Wednesday, July 31, 2019

St. Ignatius of Loyola: With a Heart Larger than the World

St Ignatius as a pilgrim
Today, we celebrate the feast day of St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus/the Jesuits.  

Born in 1491, Ignatius was a different kind of saint.  Noted Jesuit historian Fr. John O’Malley, SJ, observed, “Ignatius redefined the traditional basis of saintliness,” which usually involved a degree of unworldliness.  In contrast, Fr. O'Malley refers to Ignatius as a “worldly saint.”

Ignatius was a restless soul for Christ.  Winning souls for Christ was his endeavour and indomitable spirit.  Once Ignatius comes to know Christ in his life nothing can stop him venturing into any challenges that could bring people to Christ.  As a result he could send his friends to missions to far away including St Francis Xavier to India in 1541.  With his limited resources and personnel, Ignatius started schools and colleges, centers of catechism, a house for those who were involved in prostitution and their children in the city of Rome called Martha’s home, colleges in Rome to prepare men for the missionary work around the world especially in order to contain the damage being done to the church due to reformation in Europe.

Ignatius was a man of laymen and women of the church.  His spiritual exercises were given to lay people in order to bring them closer to Christ and his teachings.  Because, for him God can be found in this world.  Ignatius lived in a time when people thought that reaching God was possible only through intermediaries like priests, bishops and cardinals.  Therefore, he devised a spirituality that advised people that God is attainable even for simple folks and even without agents.  God is accessible directly, promptly and simply provided we have a singular devotion.  God blesses those who worship with a sincere heart.  God is experienced in everyday things and life. We find God in messiness and miseries of our life.

St Ignatius of Loyola was a self made man and a saint. Christian perfection is possible here and now. He learnt from his experiences and helped others too though various techniques and ideas like prayers of contemplation and imagination.  He says in his spiritual autobiography, that God led him like a school teacher (Auto. n. 27).   What we pray should not remain just at the theoretical level but one’s prayer should get involved in daily actions and intentions.  They should help in making this world beautiful and reachable to God. Therefore Jesuits are called today “Contemplatives in Action”.

We pray that we may truly become contemplatives in action making this world a much safer, friendlier, just and beautiful world like St Ignatius of Loyola who wished, prayed and acted.

- Olvin Veigas, SJ

31st July 2019