Ignatius was convalescing in his castle in Loyola. A few months earlier, defending the walls of Pamplona during a French siege, a cannonball had broken his leg, and now he was slowly recovering. On long winter evenings he would normally read books on chivalry that excited his imagination. However, the only books in the castle were a Lives of the Saints and the Vita Christi (VC) by Ludolphus of Saxony.
This esteemed ascetic writer (born around 1295, he died in Strasbourg in 1377) was first a Dominican, then a Carthusian, the prior of the Carthusian monastery of Koblenz, and author of the Vita Jesu Christi ex quatuor Evangeliis, a powerful theological-spiritual commentary on all four Gospels, enriched by many quotations from the Fathers and spiritual authors of the Middle Ages.
The year was 1521. Ignatius read those substantial volumes in a Castilian translation and was attracted. He would say that this reading was crucial for his conversion. Today, better than in the past, we realize the importance of the Vita Christi in Ignatius’ spirituality, to the point that we can find many traces of it in his Spiritual Exercises (ES), especially in the contemplation of the Nativity (ES 111-117).