Thursday, July 30, 2020

St Ignatius of Loyola: Unfatigued Soldier of Christ

Painting by Anthony Arul, SJ
I often ask this question whenever we have to think in the line of St Ignatius of Loyola: What would Inigo do if he is living today? The charisma of this great Saint of the 16th century that we cherish and carry forward through our lives is still relevant and imperative. If there was a Church man who thought out of the box during the time of reformation, then it was St Ignatius of Loyola. The legacy that he left behind us is enduring and timeless. The 15,000 Jesuits all over the world working in more than 100 countries and 6 continents, still continue to live a religious life with a particular spirit and charism of the founder both in theory and in practice through prayer and the works of the Order.

Many enemies of the Society of Jesus often felt and still feel that Jesuits are a privileged group in the Church. In fact their main contention is that Church hierarchy has made too many concessions on the Order founded by St Ignatius of Loyola. Actually it is not true. But it is true that the Society of Jesus is different from many other Religious Orders and Congregations. However, this is for effective and strong apostolic endeavours. Jesuits do not have a choir (liturgy of the hours in community) like other religious Orders, their Superior General is for life, Jesuits do not have particular set of religious habit (dress) to identify with, (local clergy's habit suits them very well), they have a special fourth vow of obedience to the Pope and so on. All these were granted already during the time of St Ignatius of Loyola. As we celebrate the feast of the Pilgrim Saint, who still continues to inspire not only the Jesuits but also many Religious Congregations and lay people who do Spiritual Exercises individually, we could highlight a few qualities of Ignatius that impress me very much today.

Ignatius the Enterpriser
Most of the founders of Religious Orders and Congregations have been men of enterprises. St Ignatius is no difference at all. They were not only good in spiritual practices including penance, self abnegation, devotion to the person of Christ, humility and interior freedom but also men and women who knew the rules of this world. They were good at temporal administration. As a founder, the person has to deal not only with men and women of flesh and blood but also with the intricacies and problems of this world. They have to swim in the politics and policies of the rulers both secular and Church hierarchy. That means they have to dirty their hands in constructing houses, planning and buying the lands for their apostolates, procuring funds for missions. Everyone was a systematic in his or her own way.  During his term as General of the Society of Jesus from 1540 to1556, Ignatius left behind 10 provinces with 3000 men  around the world. He wrote 7,000 letters to people in various walks of life from Jesuits to Bishops, Kings to parents of the Jesuits, women in the courts and to those in the streets.  Ignatius corresponded with everyone and everywhere. Certainly, Ignatius was a vibrant and constructive enterpriser who could lay very strong foundation for the works of the Society.

Ignatius a courteous but genius
His contemporaries described Ignatius being rather short in stature, graceful in his manners and comely in appearance, and courteous in approach. He was always calm and serene, but his masterly mind was constantly planning new enterprises for God's glory, and his heart  was full to overflowing with the love of God and the spirit of prayer. People of all walks of life found in him advise, to console and to encourage. He was courteous, meticulous and above all a man of refine personality. Only a man of noble virtues could venture into a mission of noble cause. Obviously, Ignatius was schooled in an ethos which respected others and in return gained respect from them. St Philip Neri who was called as the Second Apostle of Rome was his confessor. He won the hearts of many in Rome and other cities of Europe to fund the early missions of the Society including that of St Francis Xavier in India. His ever loving affectionate manners made him a spiritual guide much sort after in the Eternal City.

Ignatius a man of foresight
The genius of Ignatius is that he was able to see the future with the eyes of God. Because he set his eyes always on God. His self-discovery lead him to trust not in himself or others but in God and Him alone. This in turn helped him to trust in his new ventures and in the ability of others to fulfill the mission entrusted to them. During my three years of stay at Collegiò Internazionale del Gesù in Rome where the rooms of Ignatius are still intact, I often wondered how he imagined Francis Xavier working in India, or what Peter Faber was doing in Germany, or how Diego Laynez was advising at the Council of Trent. The capacity of Ignatius to imagine and be with those persons in far away lands shows his phenomenal ability to see with the eyes of the Holy Trinity. His imaginative contemplative prayers must have helped him certainly to see what his brothers were doing in distant lands labouring and working for the Lord Jesus Christ. Accordingly, he could encourage them with his constant flow of letters in spite of such a difficulty of sending the letters by sea voyage. Every good practicals precedes with a good theory. The Parisian Aristotelian pedagogy must have had a great impact on Ignatius to cultivate deep foresight and a sense of developing creative ideas.

Ignatius a man of culture
One of the things that fascinated even the enemies of Ignatius at the battle in Pamplona in 1521 is the way he treated the event of battle itself. He fought the fight with a sense of respect and respecting the ethics of war. Therefore, while the canon ball shattered his right leg, the French soldiers made arrangements to reach him to his Loyola castle. He gave respect and received respect.  Even after his conversion experience, Ignatius maintained a certain demeanour that could get his things done even the difficult ones. In order to achieve the goals that he set before, he gave his heart and soul. Therefore he could master the techniques in spiritual life. Experimenting, evolving, interpreting, involving, he learnt new skills including Latin and getting a Master's degree in humanities from the Paris University. When the money was not coming from his known sources he went in search of finances for him and his friends to Belgium, England and other places. With a silent patience and perseverance he could achieve because of a culture that he believed in where success is possible through struggles. His convictions, and values added a tremendous vigour to his life.

