For the Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, a Feast of Basque Lamb Stew

St. Ignatius is the patron saint of the Jesuits, spiritual retreats, educators, the Basque country and soldiers.

Francisco Herrera (attr.), “Glorification of St. Ignatius of Loyola”
Francisco Herrera (attr.), “Glorification of St. Ignatius of Loyola” (photo: Public Domain)

This biography of St. Ignatius and the recipe included appeared in the cookbook, Cooking with the Saints, published by Sophia Institute Press, and is used with permission.

The youngest son of a Basque noble family, St. Ignatius of Loyola (birth name, Íñigo López de Loyola) was born in the family’s castle in the town of Loyola, Spain. At the age of 7, St. Ignatius’ mother passed away. He spent his early years in the care of a local blacksmith’s wife. As a teenager he was sent by his father to work in the service of Juan Velázquez de Cuéllar in the court of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. Although he did not participate in court life, he was influenced by its worldliness. At the age of 17, St. Ignatius entered the army.

In 1521, an injury from a cannonball damaged his legs. During his convalescence from various surgeries, he was given books on the life of Christ and of the saints. Profoundly moved by these reading, St. Ignatius went on a pilgrimage after his recovery, and confessed all the iniquities he had committed. For the next year until early 1523, he lived as a beggar attending daily Mass and spending many hours in prayer. During this year of self-examination, he began to write his famous work, The Spiritual Exercises. He eventually went to the Holy Land, but due to political instability, he spent only a short time there.

He returned to Spain and for the next decade, St. Ignatius studied at the universities in Alcalá and Salamanca. At age 39, he enrolled with the University of Paris. In 1534, St. Ignatius and several companions, including St. Francis Xavier and St. Peter Faber, took vows of poverty and chastity, with the intention to serve the pope. In 1537 St. Ignatius was ordained a priest. St. Ignatius continued to work on formalizing the group. With the approval of Pope Paul III, the new Society of Jesus — the Jesuits — was established in 1540.

By the time St. Ignatius died in 1556 at the age of 64, the Society of Jesus had opened 35 schools and introduced about 1,000 members to the order. A major contribution of the Jesuits during that period was halting the spread of the Protestant Reformation and combatting heresy. The Order continues to have an impact on education by maintaining several universities and accomplishing other good works of mercy.

St. Ignatius was beatified in 1609 by Pope Paul V and canonized in 1622 by Pope Gregory XV.

Suscipe (Prayer of St. Ignatius of Loyola)

Take, O Lord, and receive my entire liberty, my memory, my understanding and my whole will. All that I am and all that I possess, Thou hast given me: I surrender it all to Thee to be disposed of according to Thy will. Give me only Thy love and Thy grace; with these I will be rich enough and will desire nothing more. Amen.


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Basque Lamb Stew

(Recipe credit: The American Lamb Board)

Serves 8

The Basque country, an autonomous region in Northern Spain, has a coastal area (the Bay of Biscay) and a mountainous region (the Pyrenees) that separates that part of northern Spain from the Basque region of France. The population living in the coastal or valley regions are generally fishermen or farmers. But those who live near the Pyrenees are the herders and livestock farmers. Although the majority of animals raised for profit is cattle, sheep come in a close second. Basque cooks readily infuse their cuisine with ideas and ingredients from others, including the use of olive oil, potatoes and bell peppers. 

  • 3 1/2 pounds cubed  lamb leg or shoulder meat, preferably American
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, or more as needed
  • 2 red bell peppers, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 green bell peppers, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 1/2 celery stalks, cut into ½-inch long pieces
  • 2 tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 3 to 4 cups lamb or beef stock
  • 1 1/2 cups white wine
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons ground paprika
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup or more chopped fresh parsley

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the lamb, without crowding, until all pieces are brown on all sides. Remove with a slotted spoon, and set aside in a large stockpot.

Combine the bell peppers, celery, tomatoes, potatoes, onion, and garlic in a large bowl. Cook in batches over medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring often; the cooking may require more olive oil. Combine the cooked vegetables with the lamb, and scrape the bottom of the skillet to add lamb bits to the stew for flavor. 

Add 3 cups stock or more as needed, the wine, tomato paste, paprika, and bay leaves. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the lamb is tender, about 1 hour; add the remaining stock, if necessary. Remove the lid and increase the heat to medium. Discard the bay leaves. Stir in the salt and black pepper to taste. Cook, stirring, until the sauce reduces, about 15 minutes. Adjust the seasonings. Place the stew in a serving dish, and garnish with the chopped parsley. Serve hot.