Ignatius of Antioch vs. Ignatius of Loyola

February 16, 2013
Tim Schenck

After yesterday's heart-pounding, back and forth battle between upstart Lucy and favorite John the Baptist, you might have welcomed a weekend off to regroup. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your perspective), today is the one and only Saturday match-up in Lent Madness. If your name is Ignatius or if you've ever fantasized about naming your first-born son after one of these revered gentlemen, you won't want to miss this epic, long-anticipated Battle of the Iggys.

In the end Lucy defeated John the Baptist by the slimmest of margins in a bruising, bracket-busting battle. In addition to a record number of votes cast (5,200), we also saw a record number of comments (240) as passions were running high on both sides. Such is the "madness" of Lent Madness!

We even had our first mini-controversy that didn't involve a mug. Please know that when it comes to voter irregularities, the Supreme Executive Committee, like Big Brother, is watching. We had to zap 35 votes from John the Baptist last night after we noticed multiple votes from several ISP addresses. Again, please, one vote per person. If you have more than one family member voting -- that's fine. We're big fans of universal suffrage. If you're, say, a teacher logging multiple votes on behalf of your students -- just let us know. But voter fraud makes the saints weep so don't risk being cast into the outer darkness of life without Lent Madness (it's a miserable place that would make even the most hideous medieval gargoyle blush).

In the meantime, back to the task at hand. The great challenge of this battle? Voting for the correct Ignatius!

250px-Ignatius_of_Antioch_2Ignatius of Antioch

Ignatius of Antioch (1st century CE) was Bishop of Antioch, located in modern Turkey, near its border with Syria. He is most known for the seven letters he wrote during his journey to martyrdom at Rome. These letters are among the earliest pieces of Christian theology outside of the New Testament, and give Ignatius a place among the “Apostolic Fathers” – those leaders of the church who served as the “bridge” between the Jesus and apostles themselves, and the rest of the early church.

We actually know very little about Ignatius outside of his journey to martyrdom. One pious legend holds that he was among the children blessed by Jesus and taken into his arms. It is certain, however, that around AD 68, Ignatius was chosen to serve as Bishop of Antioch, a see originally held by St. Peter himself. Sources disagree as to whether Ignatius was Antioch’s second or third bishop.

During the rule of the Emperor Trajan, Ignatius was condemned to death for being a Christian. He was led under a guard of ten soldiers to his martyrdom at Rome. It was during this journey that Ignatius wrote his letters. He was received en route to Rome at Smyrna, and there wrote letters encouraging the churches in Ephesus, Magnesia, and Tralles, and, most poignantly, a letter to the church in Rome commanding them not to intervene with authorities in order to prevent his martyrdom. He went from Smyrna to Troas, and there wrote letters to churches in Philadelphia and Smyrna, and to Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna.

Ignatius letters’ portray a man devoted to Christ and Christ’s church. He tirelessly defended the humanity, divinity, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Ignatius is an especially tireless advocate for the unity of the church through the community’s participation in the Eucharist – which he saw to be the continuing life of Jesus Christ in the church -- “breaking one bread, which is the medicine of immortality, the antidote we take in order not to die but to live forever in Jesus Christ.” Ignatius’ theology of episcopal ministry – most especially his tireless advocacy for the Bishop to serve as a locus of unity for the church – lies at the foundation of our understanding of episcopacy in our church today, where bishops are charged at their ordination to be guardians of the faith and unity of the church.

Ignatius’ letter to the Romans expressed his firm desire to be led to his martyrdom, begging the church in Rome to let him be “food for the wild beasts… God’s wheat… ground by the teeth of wild beasts, so that I may prove to be pure bread” (Rom 4:1).  Around AD 115, Ignatius was granted his wish, as he was martyred in the coliseum, given over to the teeth of lions. Contemporary iconography of St. Ignatius of Antioch represents him as a bearded man, vested in bishop’s regalia, attacked by two lions, one making for his head, the other for his feet.

