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Alone and on Foot

Ignatius of Loyola

Author(s): Brian Grogan

ISBN13: 9781847301345

ISBN10: 1847301347

Publisher: Veritas (Oct 2008)

Extent: 224 pages

Binding: Paperback

Size: 2 x 15.3 x 22.3 cm

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  • This book is a concise and faithful abridgement of Solo y a pie (Alone and on Foot), the highly acclaimed biography of St Ignatius, written in Spanish by Jose Ignacio Tellechea Idigoras, a medieval scholar of international standing. The English translation, by Cornelius Michael Buckley SJ, was published by Loyola Press, Chicago in 1994, entitled Ignatius of Loyola, the Pilgrim Saint.

    Alone and on Foot is intended for the busy reader rather than the leisurely scholar. It omits many of the historical and psychological allusions that enrich the original in favour of a sharply defined profile of Ignatius himself.

    Idigoras life of Ignatius is unique among biographies of Ignatius (1491, 1556) for several reasons. Firstly, Idigoras is a fellow basque: thus he has an insiders appreciation of the life and mindset of his Ignatius. This is also the only Basque study of Ignatius, the most famous of that mysterious race. Secondly, whereas most studies of Ignatius are by Jesuits, members of the Order that he founded, Idigoras is not a Jesuit but a diocesan priest and medieval historian and so offers two unique perspectives on Ignatius.

  • Brian Grogan


        Brian Grogan SJ is former President of Milltown Institute of Theology and Philosophy in Dublin. He specialises in Ignatian spirituality and his books for Veritas include Alone and on Foot: Ignatius of Loyola (2009) and Where to From Here: The Christian Vision of Life After Death (2011).


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    Here is a book crying out to be a film, so colourful yet simple is the storytelling. Father Grogan S.J., writer
    on Ignatian spirituality, tells the story of Ignatius of Loyola from birth until his death in 1556. He makes us
    present with the youthful but decadent Inigo when he receives a prophetic warning from a nun, his old aunt:
    Ignatius, she says, you will not learn nor become wise until someone breaks your leg. Subsequently,
    we linger in Loyola with the war-wounded Ignatius as he undergoes an extraordinary conversion experience: a metamorphosis from profligate adventurer to indigent lover of God, wanting only to help people. We accompany the ragged pilgrim as he begs his way to Jerusalem and around Europe, always asking, What must I do? as he allows himself to be guided wholly by God. On the way we get a feel for 16th century society as well as the intrigues of the Church and the various secular power structures with which Ignatius and his companions must struggle for survival. Father Grogan has separated this history into four sections dealing with Ignatius family life in Loyola, the initial submission of his life to God, the first companions on whom he had an enduring influence, and the beginnings of the Society of Jesus. Each short chapter concludes with a question for reflection based on the experiences and personal struggles of Ignatius. The people who encountered the strange pilgrim - the man we know today as a spiritual giant - described a little man of God with a bit of a limp and sparkling eyes, a busy mystic who had mastery of himself and whose mysticism spilled over into service, a practical man who improved life for the destitute and the voiceless, a man who looked for and found God in all things and wanted everyone he met to make this discovery too.

    - Kate Barrance, May Book Review

    What first drew me to this book was its beautiful design. The cover, layout and illustrations are truly exceptional. Alone And On Foot is an abridged version of Ignatius the Pilgrim Saint, written by Spanish historian, Tellechea Idigoras. It tells the life-story of St Ignatius (1491-1556), the Founder of the Society of Jesus , the Jesuits.

    Born in 1491, Ignatius, the thirteenth child of a Spanish noble family, was small and fiery, and lived as a courtier and soldier until the age of thirty when a canon ball damaged his legs at the battle of Pamplona. Back in the family home in Loyola, he endured savage surgery but recovered in less than a year. Meanwhile, he had a conversion experience. He renounced his past wrongdoing and resolved to live his life as a pilgrim dedicated to poverty and good works.

    In particular, he resolved to travel to Jerusalem and serve God there. Leaving home in 1522, Ignatius dressed himself in sackcloth and became a pilgrim and a beggar. He spent a year in the Spanish town of Manresa where he spoke of God to anyone who would listen, and indeed many did. It was here that his famous little book, The Spiritual Exercises, began to take shape. Recognised as one of the most influential Christian guide-books ever written, it has appeared in some four thousand editions since it was first published in 1548.

