Saint Ignatius of Loyola converted to the Catholic faith in a time where society transitioned to widespread Protestant faith. His dedication to the Holy Scriptures as the Catholic Church taught attracted the attention of a Church searching for a foothold. He established the Society of Jesus, alternately called the Jesuits, in order to undermine the growth of the Protestant Reformation and reconvert those the Catholic Church had just lost. As a result, he became a resounding force in the Counter-Reformation.
The visions that St. Ignatius of Loyola experienced in his rise to the spotlight were likely accepted because of the Catholic Church’s need for a figurehead in the region. Through the acknowledgement of his visions by the Catholic Church, the future Saint shortly shared his visions with his followers who saw Jesus in their leader. The spiritual world in which they all lived primed their acceptance of such visions and gave those around St. Ignatius a reason to regain trust in the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church accepted these visions over those had by Benedetta in Judith C. Brown’s Immodest Acts: the Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy because of the convenient timing and his established religious stature, in addition to the Saint’s gender.
Peter Paul Rubens authored the above sketches-number 14 and 35, respectively-from a collection of 80 sketches depicting the life of St. Ignatius of Loyola. The left image, portrays St. Ignatius praying for seven hours and beating himself soundly three times over a day. Image 35, the right image, shows a floating St. Ignatius absorbed in prayer, shining in a marvelous way, and having cried “O Lord if they only knew you.” These two sketches, alongside the other images that make up his pictorial biography, show the power of religious belief at the time of St. Ignatius and the Catholic Church’s need for an image of holiness in a world they felt was slipping away.