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 went with St. Iggy of Loyola. I think kids today should hear more about him: his early days in the army, his recovery and his "gang" . I think it might show a few of them a way to "turn" their lives around.

  2. You say Ignatius but I say Ignatius.
    Iggy is jiggy, Ignatius is gracious.
    Martyr? Pray-er?
    Way to stump the player!
    Let's call the whole thing Lent.

  3. I found my confirmation name because of Ignatius of Loyola. My first stirring for a call to the priesthood began as I researched the lives of saints in sixth grade and found St. Francis Xavier. Francis was one of the six who founded The Society of Jesus and went on to serve as a missionary first in India then Japan. He died just 14 miles off the coast of mainline China while awaiting admittance. Pretty exciting stuff for a twelve-year old boy! So due to this personal link, Ignatius of Loyola gets my vote.

  4. I'm a graduate of Holy Cross and the Jesuit School of Theology at Chicago (closed in the late 70s for beig too liberation theology oriented and having too many women students...). Loyola has my vote. While I long since left the counter reformation behind, his discernment of spirits and use of imagination in the spiritual life continue to shape me. Give another Hoya...

  5. I believe present day Antioch is in Turkey, not Syria, as the borders changed, although the Bishop of Antioch now resides in Damascus, Syria. You might want to check on this Mr. Madness. This is what your blogger said: Ignatius of Antioch (1st century CE) was Bishop of Antioch, located in present-day Syria.

    1. You're correct - it sits right on the border. When I wrote the biography, I was thinking in terms of biblical geography, and, recalling that the Patriarch of Antioch is in Damascus, didn't double-check for modern geography! I'll get in touch with the SEC to update it.


      1. Dear David: I noticed that you are in Brooklyn. Perhaps you know that St. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Church in on State Street. If you haven't visited it, maybe you might like to take a Pilgrimage there. Robert

  6. Although as a non-traditionally-aged student who went back and got late degrees, I have called upon IgL more than once for assistance, I had to vote for IgA. That precious bridge between the apostles and the early church... that theologically pregnant eucharistic death... I think Loyola would agree that without IgA's gifts of grace, Loyola could never have been.

  7. Tough call but going for Iggy of Loyola. Like all saints he wasn't perfect, but his lasting legacy is almost unparalleled. I spend a week in silent retreat every year at Eastern Point with an Ignatian spiritual director, and have become so grateful for them and for the Exercises. Always had a lot of respect for Ignatius of Antioch, his commitment to unity and the Eucharist, not to mention his willing martyrdom. But Loyola it is.

  8. I gotta go with Antioch here. First of all, Loyola was a great spiritual master, and we're all indebted to him for the revival of the Christian meditation in the early modern period. But he was, in just about every regard, an Imperialist, IMO.

    Secondly, I didn't know or remember that Antioch wrote one of his letters to Magnesia. So, in addition to the many honorifics and acclamations he deserves: Martyr for Christ, Seed of the Church, Grain for the Teeth of Wild Beasts; he also deserves to be acclaimed the Holy Milk of Magnesia!

    Hail, Ignatius of Antioch! Bishop, Martyr, Evangelist, Saint, and Holy Milk of Magnesia!

  9. Being fond of those who 'bridge' generations, I go with I. Antioch... and, even though she may be apocryphal and was likely a few centuries later, Margaret of same city is a family favorite.

  10. Although Heidi Shott definitely wins in Snark Wars, I had to go with I. of Antioch. The Jesuits may be ok now, but they've got a lot of bad history, and that influenced my vote.

  11. I have a graduate degree from a Jesuit university (St. Louis University) and received a great education. Ignatius of Loyola has had a huge impact on Christianity which continues to this day. There was also an independent spirit of the Jesuits that other orders did not have (or at least not in such quantity), that made them a nettle in the side of the Pope as well as the Anglicans. Iggy of Antioch, while a worthy opponent, has nothing on Ignatius of Loyola.

  12. This was a tough one. I went into it "knowing" that I was going to vote for Iggy A. After reading the hagiographies, I must now vote for Iggy L. The ability to keep an open mind and listen to the arguments is something that I learned from the Jesuits. (It's also what led me out of Rome to Canterbury.) Having come from a typical barely post Vatican II R.C. parish, the Jesies at Fordham taught me that there is another way to be a Christian. A Christianity where it is permissible to think. So I am voting for the legacy as much as for the man. (Off to the Church of Iggy A later today.)

  13. *Nobody* whose order has been known for persecuting Anglicans and Protestants will ever get my vote. Ignatius of Antioch, on the other hand, showed kindness to all and cared about unity among Christians by loving, shepherding leadership rather than force.

  14. Ignatius of Loyala... the Jesuits have a lot of bad history (Christendom as a whole does) but they also have good history... I think of the six Jesuits of the Universidad de Central América in San Salvador (Antiguo Cuscatlán), martyred on 16 November 1989 for their speaking out against the governmental repression. Their brains were blown out as if their assassins could kill their ideas but their ideas live on. (No surprise that I am going to vote for Oscar Romero, San Romero de las Américas.)

