Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Happy Feast Day, St. Ignatius of Loyola

St. Ignatius of Loyola was born in Spain in the late fifteenth century, a member of the Spanish nobility, and served as a page in the court of Ferdinand and Isabella. Yes, that Ferdinand and Isabella - the ones who commissioned Christopher Columbus to sail the ocean blue in 1492.

St. Ignatius was a soldier when he grew to be a man. One of his legs was shattered by a cannon ball during a battle in Pamplona, Spain (best known today as the place where the bulls run.) This injury required a long recuperation and left him partially crippled for the rest of his life. During his convalescence, he asked for popular novels of adventure and romance to be brought to him so that he could while away the hours, but there weren't any to be had. The only books available were Christian books: lives of the saints, a book on the life of Christ, a Bible. With nothing better to do, he began reading. And he began to change.

It began to occur to him that he used to enjoy reading entertaining novels because they made him feel good; he really enjoyed a well-told story. But the more he read these Christian books, the less good the thought of reading romantic fiction began to make him feel. Instead, he realized that the more he read the Christian books, the better he felt. This was a huge turnaround, and I got the feeling that he was slightly appalled. He liked the Christian books. He liked Jesus. Was this any way for a Spanish nobleman, a brave soldier, a smart and handsome fellow, to be feeling?

Well, yes.

When he recovered as much as he was going to, he took his sword and hung it up before a statue of the Blessed Virgin and left his old life to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. He worked for a time in the Middle East converting Muslims to Christianity and then came back to Europe and worked to turn back the tide of the Protestant Reformation. He formed the Society of Jesus with a group of companions (including St. Francis Xavier), otherwise known as the Jesuits. He wrote a book of spiritual exercises which are still widely used on retreats to this very day.

St. Ignatius was a very holy and aescetic person, but he was capable of giving some very warm and friendly spiritual advice, practical and wise:

Do not let any occasion of gaining merit pass without taking care to draw some spiritual profit from it; as, for example, from a sharp word which someone may say to you; from an act of obedience imposed against your will; from an opportunity which may occur to humble yourself, or to practice charity, sweetness, and patience.
All of these occasions are gain for you, and you should seek to procure them; and at the close of that day, when the greatest number of them have come to you, you should go to rest most cheerful and pleased, as the merchant does on the day when he had had most chance for making money; for on that day business has prospered with him.

St. Ignatius Loyola, who looks like a very nice man, doesn't he?
Image credit: A Nun's Life http://www.anunslife.com

Happy feast day, St. Ignatius, with love from us to you.

1 comment:

Kbg said...

Matt's birthday patron Saint as well as his Confirmation Saint! Thanks for featuring him!