July 31 – Germanus of Auxerre; Ignatius of Loyola

Germanus of Auxerre (ca. 378–448) came from the noblest of noble Gallic families. His father’s name was “Rusticus.” He received the finest schooling (including classes in “Eloquence,” a subject sadly no longer taught in most universities, let alone secondary schools) and practiced law in Rome, where his eloquence won him the hand of the well-bred Eustachia (inventor of ear drainage). The emperor sent him (as one of six dukes) back to Gaul, where he set about offending the bishop by hanging hunting trophies on a pagan tree. The bishop executed the tree, burnt the trophies, and concocted a wily plan. When Germanus came looking for him, he barred the doors, subdued Germanus, and tonsured him a monk, saying “prepare to be bishop.” Sure enough, when the bishop died, Germanus was elected his successor. He took this as a sign he should be bishop, and turned to prayer, study, charity, and other bishopy things.

In 429, he was part of a delegation sent to fight Pelagianism in Britain. While passing through Nanterre he met Genevieve of Paris (Jan 3) and told her to dedicate her life to Christ. (She did.) In Britain he temporarily doffed his miter and led an army of Britons to victory over a Pict-Saxon raiding party. This may not have been as big a deal as his hagiographer made it, and he may have had little impact on Pelagianism in Britain. He may not have met Patrick (Mar 17). At any rate, after the Armoricans did something rebellious (my sources are in mutual rebellion as to the details), Germanus went to Ravenna to beg the empress to forgive them. (She did.) There he met Peter Chrysologus (Jul 30), and died peacefully (these events are unrelated) (supposedly). He is the patron of Auxerres.

Ignatius of Loyola (1491–1556) was born Iñigo (“Hello. My name is Iñigo Loyola”) (you know you wanted me to do that) in the Basque village of Loyola, where his family was of some importance, living in a castle and all. He loved all things chivalrous, teething on El Cid and tales of King Arthur’s knights. When he was old enough, he joined the army, and went around with his cape open so people could see his tights (you only wish I was making this up). He got into duels with Muslims (all successful) and fought in many campaigns until a cannonball broke one of his legs. He then submitted to several surgeries, which he didn’t enjoy.

While convalescing he began to read religious writings, and had something of a religious conversion. He hung up his sword, and began to practice asceticism, cave-dwelling, and vision-seeing. After a trip to Jerusalem and some studying and preaching in Spain, he went to U. Paris and earned a Master’s degree. There he and six followers took a vow of poverty, chastity, and (later) obedience, thereby becoming the Society of Jesus.

The Jesuits (as they are known on the streets) went throughout Europe, opening schools, colleges, and seminaries. Even today, if you are studying at a Jesuit institution (of which there are over 3700), it is likely to be a school, college, or seminary. Ignatius wrote a strict, strongly hierarchical rule for the society, as well as a set of spiritual exercises which are still exercising the spiritual today.

The Jesuits are primarily known, however, as the shock troops of the Counter-reformation, a movement started to counter the Reformation. (Lest you think “shock troops” is an overstatement, the charter of the order starts with, “Whoever would be a soldier of God….”) They not only taught Catholic doctrine contra Protestantes, but fought with their own church’s veniality, corruption, and “spiritual lassitude,” (anybody else read Rum Doodle?), making the Counter-reformation not just an anti-Protestant movement, but also a reforming movement within the Catholic Church.

Ignatius died in Rome of the “Roman Fever” (malaria), and is the patron saint of (among others) the Jesuits (duh), and the Basque country.