Pamplona – A Reflection by Meg Morrison
Meg Morrison, Community Engagement Coordinator Jesuit Mission, Australia shares her reflection for the Feast of St Ignatius.
In May 1521, Ignatius of Loyola, a vain nobleman was leading Spanish troops in the defence of the town of Pamplona. The Spanish were greatly outnumbered by the attacking French forces, but the proud and stubborn Ignatius would not surrender. After hours of fighting, Ignatius was hit by a cannonball in his legs and severely wounded. In that moment on the battlefield of Pamplona, not only were Ignatius’s legs shattered, but also his idea of self and who he wanted to become. As Pope Francis describes it, “In Pamplona…all the worldly dreams of Ignatius were shattered in one instance. This one cannonball changed the course of his life…”[i]
Ignatius was carried to his ancestral home to commence his long, painful recovery, and ultimate conversion. Here at Pamplona is the beginning of Ignatius’s story.
PAMPLONA by Andrew Bullen SJ
Wherever Pamplona is:
you mistake the enemy
and over trust your own boldness,
flourish an outdated flag
for the last time and with style:
you’re on the defensive.
The yells and roar and fire
are a dazzling confusion:
then the long quiet proclaims defeat.
Pain tells the soldier his leg
is turned to a mess of blood
the wound will heal all his life.
Call this Pamplona.
Pamplona is whatever
wrenches failure into blessing.
It is the end of noise
and can happen anywhere.
Whenever fame goes – and style goes –
and you’re useless is Pamplona.
Only later will it announce
a new way of being history.
Pamplona is the lifelong beginning
of the journey into silence.[ii]
Last year during the height of the COVID-19 Pandemic I rediscovered this beautiful and poignant poem by Fr Andrew Bullen SJ, an Australian Jesuit poet, art critic, and scholar (and my parish priest). I started reading the poem over and over again, reflecting on my own life, my ‘cannonball moments’. But more importantly, reflecting on the world and where we are as a society. The precarious state of our environment. The plight of millions of refugees and asylum seekers. The rise of right-wing, polarising politics. And of course, the COIVD-19 Pandemic, with its devastating health and economic impact. How, like so many disasters, the negative effect on our marginalised brothers and sisters is so much greater.
It feels to me like we are currently in a ‘Pamplona-like’ battle. We have over trusted our own boldness for too long. We are on the defensive and while locked in our homes, the long silence is signalling defeat. But there is hope, there is always hope, if we have faith and we act justly. Justly to our fellow human beings, and justly for our common home.
It is time for humankind to wrench our failure into blessings. As Fr. General Arturo Sosa says:
“It is good to remind ourselves that the wound Ignatius suffered in Pamplona was not so much a happy ending, but rather a happy beginning. Conversion consists sometimes of great moments of change…”[iii]
This Ignatian Year is an opportunity for all of us to find our conversion, and our new way of being history.
Meg Morrison is the Community Engagement Coordinator for Jesuit Mission Australia, a role she has held since 2014. Meg works with supporters, manages fundraising events and liaises with Jesuit schools. Prior to this, she spent 20 years working in health promotion and community health development, in both the not-for-profit sector and academia. She has worked in Australia, Canada and the United States. She currently lives and works in her hometown of Sydney, Australia.
[i] Pope Francis, Message to Jesuits and their Collaborators for the Ignatian Year, as translated in America Magazine May24th 2021
[ii] Bullen SJ, Andrew Ignatius the Pilgrim: Poems and Prayers, 2013
[iii] Sosa SJ, Arturo, Remarks by Fr General at the Beginning of the Ignatian Year, 19 May 2021