Sometimes God brings us the friends we need at just the right moment, and other times we meet someone and just hold on for dear life because we know we found a treasure. I believe St. Ignatius of Loyola entered my life in a combination of both those movements… I am so thankful that God brought me in touch with Ignatius’ lasting influence, and I’m determined not to let go of my connection to him.
I have a painting on my bedroom wall of Ignatius with his community’s catch phrase, “AD MAJOREM DEI GLORIAM,” to the greater glory of God. I meant this to be simply a study, a first expression of a painting I was carrying in my heart. As often happens, my attention span gave out and the study is all I ever painted.
Today is his feast day, July 31st! It’s one of the few feast days I will think about in any given year and I always look forward to it. Ignatius is my friend, a spiritual friend and mentor. I’m blessed to have become an heir of his contributions to the world.
Ignatius, as I have come to understand him, was a mystic who enjoyed laughing. He was not terribly well educated in theology, but had a passion and a zeal, sometimes tempered by wisdom and sometimes not so much. He was devoted at once to community and individually hearing God. He was an opposable mind.
I like Saints who shine in their humanity as much as their connection to the divine, who make us stand in wonder at the way the two are so often one in the same, as God intended the two to intertwine in us. I like the way that Ignatius was a person of vision and visions, though he sometimes didn’t know what a particular vision meant. Such an occurrence didn’t cause fear or anxiety for Ignatius, because “perfect love casts out fear.”
He was a soldier turned saint. He was a Don Quixote. He was a renaissance dreamer who took a canon ball to the leg and was forced to slow down long enough to see what would matter most to him in life.
He taught me to pray with the saints. I had grown up with many “s” saints, the wonderful people of faith all around me, but I hadn’t grown up with the “S” Saints. Ignatius’ life work, his Spiritual Exercises, welcomed me into the joyful practice of praying with, and even just sitting with, a community of comfort, love and support I had not previously known. Suddenly, I joined the generations who call Mary “blessed” and I prayed with Jesus instead of only to Jesus.
I will always be thankful for my spiritual friend Fr Leo Murray SJ in Georgetown who patiently led me in the Exercises for four years. Community and friendships come to us in many ways, and the lasting influence of Ignatius’ joy and devotion is a gift I will always carry.