    Ignatius, to his great delight, did reach Jerusalem in 1523, but was only allowed to stay for twenty days. He still had no clear idea what he was going to do, apart from his general intention to help people. Spiritual conversation, however, was becoming a major part of his ministry and he decided to study in order to do this more effectively. For the next eleven years he studied in Spain and at the University of Paris.

    In Paris, a number of students became his friends and imitated his way of life. Ignatius and six of them, including the future wonderful missionary, Francis Xavier decided to live celibate lives, to practise poverty and, when their studies were completed, to travel to Jerusalem. Each took a vow to that effect on August 15, 1534.

    As it turned out, they never made it to Jerusalem. But six years later, with five other recruits, they became the founding members of the Society of Jesus. They chose Ignatius, who had been ordained in the meantime, as the first Superior General. Surprisingly, the poor beggar of previous years became a wonderful organiser and leader, without abandoning his life of poverty and penance. In spite of continuing poor health and rarely leaving his house in Rome, he led the Society for sixteen years.

    Now a man of great influence and receiving requests from Kings, Princes and Cardinals, he established the Gregorian University and the German College in Rome, and placed Jesuits in various universities across Europe. The Society numbered almost one thousand by the time he died in 1556, and there were Jesuits ministering as far afield as Japan, Brazil and Ethiopia.

    It is a great story, and we are reminded that it unfolded at a time when the Church was in urgent need of reform. Ignatius idea of reform was very different from that of Martin Luther, his contemporary. Ignatius put the emphasis on self-reformation through reflection on ones personal experiences and interpreting them in the light of Gods dreams for oneself.

    Tom Kiggins - Africa: St Patricks Missions, June 2009

    An abridged translation of Renaaissance historian Tellechea Idigoras Solo y a Pie, the biography of Ignatius of Loyola, the abridgment presumably intended to make it more accessible for the younger reader -though the result is substantial enough. The story is told from Ignatius own perspective though not in his voice and charts his life from boisterious young man to saint. After being left crippled while a soldier, Loyola limped 12,000 km throughout Europe seeking the truth before he found God and established the Society of Jesus. While not quite a biography, this is a fairly uncritical and benign account of the saints life, whom many will have heard of but few enough have read. The entertaining illustrations and the pleasant and unusual typography contribute to an inviting book.

    Books Ireland - February 2009

    Brian Grogan is the author of Finding God in All Things, a book which will already be familiar to many. His new book is an abridgement of Solo y a Pie by Tellechea Idogoras, the Spanish historian of the Renaissance period. The text has been much abridged and adapted by Fr Grogan to provide the ordinary reader, who after all should be the target of all true writing, to follow the founder of the Jesuits on his own pilgrimage. He thinks that (like his earlier book) this text will serve as an encouragement to those trying to find God in the bustle of fast-paced modern life. The biographical framework is a means by which all the issues of life and salvation can be addressed as they naturally arise.

    Loyolas road reminds one in a curious way of the path of that other wanderer of the Spanish Renaissance, the Knight of La Mancha. The world, in its wisdom, thought Loyola and the Don were foolish fellows tilting against the apparent giants of the day. Though this book deals inevitably with a world seen from a Jesuit perspective, it will appeal to all of lifes pilgrims.

