Cannonball at Loyola Chapel of the Conversion

Ignatius Loyola conversion room
The room, inside the original castle/home, in which Ignatius recuperated from his wounds, and in which he experienced a change of heart and direction. Today this room is a chapel.

Editor’s note: Throughout July, we’re celebrating 31 Days with St. Ignatiusa month-long celebration of Ignatian spirituality. In addition to the calendar of Ignatian articles found here, posts on dotMagis this month will explore cannonball moments—moments that changed the course of a life, just as getting hit by a cannonball changed the course of St. Ignatius Loyola’s life. The inspiration for our theme is the Ignatian Year, which marks the 500th anniversary of Ignatius’s injury and conversion.

My cannonball moment happened about 60 miles northwest of where St. Ignatius had his cannonball moment. It happened in the very room where Ignatius recovered from his injury. It was a turning point, but I didn’t know it was a cannonball moment until years later.

The year was 2001. I was part of a group of about 25 people who had gone on a pilgrimage to Ignatian sites in Spain. It was mid-October, about a month after the 9/11 terror attacks. I had been working as an editor for Loyola Press for a few years and was glad for the chance to learn about Ignatius firsthand. I was interested in Ignatian spirituality, but, to be honest, I had no special passion for it.

The pilgrimage began in Loyola, the small town where Ignatius grew up. His home, a small, squat castle, is still there. So is the room where he was taken in 1521 to recover after a cannonball shattered his legs during a battle in Pamplona. Our group celebrated Mass in that room, now a chapel. During the Mass, I heard a small voice say, “Something important began in this room long ago. I want you to be part of it.”

This startled me. I’m not someone who hears voices in prayer. I thought about it. I wondered if I should do anything about it. I thought not. After all, I was working for Loyola Press. I was already part of something that started in that room.

Time passed. I made friends with some Jesuits. I worked on some books about Ignatian spirituality. I read some others. In 2003, I went on an Ignatian retreat and began praying the Examen. I fell in love with Ignatian spirituality. It became the way I prayed; it shaped the way I thought; I came to look at relationships and work through an Ignatian lens. Ignatian spirituality became the focus of my work. I’ve written books about Ignatian spirituality; I’ve given talks about it. Today, six years after I retired from Loyola Press, I am still writing about it.

The voice that I heard in Loyola wasn’t talking about being a good employee in an Ignatian ministry. The Lord wanted me to let myself be transformed by the Ignatian spirit. I had the good sense to open myself to that, and, sure enough, it happened.

Image provided by Vinita Hampton Wright.


Follow along with 31 Days with St. Ignatius by reading Trust in the Poor Jesus by Ronald Modras.

Use the hashtag #31DayswithIgnatius on your favorite social media, and share your cannonball moments.

4 COMMENTS

  1. I made many weekend retreats at Manresa Jesuit Retreat Centre in Pickering Ontario throughout my years as a minister’s wife. When I found myself on my own, God called me to the Catholic Church but I didn’t go back to Manresa for a few years; however, when I went back for the first time I had this incredible feeling of peace and I knew that Ignatian Spirituality was where I belonged. I have since studied at Regis College in Toronto and I thank God for leading me in that direction.
    A few years ago I had the privilege of visiting Loyola Press and meeting many who were there at the time. And yes, Jim I have some of your books!

  2. Jim, what a clear and powerful testimony you have given to a profound turning point in your life. It’s wonderful to have “special spiritual experiences,” but they are not meant as souvenirs or trophies. They are meant to be listened to carefully and acted on. That’s what you did and, good Lord, what a cascade of blessings has come of your reflecting and writing of which I am just one of thousands who have benefited and been transformed. God found you, you found God, many blessings flowed.

  3. Jim,
    Thank you for sharing. So much of life is mystery. My cannonball moment (the first one as I have learned-I am a slow “listener and learner”) happened about 53 years ago. I was a freshman at Spring Hill College in Mobile Alabama and was from New York. I was drawn to the Chapel which was dedicated to St. Joseph. I remember where I sat in that big beautiful empty (or so I thought) Chapel. I was away from home and lost. My prayer at that point in my life was rather formulaic but I that day, I did not pray in that way. I actually just spoke directly to God. My words were “I have no idea of what I am doing here.” I did not hear a voice, I simply left the Chapel. As I look back, I know that the Creator (and perhaps St. Joseph) was listening. My experience during subsequent years opened up so many opportunities fo deepen my Ignatian understanding, to begin my spiritual and intellectual development beginning with service to Spring Hill for another 17 years, followed by 20 years at Georgetown University. Mystery, chance encounters with both those in need and those who reached out to befriend me. A lifetime of trying to reach for “the more.” A quiet cannonball moment indeed?

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