Ignatius, whose day it is today (31st July) ,
was born in 1491 in northern Spain;
the youngest of thirteen children.
Aged sixteen he was sent to serve as a page
to the treasurer of the kingdom of Castile,
and as a member of the Velazquez household,
he was frequently at court,
and developed a taste for all it presented,
especially the ladies!
He was totally-focused on making money, and unfortunately became addicted to gambling.
When he turned 30 he was made an officer in the army, defending the fortress of Pamplona against the French. During the battle a cannon ball struck Ignatius, wounding one leg and breaking the other. He was taken back to recuperate at Loyola Castle,
but as far as Ignatius was concerned,
it might as well have been prison.
During the long weeks of his recuperation, he became extremely bored, and asked for some racy, lewd novels to pass the time. There were none in Loyola Castle, but there was a book about the life of Christ, it being a thoroughly good Christian household, and a book about the saints. “Whoopee!”, said Ignatius.
Desperate for something to occupy his mind,
Ignatius began to read them; the more he read,
the more he considered the exploits of the saints worth imitating,
and discovered through these heroic lives
that his true vocation was to serve God.
However, at the same time he continued to have daydreams
of fame and glory, and fantasies of winning the love
of a certain noble lady of the court.
He noticed, however, that after reading and thinking of the saints and Christ he was at peace and satisfied with his lot in life……
whereas when he finished his long daydreams of his noble lady,
he would feel restless and unsatisfied!
Thanks to self-administered “surgery”,
he had to live with one leg becoming shorter than the other
and developed a distinctive limp.
With his old desires and plans of romance
and worldly conquests behind him,
and having recovered from his wounds enough to travel,
he left the castle in March 1522.
He decided that he wanted to go to Jerusalem,
to live where our Lord had spent his life on earth.
As a first step he began his journey to Barcelona.
Though he had been converted completely from his old ways,
he was still seriously lacking in the true spirit of charity,
as illustrated by an encounter he had with a Moor on his way.
The Moor and he came together on the road, both riding mules,
and they began to debate religious matters.
The Moor claimed that the Blessed Virgin
was not a virgin in her life after Christ was born.
Ignatius took this to be such an insult
that he was in a dilemma as to what to do.
They came to a fork in the road,
and Ignatius decided that he would let circumstances
direct his course of action.
The Moor went down one fork.
Ignatius let the reins of his mule drop.
If his mule followed the Moor, he would kill the Moor.
If the mule took the other fork, he would let the Moor live.
Fortunately for the Moor,
Ignatius' mule was more charitable than its rider
and took the opposite fork from the Moor!
He proceeded to Our Lady of Montserrat, made his confession,
and knelt all night in vigil before The Black Madonna,
where he left his sword and knife at the altar.
He left the place, gave away all his fine clothes to a poor man,
and dressed himself in rough clothes, with sandals and a staff.
He continued towards Barcelona, stopping outside the town of Manresa,
and remained there for ten months in a cave,
spending hours each day in prayer, and worked in a hospice.
He had a vision, an encounter with God,
Which helped him see things in a new light;
an experience that enabled Ignatius to find God in all things,
which is one of the central characteristics of Ignatian spirituality.
Not only was this experience the beginning of his conversion,
it was also the beginning of the spiritual discernment
which is associated with Ignatius
described in his Spiritual Exercises.
The Exercises recognise that not only the intellect
but also the emotions and feelings
can help us to come to a knowledge of God’s activity in our lives.
Scriptures, he said, are the Word of God,
stories that are an alive and active revelation.
The revelation continues beyond the text of the story.
Ignatius encourages us to enter the story.
He wants us not only to hear the story
and get the facts of what happened.
He wants us to experience the story,
and let its meaning and revelation to us happen in or hearts.
He wants the story to come alive and address me,
as I become a participant in the scene.
This “Ignatian Spirituality” is a popular scheme of spirituality to this day
Look at today’s Gospel Reading from Luke chapter 12 through Ignatius’s eyes.
Imagine yourself amongst the crowd listening to Jesus.
“A man in the crowd said to Jesus,
‘Master, tell my brother to give me a share of our inheritance.’
You hear, as Jesus did, the voice from the crowd,
asking Jesus to adjudicate on his behalf.
The man feels he has been treated unfairly by his brother,
who it seems is also in the crowd.
How does Jesus reply?
He wasn’t prepared to judge – he didn’t have the facts.
The one who raised the matter of the inheritance
might not have deserved it;
there might have been good reason
for him not to be given a share of it.
You hear Jesus say:
“A man’s life is not made secure by what he owns,
even when he has more than he needs.”
Is Jesus speaking to you in these words?
Is he speaking to our culture?
Is he challenging our culture? Our political system?
Is there someone amongst our circle of family or friends
who is more-concerned about material things?
Covetousness of goods does not satisfy the heart,
Covetousness is never satisfied.
The exaggerated search for material goods and wealth
is often a source of anxiety, adversity, abuse of power, war.
Ignatius, before his conversion to Christ,
enjoyed a lavish life-style, where money was no object.
Before his accident money was his motivation –
A mercenary soldier, fighting not for a cause, but for the highest bidder.
When he turned to Christ he pursued the things that have true value:
justice, solidarity, welcome, fraternity, peace,
all things that make up the true dignity of humanity.
It is a case of leading a life that is fulfilled
not according to a worldly pattern,
but rather according to the style of the Gospel:
to love God with all one’s being,
and to love one’s neighbour as ourselves,
that is, in service and in giving oneself.
Teach us, good Lord, To serve thee as thou deservest; To give and not to count the cost; To fight and not to heed the wounds; To toil and not for seek for rest; To labour and not to ask for any reward Save that of knowing that we do thy will.