New film portrays dramatic life, inspiring conversion of St. Ignatius of Loyola

Parishes, schools, and organizations can host their own theatrical screening of "Ignatius of Loyola: Soldier, Sinner, Saint", which is distributed by Ignatius Press.

The Saints have much to teach us. Throughout the history of the Church the faithful have looked to the example of the Saints, asking for their aid, guidance, and intercession. And the Saints have also powerfully come to the aid of those who are not necessarily seeking them or who seem far from interested in spiritual contemplation and Christian discipleship. 

This was certainly the case with Íñigo López de Loyola, who was born in 1491 and seemed destined for a dramatic and dangerous career as a soldier, but ended up becoming one of the most famous Saints of the past 500 years. He was a handsome, heroic, and headstrong knight consumed with extravagance and the desire for his own glory during the political upheaval in Spain in the early 1500s.  Fighting against France during the siege of Pamplona in 1521, Íñigo was struck by a cannonball; his right leg was shattered completely. Taken captive and undergoing several surgeries, he contemplated taking his own life, the agony of his injury made even worse by being forced to be bedridden while recuperating. During the long months of convalescence, the bored Íñigo began to read Ludolph of Saxony’s Life of Christ and saints’ lives excerpted from The Golden Legend. His mind began to turn away from worldly valor to spiritual chivalry. After having a vision of Our Lady, he resolved to change his life completely, buying pilgrim’s garb and setting out for Jerusalem in the the spring of 1522.

Experiencing a total transformation and conversion of heart, Íñigo turned away completely from his violent past and embraced a radical austere life as a beggar and quiet disciplined contemplative. He then began to instruct many others in the ways of Christian spirituality, collected in his Spiritual Exercises, and eventually became one of the greatest saints of all time: St. Ignatius of Loyola. 

St. Ignatius’ powerful and enthralling story now comes to life on the big screen and on DVD. This month, Ignatius Press will release Ignatius of Loyola: Soldier, Sinner, Saint ( through theatrical sponsored screenings. Catholic parishes, schools, and organizations have the opportunity to host their own theatrical screening event, at which time participants can purchase their own copy of the film. The film will be available for purchase to the general public in April 2017.

Anthony Ryan, marketing director of Ignatius Press, recently spoke with CWR about the upcoming Ignatius of Loyola film, which has been praised by Most Reverend ​Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, Fr. James Schall, S.J., Mother Dolores Hart, O.S.B., Most Reverend ​James Conley of Lincoln, Steve Ray, Michael O’Brien, and many others.

CWR: Tell us a little bit about this new film. 

Anthony Ryan: This is a powerful new film based on true events in the life of Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus—the Jesuits—and is the first full-length feature film about Ignatius produced in nearly 70 years. This incredible film was produced by Jesuit Communications (JesCom), the media branch of the Society of Jesus in the Philippines. It was filmed in English and shot on location in Spain with an outstanding cast of Spanish actors, an wonderful musical score and breathtaking cinematography. 

CWR: Why did Ignatius Press decide to promote this film through theatrical screenings

Anthony Ryan: Periodically, a remarkable Catholic film is produced that begs to be shown in a theater. This is the third film Ignatius Press has released for sponsored theatrical screening. The first was Restless Heart: The Confessions of Augustine, followed by Mary of Nazareth. Both proved very successful in allowing parishes, schools, organizations and even individuals to rent a theater and rent the film from us in order to use it to evangelize, enlighten, entertain, educate, inspire and as a great fundraiser. Many individuals and groups have been very successful in utilizing the sponsored theatrical screenings of past Ignatius Press films to raise significant funds—thousands of dollars —for some very worthy causes, such as adoration chapels, crisis pregnancy centers, and various parish needs.

CWR: What part of Ignatius’ life does this film cover? 

Anthony Ryan: This film gives a brief glimpse into Ignatius’ early life and family discord before plunging into the life and times of Ignatius as a young man, revealing a brash, hot-headed soldier with more regard for his own glory than the lives of his fellow soldiers in a time of political upheaval in Spain in the early 1500s. Nearly dying from his battle injuries, the film chronicles his torturous struggle to turn from darkness to light—a struggle that nearly destroyed him, but also gave him the key to a spiritual weapon that continues to save lives today. This film takes the viewer through Ignatius’ spiritual journey, his works and experiences, including with the Inquisition, and finally his departure for his education in Paris and his mission to set the world on fire for Christ.

CWR: What was unique about Ignatius’ spirituality and mission?

Anthony Ryan: Ignatius’s spirituality was heavily influenced by the books he read on the life of Christ and the saints while recuperating from his war injuries. One, in particular, was the story, “De Vita Christi” (“The Life of Christ”), that suggests a spiritual exercise that requires visualizing yourself in the presence of Christ during various times in the life of Christ. This inspired Ignatius’ own Spiritual Exercises.

Those books, of course, as well as Ignatius’ life as a soldier, carried through into his very disciplined life; they influenced and inspired his mission to be a soldier—a knight—and a servant of Christ. He desired to bring others to conversion, to serve Christ and he especially wanted to convert non-Christians. He became a knight of the true King and defender and servant of his lady, the Blessed Mother.

CWR: What ages is this film geared towards?

Anthony Ryan: Although this film is not rated, we would give it a PG-13 rating with a caution to parents that some scenes may be too intense for their child.

CWR: What is involved in hosting a theatrical screening of this film? 

Anthony Ryan: The first step would be to secure a venue—a theater or theater-like auditorium with comfortable seating and quality video and audio system. Next, the host would need to purchase a site license to show the movie. Site license forms are available on the website or by contacting Diane Hanson ( Ignatius will supply a beginning set of promotional materials, including posters and tickets.

Advertising is the key to getting the word out through newspapers, emails, Catholic radio and television. More detailed information is available in the Event Planning Guide, also on the website (PDF document). And something new with this movie, we’ll have DVDs of the film available for hosts-only to purchase in bulk and have for sale at their screenings if they wish. The hosts will have exclusive sales of the DVDs until later this spring before they become available for general sale.

CWR: How can we learn more about this film and how to host a screening?

Anthony Ryan: Please go to the movie website and there you’ll find a trailer of the movie, along with much information, including a “Sponsor a Screening” tab. There is also a phone number and email address to contact Diane Hanson for specific questions.

CWR: When and where will this film be available for purchase?

Anthony Ryan: Since it will be optional for the movie host to be able to purchase bulk quantities of the Ignatius of Loyola DVD, movie goers may be able to purchase the DVD directly from the group or individual hosting the movie screening. Later this spring it will be available for general sale at our website, , as well as through local Catholic bookstores. 

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About Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle 12 Articles
Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle is EWTN television host, speaker, and author of numerous books including Mother Teresa and Me: Ten Years of Friendship, Catholic Mom's Cafe: 5-Minute Retreats for Every Day of the Year, and The Miraculous Medal: Stories, Prayers, and Devotions. Visit her online at