    The Irish Catholic - 19th Feb 2009

    By Peter Costello


    Most people today would be hard pressed if interviewed about Ignatius of Loyola, 1491, 1556. Perhaps a few might volunteer the following: Wasnt he injured by a cannonball?; During his convalescence, didnt he get an insight that changed his life?; I think he founded the Jesuits way back. Even the countless numbers who today shape their lives by Ignatian spirituality often feel that they know little about Ignatius himself. In contrast to his companion St Francis Xavier, he is an obscure and complex figure, and historians have fastened on diverse aspects of his life, often to the exclusion of others that could reveal a more holistic picture of the man.
    The Cambridge Companion to The Jesuits, 2008, sketches five dimensions of Ignatius, and one could add more. He is the pilgrim who can be understood only in his intimate relationship with God, who guided him both on earthy and on mystical paths. He is the caring and compassionate figure whose primary concern, as he says himself, is to help others, a dimension of his life that is often missed. He is most frequently portrayed as the superior of the companions he had gathered over the years, deploying them across the world. He is the loyal servant of a troubled Church and the wise author of the Spiritual Exercises, of the Constitutions, and of more than seven thousand letters. He is cast as the leader of the Counter-Reformation, but wrongly, because Protestantism was only a peripheral concern for the early Jesuits. Likewise he is caricatured as harsh and dictatorial, whereas in fact he had a highly attractive personality and referred to his companions as friends in the Lord. It is not surprising that a study of Ignatius by Irish Jesuit Joe Veale in 2001 bore the title: Are You Sure You Know Who I am?
    How did Ignatius come to have such an extraordinary influence on the world of his time? Why, five hundred years on, is this influence greater than ever? Why have there been some five thousand editions of his Spiritual Exercises since the first publication in 1548 , more editions than there are months between then and now? Why are the Exercises included among the
    books that have changed the world?
    The explanation, as we shall see further on, is that Ignatian spirituality can enable you to do what Ignatius did in his day, that is, to make sense of your life experiences and to interpret them in the light of Gods dreams for yourself. Ignatian spirituality was crafted painstakingly by a sixteenth-century Basque struggling alone to make sense of his disjointed and seemingly pointless life, in a world as chaotic and fragmented as our own. Only when wounded in 1521 did he stumble on the fact that God had dreams for him and needed him. So he abandoned his courtier life, and as a destitute pilgrimhe walked some twelve thousand kilometres of the unpaved roads of Europe, always trying to follow Gods beckoning. For eleven years, from 1524 to
    1535, he studied arts and theology, without knowing where this would take him, though he acknowledges that God kept on trying to teach him, as a schoolteacher teaches a child. He was ordained a priest only at forty-six, and for his last fifteen years, 1541, 56, he was the first superior of the Jesuit Order. But the Jesuit Order was not his only legacy to the world, for hroughout his mature years he was quietly developing a spirituality , a way of living out his life before God , that would prove relevant for persons of any time, place or circumstance. Were the Jesuit Order to be suppressed again, as it was between 1773 and 1814, Ignatian spirituality would continue to thrive as Ignatiuss second great legacy to humankind.
    Ignatian spirituality has a perennial appeal because most of us struggle for meaning as Ignatius did, and his insights can become ours too. Although Ignatiuss story is interesting in itself, more important is the fact that his personal experiences have a universal resonance. As the Introduction to the Penguin Classics 2004 edition of Ignatiuss Personal Writings says: His influence on the development of spiritual awareness has been unique. His own spiritual awareness began at thirty when he stopped to think and began to attend to the play of the movements of his heart. He noticed that certain thoughts and images were sustaining and brought him lasting joy and energy, whereas others left him feeling dry and discontented. He interpreted the first set as coming from that life-giving and sustaining source whom we call God, who endlessly draws us to life, joy, peace and purpose. It was at this point that his life took off: God had emerged from the shadows, and from then on Ignatius tried to keep God before his eyes and to notice Gods leadings. This spiritual awareness can also grow in you because Ignatian spirituality is centred not on a set of pious practices or on Ignatius himself, but on meeting God in your personal experience. This is spiritual awareness: you allow yourself to be encountered by God in the messy, changing and often absurd world in which you live. The impact of encountering God is transforming: it brings inner joy and peace, and also opens you up to horizons of compassion and concern for your world.
    This book offers an introduction to the key realities that shaped Ignatiuss life and forged his spirituality. It is an abridgement of a far longer work, Tellechea Idigorass Ignatius the Pilgrim Saint. I was attracted by this authors approach to Ignatius, both as a Basque and as a non-Jesuit. As a Basque portraying the most famous of his own countrymen, he has a unique insight into Ignatiuss world-view. As a diocesan priest and a highly reputed medieval historian, he takes a fresh and independent stance before his subject, which enables him to dispel myths and caricatures and to present Ignatius as the vibrant and attractive personality that he was. I undertook this abridgement in order, as Ignatius would put it, to help people , especially those who might find the full-length story too daunting. To help people to what? one might ask. To help them to experience the activity of God in their own lives and to respond appropriately. Those who enjoy this book are encouraged to delve into the full text of Ignatius the Pilgrim Saint.
    With the grace of God, a fire was kindled more than five hundred years ago, a fire that continues to kindle other fires. It is good to know the beginnings of a story that has stood the test of time and is ongoing. Ignatiuss adventure with God can illuminate your own, and can help you to play your own unique role in the worlds development. A health warning, however, is attached! Ignatius had no time for negative criticism of the darkened world of his day: instead, as a Basque, he would ask himself: What should I do? His is not an armchair spirituality: rather, it invites you to engage with our labouring God to heal a fractured world. Since this can seem too daunting, Ignatius would ask: Can I help one person? The question posed at the end of each chapter is intended to help your personal reflection, out of which can emerge decisions, stances and actions that are in tune with Gods single intention, the ultimate happiness of all humankind.