Collect for Ignatius of Antioch
Almighty God, we praise your Name for your bishop and martyr Ignatius of Antioch, who offered himself as grain to be ground by the teeth of wild beasts that he might present to you the pure bread of sacrifice. Accept, we pray, the willing tribute of our lives and give us a share in the pure and spotless offering of your Son Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

-- David Sibley

StIgnatiusPaintingIgnatius of Loyola

Born in 1491 to a noble Basque family, Ignatius of Loyola was an exact contemporary of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer. (TC was two years older but they both died in 1556.)

As a mover and shaker in the Counter-Reformation and the founder of the Society of Jesus, a.k.a. the Jesuits, Ignatius lived during a period of great change in the Christian Church. His written legacy Spiritual Exercises, a set of meditations, prayers, and practices designed to help discern the presence of Jesus and the will of God in one’s life, continues to be valued by Christians to the present day.

He described himself as a young man as a vainglorious soldier. Badly wounded at the Battle of Pamplona in 1521, Ignatius was kindly carried by the French on a litter to his family’s castle of Loyola. There, after having his leg re-broken, (with a stub sawn off - ouch!), re-set, and stretched by weights, he had some extended time for reading to take his mind from the pain. The chivalrous romances he requested were unavailable so he read deeply of the life of Christ, particularly De Vita Christi, and the lives of saints. After months of recuperation and reflection, his conversion from a soldier of the realm to a knight of Christ was profound and adamant.

Ignatius resolved to live a life of poverty and self-denial and committed himself to doing heroic deeds and winning converts in the Holy Land.  First he made his confession at the sanctuary of Monserrat where, after giving away his fine clothes to the poor and donning sackcloth, he suspended his sword and dagger on the altar. Then, after spending months in a cave in prayer and mastering the ascetic life, he journeyed to Jerusalem where his pilgrimage quickly turned to deep disappointment. After being received by the Franciscans for a few weeks, he was told he must return to Spain. The pope (one of those who, by the way, didn’t resign) had given the Franciscans the authority to send pilgrims home because of the hot trade in kidnapping visiting Christians and holding them for ransom was too costly.

In Spain -- with a heart full of earnest desire to serve God -- Ignatius turned to study, eventually spending many years studying and preaching in Paris. His fervor drew the attention of various inquisitors during that period, and he was their special guest on several brief occasions. In 1534 he gathered six particular friends who shared his vision, and they founded the Society of Jesus with Ignatius as its first Superior General. They were ordained in Rome in 1537, and the order was recognized by the Vatican three years later. Ultimately the Society of Jesus, with its motto -- ad maiorem Dei gloriam --  for the greater glory of God, sent missionaries around the world and founded many schools, universities, and seminaries. Ignatius and the many Jesuits were prime players in Counter-Reformation efforts across Europe, including England where they nettled the nascent Anglicans.

Ignatius died of Roman fever, or malaria, in a simple cell in Rome in 1556. He was canonized by Pope Gregory XV, who also didn’t resign, in 1622.

Collect for Ignatius of Loyola
Almighty God, from whom all good things come: You called Ignatius of Loyola to the service of your Divine Majesty and to find you in all things. Inspired by his example and strengthened by his companionship, may we labor without counting the cost and seek no reward other than knowing that we do your will; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.

-- Heidi Shott


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201 comments on “Ignatius of Antioch vs. Ignatius of Loyola”

    1. I had to vote for Loyola as my Grandfather was sent to Creighton University to study pharmacy in the 1920s as a protest against the Ku Klux Klan in Nebraska. His father and grandfather had attended Northwestern in Chicago. The Klan hated the Catholics and persecuted them like they did black people here in KY. My family belonged to the Methodist Episcopal Church and also knew the value of a Jesuit education. I see where I get my protest roots.

    2. How wonderful to have the opportunity to vote for a Saint who wrote emphatically about the humanity, divinity, and resurrection of Christ! And in 2013. And on an Episcopal website. Deo Gratias!

  1. I am hoping my vote for Ignatius of Loyola ups my odds for being admitted into Creighton (doctorate in leadership).

  2. Ignatius of Antioch. Those who are voting for the martyrs over the non-martyrs will have to pick Ignatius of Antioch. Those who are voting the Anglican ticket will have to go for the theologian of episcopal ecclesiology over the counter-Reformation man. The Spiritual Exercises are interesting, and the Jesuits have done good work in education and social justice, but this Anglican is going with the martyr whose writings are treasured by the whole catholic church, not simply the Roman part of it. Ignatius of Antioch gets my vote.

