Thursday, February 5, 2009

A relevant Saint for our times…

St. Ignatius of Loyola

By Charles R Geter, January 30, 2009

St. Ignatius of Loyola, the author of The Spiritual Exercises, is an extraordinary Saint because he returned to Catholicism like the Prodigal Son. Although he was raised Catholic, Ignatius started living a wild life during his years as a page, and later as a soldier for the Duke of Najera. Eventually he was injured during a siege of his duke's castle, and while he was recovering from some painful surgery, he started reading the lives of the saints, which were the only books available to him. This opened his eyes and he returned zealously to the Catholic faith. He begged his way to Jerusalem and devoted himself to convert non-Christians. Instead of remaining there, Ignatius returned to Europe, founded the Society of Jesus, and wrote down his Spiritual Exercises.

What did St. Ignatius reflect in the character of the times? First, he was a valiant soldier. Robert Gleason, S.J. writes that St. Ignatius was one of those men who was chivalrous and outgoing. He wanted to do something amazing with his life. Probably a Heroic Saint was not what he had in mind before his injury, but after his conversion around age 30, he became zealous for our Lord. The time of St. Ignatius was difficult; Luther and other Protestants revolted against the Catholic Church. The Counter-Reformation was one of the few good side-effects of Luther's disobedience to Church Teaching. St. Ignatius founded the Society of Jesus, and by the time of his death the number of Jesuits was about 1000.

St. Ignatius is a man for our own time primarily because he repented of his sins and listened to what Our Lord wished him to do. For some time after his conversion he lived a very austere life, for the love of God. He especially is a good example for us today because sacrifices are not exactly popular these days, so we can learn the importance of living ascetically through St. Ignatius's example. Another thing St. Ignatius can teach us is not to be content with our own personal mediocrity. He was so enflamed with love for Christ that he founded the Jesuit Order that accomplished much good in education, science, and missionary work. All three of these things are especially important to Christians today. We need Christ to reenter our schools and scientific studies (where people foolishly assert that religion and science are opposed); we need to bring Our Lord to people everywhere, even those who may live down the street. Furthermore, all of us can have trouble (myself included) with being lukewarm, so we need the example of St. Ignatius. He also rejected the temptations of the world, and so people from all ages need the Christ-like example of St. Ignatius who was uncorrupted by material things. Self-reflection and prayer is something that America as a culture is definitely lacking. St. Ignatius's Spiritual Exercises can give us some incredible helps, so that we may reflect on God's goodness and our sinfulness, and subsequently ask Our Lord for mercy. Indeed, St. Ignatius's strengths are juxtaposed to the weaknesses of our generation: he has the virtue of spiritual strength while we often are weak; he lived austerely while we live with excessive pleasures. He was inflamed with love, while our culture is lukewarm, and he faithfully loved God while our culture blasphemes His Holy Name. May St. Ignatius pray for us so we may become more faithful servants of Christ!


I am indebted to Wikipedia's article on St. Ignatius of Loyola