    On a lighter note, if Ignatius could survive the running of the bulls in Pamplona, well...

  15. Good morning, This is Skye - my sister is playing Paper Monsters on the other computer so I'm doing the family voting today. I clicked the button for the Iggy lion-tamer Saint. I really liked the picture of those two lions that are pictured with him - he looks so kind and gentle - and he has a golden halo already so maybe he'll win the whole thing by the end of Lent. The other Iggy person looks rather scary with the skull on the table and a dead person on the ground.

    1. Hi Skye,
      I just wanted you to know that I always look to see what you and Hope think before I cast my vote. I don't always vote for your choice, but you always offer something worth considering as I make my decision.

  16. Another difficult choice. I had to go with Ignatius Loyola SJ since my Lenten reading is "The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life" and " The Discernment of Spirits: An Ignatian Guide for Everyday Living".

  17. I came to post my thoughts and I just saw Dorine's. Ironically as a Lutheran, my theological ancestors were among the favorite targets of the Jesuits. Still, I am voting for Ignatius of Loyola despite the persecutions that happened. People suffered wrongly on both sides of those religious wars, and I admire his story. Like him, I have a military background and relate to his own conversion in some ways. "God in all things" is a compelling spiritual view in my book. I have found the Spiritual Exercises whether formally directed or adapted less formally to bible studies quite helpful in opening up scripture and my heart. Further, the Jesuits have done good some incredible work in education and social justice. As a former Catholic, I personally experienced some wonderful mentoring from Jesuit priests, especially two in my parish as a teen. Yes, as one of my former history teachers proclaimed, the Society of Jesus sometimes acted like "Stormtroopers of God," and they historically have been involved in palace intrigues, but I think context matters in evaluating the founder's legacy. I see a lot of fruit among the brambles. So, I enthusiastically voted for Ignatius of Loyola and hope others will too.

  18. Again, tough call, but finally went with Loyola. So many gifts in my life from teachers formed by Jesuit colleges and other institutions, the profound impact of the Jesuits murdered/martyred in various places of mission around the world, and the continuing grace of the Exercises...plus my parish sits at the foot of Mount Saint James (where Holy Cross is located)...so, pray for us all, Iggy L.!

  19. Really wish we didn't have to choose...but where would the game be then? Studied with the Jesuits, find Ignatian spirituality to be amazing. Gotta go with Loyola.

  20. This was a tough one for me and I have to confess that I turned from Ignatius A because of the actual martrydom - just makes me a bit ill. (The mother of a friend of mine read Lives of the Saints aloud at the dinner table - put my friend right off structured religion!) On the other hand, missionary zeal has so often led to abuses against those being "guided." Still, the Jesuit dedication to learning and their deep spirituality drew my vote for Ignatius L.

  21. Ignatius of Loyola is one of my faves, but reading the letters of Ignatius of Antioch in an undergraduate class in the philosophy of religion when I was an astronomy major was instrumental in bringing me to the Christian faith. I have to vote "Antioch."

  22. Voted for Ignatius of Antioch, partly to honor him and partly to honor the memory of the recently (2.5 years ago) martyred (horribly decapitated)RC bishop of that area, Luigi Padovese, whom i knew personally. Mr. Sibley is using outdated books of reference. Antakya (Hatay) has been part of the Republic of Turkey for 70 years or more!!!! It is not far from Iskenderun (formerly Alexandria) and Tarsus. Antakya is currently harboring thousands of refugees from nearby Syria, so this is an occasion to reflect and pray for Syria.

  23. Ended up voting for IggyA after all; ever since I first heard it, I've loved the "pious story" that he was one of the children Jesus called to him. And then there's the martyrdom.

    I've definitely been voting the early (and earlier) church so far anyway. And anyway: there's always another Lent Madness....

  24. This is much harder than yesterday. I admire the emphasis on education and imaginative prayer, but the whole inquisition association leaves me cold. But the passion for martyrdom makes me leery as well. I think I may have to go with Loyola for valuing the life of the mind.

  25. As an Ignatian spiritual director and female Catholic priest formed by Jesuits I'm all about Inigo de Loyola. I also officially protest on his behalf the gloomy icky picture highlighting the Counter Reformation context that already makes him the dark horse in this contest, while the gorgeous lions in Iggy I's probably upped his vote by ten percent! I couldn't find a way to link to the awesome Rublev inspired "Three Companions of Jesus" that shows Iggy II with Francis Xavier and Pierre Favre but here is Robert Lentz' version https://www.trinitystores.com/store/art-image/st-ignatius-loyola-1491-1556. Other appealing Ignatian features are an online Lenten retreat http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/the-spiritual-exercises/an-ignatian-prayer-adventure/ and Margaret Silf's time travel novel about him http://www.amazon.com/Just-Call-Me-Lopez-Ignatius/dp/0829436685.

  26. Tough choice, but I had to go with the first Ignatius based on his ideas about the Eucharist. I did however bookmark Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius Loyola as a book I want to read.