    1. Chris,
      You echoed my thoughts exactly on the Anglican ticket. My vote is for Ignatius of Antioch. It's the whole participation in the counter reform that swayed my vote against the Iggy from Loyola.

  3. Another toughie, martyr or missionary? As a career missionary and "monk who hasn't left his day job," I finally voted for Ignatius of Loyola. I relish his motto "God in all things," his example of a "contemplative in action" and a "missional mystic."

    It was very hard to pass up Ignatius of Antioch and I wish I could vote again for him but the Supreme Executive Committee is exercising strict control over ISP fraud.

    1. Ignatius of Loyola, definitely! Ad Majorum Dei Gloriam, brothers and sisters!

      As a former member of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, I learned much about Ignatian spirituality and working toward justice with the hope of peace--and the Prince of Peace, of course. Even as an Episcopalian, I was welcome to encounter "God in all things" in this program, and the Jesuit examen has been a valuable spiritual discipline for me.

      Although Ignatius himself was not a martyr, his legacy, the Society of Jesus, has produced countless martyrs, particularly in South America.
      Their incredible testament towards Christ's concern for the poor and marginalized impresses me much more than an elder's attention to church structure--and I say that as someone who esteems the episcopacy.

      Obviously, Anglicans have often not appreciated the presence of the Jesuits, but they accomplish amazing work for the Church, and I am thankful for their witness.


  4. The really great thing about Lent Madness is that just when you're totally sure who should get your vote, you read the hagiographies and start to waver. I was a big Iggy 1 supporter going in - but now I'm nuts for Iggy 2, too.

    Fervent Iggys, pray for us....

  5. Would have gone for Ignatius of Antioch, but just spent several months in a group working through Margaret Silf's "Inner Compass" -- a study of Ignatian spirituality. Loyola wins for me, now, Jesuit or no.

  6. I served at St. Ignatius of Antioch in NYC during seminary and also am a fan of Iggy A's writings. His writings on unity mean a great deal to me.

    1. I served at Ignatius of Antioch in NYC also as a seminarian and for three years after my ordination!
      Nonetheless, this is a tough pick for me. Because I also love L's work on discernment, the Jesuit ministry in education (as an educator myself), his use of the imagination in prayer (as a performing artist myself).... Yet I also find the witness of martyrs so important, and A's writing about the Church, unity, ministry... And all those years I spent looking across the nave at that window with his hands raised to heaven as the lions approach... What to do?!

  7. I wish the bio of St. Ignatius of Loyola had mentioned his understanding of the power of imagination to deepen a relationship with God, an idea that would later influence Anglican theologians and poets, including C.S. Lewis and T.S. Eliot. Ignatian imaginative prayer has been a blessing in the spiritual lives of millions.

    1. Good point, Jeanne. However, last year I learned the hard way that a wise celebrity blogger holds a good deal back for the future rounds.

    2. Yep--it was Iggy 2's imaginative legacy that earned my vote too, and I'd add J.K. Rowling to the inheritance list. Expecto Patronum!

  8. From the arms of Jesus to the jaws of the lions in the Coliseum? While holding an image of his body as communion bread (as part of the body of Christ which is the church). Breathtaking! My kind of martyr. While I have long admired the Ignatian exercises and their spiritual gift of imagination, my vote goes to Bishop Iggy of A.

  9. With his devotion to the Eucharist and his unwavering courage in the face of death, it has to be Antioch. Also, as one serving in a diocese where the bishop's seat has been controversial before being vacant for a time, I so appreciate the ministry of a bishop whose leadership is accepted!

  10. I had planned on Antioch yesterday, but today, based solely on the recent bold witness of the Jesuits in America Magazine, gotta go for Iggy L.

  11. Antioch for me. Ig of Lo was not a friend to the reformers, and even though Daniel Berrigan, S.J. was a major hero of mine back in the day, I have to go with Antioch.

