By Matt Keppel
To say that this guy has been important to my life may be the understatement of the century! If you’re not familiar with this 16th century Spaniard, I suggest that you take some time to seek out his writings. Indeed, few others have ever lived to inspire and touch the lives of as many as Iñigo (Ignatius) Lopez of Loyola.
Nations have risen and fallen, monarchies have evolved into democracies, we have even pushed the boundaries of science as a result of Ignatius’s band of Black Robes. Heck, even the new king of Spain is a product of Jesuit education, not to mention our own Pope Francis. So what made this guy so important?
As far as saints go, we could probably divide them up into Paul and Stephen categories: those who screwed up and repented (Paul) and those who lived wholly virtuous lives (Stephen). Ignatius dwells in the Paul category; in fact, he is probably the one waving the flag! His youth was marked by his love of the life in the Spanish royal courts. He trained to be a knight and was not stranger to a party. As a knight Ignatius lived for honor and pride, so much so that rumor has it he may have killed a man in a duel after a disagreement. His holiness, however, is not measured by how far he fell, but by his dedicated climb to be with God.
After being struck by a cannonball (yeah, really, a CANNONBALL), he found himself drawn toward God in the day-to-day. Ignatius’ mystical experience along the River Cardoner fueled his drive to know God more deeply and to share that relationship with everyone he met. He took his pride, his sense of honor, and his understanding of duty and offered them wholeheartedly to God. Ignatius developed a spirituality that has echoes of the Eastern religions blended with Christianity, which aided in the missionary efforts of the Society in India, Southeast Asia, Japan, and China. His Spiritual Exercises have captivated and inspired people for hundreds of years. Indeed, they will continue to do so for as long as the pages are turned. Today, his feast, is a good time for us to answer his call for discernment.
What’s it going to take for us to answer God’s call? Paul was knocked off his horse, and Ignatius took a cannonball… have we been any quicker on the uptake?