Saint Louis University

Sword of Loyola

Some 470 years ago, an event occurred in a remote abbey near Manresa, in what is now Spain, which has great significance to Saint Louis University. A Basque soldier-knight, Inigo Lopez de Loyola, had been seriously wounded fighting the French at Pamplona in 1521. During a long recuperation at his home in Loyola, he had ample time to consider his first thirty years -- years that he characterized as "given to the follies of the world ... the enjoyment of warlike sport ... and a great and foolish desire to win fame." He resolved to change his life completely and to devote himself to God and the Church. To that end, in March of 1522, he undertook a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady at the Abbey of Montserrat near Manresa.

In keeping with his knightly upbringing, he determined to make a vigil at the shrine, laying his sword and dagger on the altar and offering his life to the service of Our Lady as a knight of God.

Later he experienced a series of mystical graces that led him to a very different life and a fame beyond the greatest dreams of his youthful years. He left his sword behind and began a journey that led him to establish the Society of Jesus and, after his death, to his canonization as Saint Ignatius of Loyola.

That sword of Ignatius Loyola is symbolic of the Ignatian vision of service and has been selected as Saint Louis University's highest honor for individual achievement. The Sword of Ignatius Loyola Award is given to those who have given of themselves to humankind for the greater glory of God.

Previous recipients of the award include U.S. President Harry S. Truman, entertainer Bob Hope, oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, dancer-choreographer Katherine Dunham, Olympic champion Jackie Joyner Kersee and more.

Recent recipients include Greg Mortenson, humanitarian and co-author of the No. 1 New York Times best-seller Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace…One School At A Time, and Sam and Marilyn Fox, St. Louis civic leaders.

Higher purpose. Greater good.
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