    Were Ignatius to return today to his native land, as he did in 1535 when he was forty-four years old, he would have a hard time recognising the scenes of his childhood. Azpeitia, the town nearest to Loyola, has changed hugely, but if he entered its parish church he would find the old baptismal font, now restored, and nearby an inscription in Basque, capable of shaking his soul: Here Ignatius of Loyola was baptised. Wandering through the oldest section of the inner city, which today has been enlarged and surrounded by ugly factories, he would come across St Ignatius Street. He would walk out of the town in the direction of his home, and find himself in a magnificent basilica with a silver statue of himself above the main altar.


    Feeling confused by now, he might fall in line with a crowd of weary tourists on their way to visit one of the musts of the tour, the santa casa, the Holy House. Then suddenly his heart would beat faster, because there they are , the unmistakable walls of his home, the solid rocks, the carved coat of arms and the brickwork upper storeys that his grandfather built after the King had ordered the demolition of the original towers and fortifications, as a punishment for rebellion. Two statues would be immensely suggestive: one of a knight standing erect in heavy armour, and the other of some soldiers carrying a wounded man on a litter. A dog is giving the broken warrior a warm welcome home. Ignatius would remember the dogs name and what company it was to him during his long lonely hours of convalescence. The guides would tell the tourists nothing about his family, even though they had been very prominent. Instead, everything would be about himself and his spiritual family of Jesuits.


    Ignatius would experience another surge of emotion if he went up to the top storey of the house and looked at the statue of himself as a convalescent with his eyes raised from his book to gaze at a little wooden carving of the Blessed Virgin. This was the room where his adventure had begun. It was in this room that he had been born anew. It had been a slow, difficult birth into a life that would be directed by a compass not of his own making. The dreams he had nurtured during the long hours spent in the solitude of this room had marked his life, because from that time on he was free, his life had truly become his own, or rather his life no longer belonged to himself but to Another, to the One who would take him where he had never dreamed of going.


    On his way to the blacksmiths house, where he had been nursed as a child, he might stop off at a fine building named The Centre of Spirituality. While at the centre, a friendly Jesuit would explain that people came there to make the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius. In the library, his heart would beat faster when he gazed on some familiar titles: the Spiritual Exercises, the Autobiography, Constitutions of the Society of Jesus. Elsewhere he would find thick volumes titled the Narrative Sources for the Life of St Ignatius and the Beginnings of the Society of Jesus. He would turn the pages of his Spiritual Journal, which deals with a single year of his life (1544, 45) and which reveals how intense his mystical experiences were. He would see a note stating that the Spiritual Exercises has been edited more than 4,500 times since the first edition in 1548. He might look at the numerous biographies of himself, some sympathetic, others highly critical. He would surely shake his head in wonder at more than one hundred volumes of the History of the Society of Jesus, twenty-four of them dealing with himself.


    We may now leave the world of fantasy and focus instead on the sources for the present book. Chief among these is Ignatiuss Autobiography, dictated to a Jesuit scribe a few years before Ignatiuss death in 1556 and written at the request of his Jesuit companions. For long they had begged for an account of how the Lord had guided him from the beginning of his conversion. The autobiography begins abruptly with his wounding at Pamplona in 1521, and ends with his early years in Rome, where he lived from 1538 to 1556. The protagonist in the tale is not himself but God. Ignatius is the anonymous pilgrim, referred to in the third person, the one who trudges toward the unknown, guided by a fundamental trust in Him who is leading him, without knowing to what nor to where he is being led.


    After Ignatiuss death, his companion Nadal gave the Ignatian profile some cosmetic touching up and spread his vision of Ignatius throughout the Society of Jesus in Europe. Then in 1572 came the official image, in Pedro Ribadeneiras Biography of St Ignatius. This met with criticism, so another version was commissioned, which led to caustic and abusive exchanges between Maffei, its author, and Ribadeneira, all of which benefits the present-day historian. Ignatiuss beatification process began in 1596, with tribunals meeting in places linked to Ignatius to gather up the precious but fading memories of those who had known him during his life. The quotations in the pages that follow are taken either from the Autobiography or from persons who had known Ignatius. In 1609 he was beatified and in 1622 he was canonised along with Francis Xavier, his dearest friend, and Teresa of Avila. The mythification was at last solidified and the results would be spectacular, for this was the age of baroque art, triumphant, splendid, heroic and miraculous. Could anyone standing under the glorious vaults of the Gesu in Rome ever recognise the poor pilgrim who walked shoeless and in threadbare clothes over half of Europe?
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Alone and on Foot

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