Ignatius a man of the times
Ignatius lived at a time which was most repugnant. As a result, reformation was the only a way out in the Church. Ignatius quickly understood the state of the Church and society when he glanced into his own life by reflecting, praying, evaluating, reading and studying. Just in 1517, Luther's reformation had shattered German and Nordic Countries of Europe and its tremors were felt even in Spain. Instead of being part of destructive reformation he became part of the constructive reformation by devising a tool that could turn an individual towards God as a most ardent and resilient follower. That tool is Spiritual Exercises. Ignatius believed in humble and small beginnings. This was possible by individual reform and change. Only through such an individual correction the Church could reform itself collectively and concretely. Hence his focus turned to simple things which needed the most attention. Although the ambitious projects were drawn to reform the Church at the Council of Trent, Ignatius took a root that would concentrate on fresh and new areas of life and geography. This led to the nascent Society of Jesus to venture into unknown lands to gain souls for Christ as well known Christendom which needed a thorough cleansing.

Writing a poem in 1936 from Spain with a title "To the Jesuits" G. K Chesterton  notes what the followers of St Ignatius of Loyola mean to him:
"You, when wild sects tortured and mocked each other,
Saw truth in the wild tribes  that tortured you;
Slurred for not slurring all who slurred or slew,
Blamed that your murderer was too much your brother."

Perhaps, we should consider this as a tribute what Jesuits have been down the centuries. You may not find all of them of such valour and culture of St Ignatius but still the spirituality that the founder proposed certainly could make a person really an unfatigued soldier of Christ. 

- Olvin Veigas, SJ

Feast of St Ignatius of Loyola
31 July 2020


lijiserin@gmail.com said...

Inspiring message, lots of knowledge l could acquire.your writing are very much heart touching . Thank you , seeking for your reflection

Unknown said...

"What will a man gain if he wins the whole world and suffers the loss of his own soul?"
Inspirational message!
I'm ever grateful to you Father for gracing me little space in your blog to pen my deepest gratitude for placing me in the hands of my beloved St. Ignatius of Loyola,a man of God in his thoughts, words and actions.
Infact what I knew about him is like a drop in a Ocean, thanks to your kind heart, for gifting me this wonderful article that seems to be taking me back to the centuries where he lived and served God in all his simplicity and elegance.
My thanks are due to you for encouraging me to know more about the Saint whom I adore and love. I really wonder at the way he discerned the will of God and made himself as a person really an fatigued soldier of Christ.
Here, I too pose the same question of yours with which you began your article. If he happens to hear this question I suppose he would definitely touch our hearts with this answer," I'm there working through you still. You are my Visible images to continue my vision for the Greater Glory of God. Hope this lively article of yours doubles your joy and happiness. On this auspicious occasion of your founder's 529th death Anniversary , with heart full of gratitude, I wish a Happy Feast to all the Jesuits around the globe. May this day remain ever memorable to you.

Unknown said...

"Only a man of noble virtues could venture into the mission of noble cause." Yes,its very true with St.Ignatius. His genius is that he sees everything with the eyes of God. Thank you for these words of wisdom. And here, I'm much fascinated by your perseverance and dedication to give your heart and soul in doing things for the greater glory of God. This article is quite relevant and useful for all to read and reflect. Thanks for thinking out of the box to inspire many towards this Saint of all times.

Anonymous said...

Life of Inigo is beautifully explained.

Anonymous said...

Your blogpost is very impressive.. great keep going.

lijiserin@gmail.com said...

Very much inspiring words.

Unknown said...

"Act as if everything is depended on you, trust as if everything is depended on God." St.Ignacius of Loyola.
Dear Father, on this grace filled day, I'm here with hands folded and my heartfelt festive wishes to you.
Every word of wisdom in this article really fascinated me. Your article is full of remarkable and colourful parades of the genius and
extraordinary personality St. Ignatius of Loyola, a man abound with ever loving affection. I'm most happy and feel proud to share these thoughts with others who used your reflections and in-depth content in all their prayer services and got energized Spiritually. It's like the book "Spiritual Exercises" of your beloved founder. I have been taking these thoughts for our prayers too. Thank you very much Father. Happy Feast to all of you.

Unknown said...

Nice to start my day with your edyfing message. What's fascinating me more here is your creative skills and knowledge about the subject.

Unknown said...

Motivational quotes! Worth inspiring thoughts!

Unknown said...

Lasting treasure of God's love! Great enlightenment to respond to God's will like Ignatius our loved Guruji.

Unknown said...

The truly great person is the one who really happy to Zig while others Zag. Your works seem to be that you stand out from the crowd inorder to stand for something special to inspire others. It's memorable one on this special day.

Unknown said...

I found the article to be very insightful. It's practical, useful and challenging. I certainly learned alot from it. Heartfelt thanks.