  12. This was a tough choice. Loyola's Spiritual Exercises is a practical gift that keeps on giving. However, Antioch's writings are a gift of another sort - a nod to the value of the ancient extra-canonical. I voted for Antioch.

  13. I am very fond of the Jesuits, having had a marvelous retreat in Gloucester. But I must vote for my first favorite Iggy!

  14. I am in the midst of a year-long Ignation retreat (19th annotation) which has been profound. Loyola gets my vote. BTW, why was he brought before the Inquisition? Why for preaching to women. FYI.

    1. In Rome, he opened a home (shelter) for women who had been victims of domestic violence and abuse. A model for One Billion Rising! Iggy Loyola!

      1. This is so educational. It's a tough choice because I love the Eucharist but that info about the women's shelter tipped my vote to Iggy L.

      2. This is a piece of info I didn't know, Jeanne. Good to know, since I ultimately voted for Iggy Loyola.

  15. This was a toughie, but I ended up voting for the Ignatius who DIDN'T "nettle the nascent Anglicans."

    1. I'm with Nina here and despite the wonderful papal references in the information on Ignatius of Loyola, I had to go for Ignatius of Antioch as he didn't "nettle the nascent Anglicans" or participate in any way in the Inquisition!

  16. At first I thought Loyola was a stretch(a small reference to the Jesuits mechanical abilities back in pre water boarding days) in this madness. However, being a Jesuit he should be able to have the strength to make it into the home sttt....tretch!!!

  17. Love them both (truly) but finally had to press the button on the Jesuit. Education is the key to alleviating poverty in the world and they win my heart for 'faith in action.'

    1. I like the work of Loyola's followers in establishing educational institutions so that swayed my vote. Oh we'll, education is still the way to a better life for all. I think their influence is greater than the IG of Antioxch.

  18. St Ignatius 14 Rules of discernment have been read, discussed and applied to our lives over and over again. Fr Timothy Gallagher's book DISCERNMENT OF SPIRITS is an invaluable tool for us to use in figuring out what is from the evil one and what is from the good spirit-all that leads us more closely to our God and His will. I love St Ignatius and am so grateful he said YES to God in writing and teaching the rules. Centuries later, they are still being studied and used to combat evil. St Ignatius, pray for us!

    1. "tsunami of stupid." I like that! (It may find it's way into some of this Dominican's preaching....) [with correct credit, of course!]

  19. Iggy L. all the way. I am a graduate of a fine Jesuit institution, Marquette University in downtown Milwaukee, where some of my Jesuit profs were liberation theologians tossed from Latin America by the pope. They taught me well how to get around minor obstacles like papal injunctions. And I am a missionary, going out into the world, at times to places no one else wants to go (or so I presume, since many ask me, "Are you nuts?!?!") Iggy L is one of my heroes for tossing over a previous life and undertaking a new one. Go, Loyola!!!

  20. Ugh! This is a tough choice and on a weekend! But I have decided after much, much cogitating to go with Ignatius of Antioch. He is a great representation of unity in Christianity.

  21. Ignatius of Antioch wisely urged Christians to "reverence the deacons as the commandment of God," so he's already a winner in my book. Yes, I'm talking about the Gospel Book.

  22. Ignatius of Antioch, because of his teachings on the Eucharist. In post-Reformation Christianity, the idea that the Eucharist unites us all in Christ has gotten lost in the shuffle, and we're all poorer for it.

  23. "Nettled the Anglicans...."! That's putting it mildly!

    Antioch wins my vote hands down. An early Christian -- 68 AD! I can't even begin to imagine the courage, faith, and sacrifice it took to be a Christian in 68 AD; a second generation apostle in the footsteps of Paul, who urged unity in the early church, already plagued with dissension, then committing himself to a grisly martyrdom for his beliefs!
    A Roman Catholic (establishment) 16th century teacher, writer, and missionary, a Mr. Holier-Than-Thou, who "nettled Anglicans" (and others)? How hard is that?

  24. While I deeply appreciate Meredith's comments about the Jesuits, nothing beats a cheerful dispotion while being nommed to death my Cranky Roman Lions. My vote goes to His Grace of Antioch.