July-Feast of St Ignatius
‘To live is to change and to be perfect is to have changed often’ (St. John Henry Newman).
This line could well be said about Ignatius Loyola. St. Ignatius made a very definite change in lifestyle after his wounding at Pamplona in 1521 while recovering at Loyola; from the glamour of high society to a life of poverty and accepting insults. This conversion did not take place all at once. It took at least a year from his time at home until he had been formed by God at his severe retreat at Manresa until he was ready to face the world again. Indeed, his whole life was spent reviewing what the Spirit prompted him to do next. Having promoted the importance of putting our faith into action, as understood from his Spiritual Exercises, he surprisingly spent the last fifteen years of his life in administration of the new-born Society in a small Rome apartment; not what many would know as a typical Jesuit apostolate.
The more outward-going missionary life is perhaps best exemplified in St. Francis Xavier, his good friend, and patron of Jesuit Missions. The fact that they were canonised on the same day (March 12th,1622) demonstrates two poles of that vocation in following God’s will. A modern-day example of someone seeking God’s will as a Jesuit, changing his outlook and serving the Church using all the tools of discernment, is Pope Francis. Francis constantly invites us to go beyond the fundamentalist view of seeing everything in black and white. We are all asked to discover and use our unique God-given gifts;
‘To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good ….’ including, ‘the discernment of spirits’. [1 Cor. 12 v7-11]
Ignatius’ gift to the Church and the world was a new form of discerning the spirits by the pathway of the Spiritual Exercises in order to better serve God’s people. Let us pray to use this gift well in our own lives. This is needed more than ever in working towards a much more ecologically friendly economy and one which addresses anew the inequalities in society and the growth in absolute poverty caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Stephen Power SJ