As you probably know, Loyola Press, the host of this blog, is a ministry of the Society of Jesus, also known as the Jesuits. And this society is the legacy of St. Ignatius Loyola, who formed it 500 years ago with a few companions who, with him, wanted to help souls and change the world.
Over the next few weeks, we will follow Ignatius’s life story and use key moments in it to prompt reflection on our own life stories. We’ll call it our autumn Ignatian pilgrimage.
This week, we begin at the beginning, for all of us: birthplace and early life. Ignatius was born to a family of minor nobility. His mother died when he was just a child, and the local blacksmith’s wife became his nurse. That family, for all practical purposes, brought up the child Ignatius. He grew up in a lush region of northern Spain full of crops and livestock. He grew up not in a cosmopolitan city but a rural community. His family fell out of favor with the regional monarch, which severed important social and economic ties for the family. Ignatius left the estate as a young man to serve as a page in the court of a nobleman with whom they still had good relations. There he learned how to behave at court, and he trained to be a soldier.
Where Did You Begin?
Each one of us is shaped, to some degree, by the place where we started and the people who shared that place with us. This is not to say that our beginnings determine who we become but that we need to factor in how those early years affected us.
- What places were key locations in your life as a child and teenager? Did you have a hometown, or did you move around too much to identify with any one place?
- Who were the people involved with you on a daily basis when you were growing up? Did you belong to a “gang” of kids in your family or neighborhood who were together all the time? Who were the adults who made the biggest impact on the way you thought or behaved?
- Identify the gifts of your childhood location(s) and the people who dwelled with and around you.
- Identify the hurts and trials that came with those early-life settings and people.
- What kind of culture helped shape you as a youngster? Were you a small-town kid? A military brat? A city dweller? The child of ministers or missionaries? Surrounded by a large extended family? An only child?
Gratitude for My Beginning
I know that your grace is possible anywhere and anytime.
My beginning cannot be changed, and it was not perfect. Nevertheless,
for the place of my beginnings, I give thanks.
For the season of my beginnings, I give thanks.
For the people who were part of my beginning, I give thanks.
For the world as it was at the time of my beginning, I give thanks.
For the gifts of that early life, I give thanks, and I ask for the grace
to continue unwrapping them throughout my life,
using them to the best of my ability,
and giving them back to you.