beauty. He possessed, however, a good heart; was honorable and generous towards his fellow soldiers, and soon gained their confidence and esteem; and no one in his Company was more admired and loved. As a soldier he was daring and devoted ; yet he was a sort of sentimental cavalier, loved poetry, and at times indulged his muse in writing.
With the exception of these occasional glimpses, we learn but little of Loyola until he arrives at the age of thirty years. At this time an event occurs which shuts up forever the road to military honors and distinction, and opens for him a far different path to renown. At the time of which we speak, France and Spain were contending for the border provinces. To get possession of Navarre, which, contrary to treaties, Charles of Austria still held, the French sent a force across the boundary, and the town of Pampeluna was surrounded, and ordered to sur. render. From cowardice, or want of loyalty, or perhaps both, the troops holding possession of the town agreed to give it up to the ravages of the enemy. Ignatius was present. He endeavors to persuade his countrymen to a better course ; he entreats them to be loyal and true; but finding this of no avail, he vents his indignant reproaches upon them, and, with a single soldier, repairs to the citadel and urges those who held it to stand by until the last one shall fall. While they are thus contending with themselves, the French guns have made a breach in the walls, and the soldiers prepare to enter the city. Loyola, disregarding his subordinate position, summons the few who are yet unterrified, to follow him, and throws himself into the gap. The contest, though short, is fierce and obstinate ; but against such fearful odds it is impossible to contend; the little company is crushed, their leader falls and is carried bleeding from the field, his right leg being broken by a cannon ball, and his left mangled by a splinter. The contest ends; the French flag is planted on the citadel, and floats in triumph over the conquered capital of Navarre.
Loyola was of a noble family, and, in a manner befitting his bravery and his rank, he was treated with consideration by his foes. His injuries were of a serious character, and he was sent off to his father's castle, where, with a fortune seldom known to the wounded soldier, Ignatius found him. self in the home of his childhood, watched by a mother's care and a sister's love.
While on his couch of suffering, he manifested that in. domitable physical courage and will which so often distinguished him in after years. The broken leg had been badly set; and rather than have a misshapen limb, he de. liberately prefers to endure the torture of having it again broken ; this he bade his physicians to do, and to reset it properly. This terrible operation he endured without a groan; but the shock it gave his physical system brought on a violent fever which took him to the door of the grave. He continued to sink under his fever until his physicians gave up all hope. It was the vigil of the festi. val of St. Peter and St. Paul, when the medical attendants declared to the sorrowing family that the gallant soldier could hardly live until the morning. With life fast ebbing away, the pale patient lay upon his couch waiting the arrival of his priest to perform ihe last offices of the church. The priest came, the mysterious wafer was administered, and his friends gathered round his bed to bid him farewell. But the hours wore on, and still he lived. The priest withdrew, and one by one his friends retired with the admonition that the watchers should call them when the crisis came. The lights burned low in his room, the worn watchers nodded their heads in sleep, and all was still save the sighing of the winds and the heavy tread of the sentinel, as he wearily walked the rounds of the castle. Now he would loose all consciousness; and then recovering himself, ask if it was death or sleep that was stealing upon him. Feeling that he was passing away, with cold lips he tried to offer a prayer to Jesus, to Paul, to Peter. In this solemn hour appeared the majes. tic form of an old man, the tear glistening in his eye as he looked upon the sufferer. “I am Peter,” said he to Loyola, “and I am sent of God to heal and save thee." He laid his hand upon the soldier's pale brow, and with a power from on high the life-pulse was made to throb through his veins. St. Peter vanished from his presence, and all was still again. The next morning, as the sun rose above the Pyrenees, it looked in upon the wounded soldier calmly sleeping, with a placid brow, as if he were resting from a day of weary toil. This dream, or vision, or whatever it may be called, Loyola always regarded as a reality, and he believed that St. Peter (for whom he cherished a particular affection) really came on a mission from heaven to heal him.
Being recovered of his fever, he gives us another illus. tration of his energy of will and contempt of physical suffering. The limb that had been broken and re-broken, set and re-set, after all the care and skill that had been bestowed upon it, had so knitted together as to present an unsightly protrusion just under the knee. This to the brave cavalier, who prided himself on the beauty and grace of his person, was intolerable. As a soldier, he could not bear the thought of such a marring of his graceful form. And although his physicians told him that this excrescence could not be removed without causing the most exquisite suffering, he yet, with what he had just passed through still fresh in his mind, bade them cut it off! And “ while," says the record, " his attendants fainted in witnessing the horrors of the operation, he, unbound, and without a groan, endured the surgeon's tools, indicating his anguish only by the tight clench of his hands." And even now, after enduring all this suffering, he finds the leg shorter than the other, and so to regain his former fair proportions, he has himself literally stretched upon a rack. But all this is to no purpose, and he went limping from that day onward. How bitter to the young courtier and handsome cavalier was the reflection that he was hope. lessly deformed!
A long period of confinement in the castle was before him. This, to one of his stirring nature, was extremely uncomfortable. He grew impatient and restive. To beguile the tedium of the long hours, he read those tales of chivalry and knight-errantry with which his soldier's heart had so often been fired. When these had all been read, and there were no other books of the kind in the castle, for want of something better, they brought him “ The Lives of the Saints." With a listless vexation he turned the leaves of these books. Finally he came across the account of the conversion of St. Francis. He read it, and began to be interested. Again, and yet again he perused the marvellous story. Thicker and faster fell the sparks upon his combustible nature, until his whole soul was on fire. He read of what great things the saints had done ; and he exclaimed, “ These men were of the same nature I am of; why, then, should not I do what they have done?” He saw a new path opening up before him. If from his deformity he was cut off from ever again being a soldier of his king, he could be a soldier of the cross! The dark cloud that had shut down over his prospects, lifted, and the sun broke through in its former glory. He felt that in his sickness and his wounds there was some great purpose of the Divine Mind. He felt that God had a work for him to do. Why might he not go forth on a mission to Palestine, and drive out the polluting Mahometan, rescue from them the Lord's sepulchre, Calvary, and Bethlehem, not with "carnal ” weapons, but with the omnipotence of the "sword of the spirit ?" But before he could go forth on such a mission, he felt that he must placate ihe wrath of heaven for his past sins. He must do penance in some terrible way to gain the favor of God. While thus struggling with his own emotions, and thinking how he might expiate his sins, wat midnight,” he tells us, "the virgin mother, with the infant Jesus in her arms, effulgent In celestial majesty, presented herself before him, and for some space of time, with incredible benignity, remained in his view !”! This vision sickened him of all mere worldly thoughts, and set him free from mere worldly ambition and passion.