HomeJesuit HistoryThe Audacity of the Impossible

The Audacity of the Impossible

impossible shape or optical image with hot air balloon in background dawn sky - image via Pixabay

Editor’s note: Throughout July, we’re hosting 31 Days with St. Ignatius, a month-long celebration of Ignatian spirituality. In addition to the calendar of Ignatian articles found here, posts on dotMagis this month will explore the theme of “The Audacity of Ignatian Spirituality.”

As I write this post, I am packing my bags to take my first trip off the North American continent. This is a trip I never thought I would take. I have always been quite comfortable sticking with destinations that can be reached by plane in four hours or less and do not involve crossing any oceans! Stepping onto a 16-hour flight is going to take me far out of my comfort zone. It’s going to require quite a lot of untapped courage.

Actually, it’s going to require something a bit stronger than courage. It’s going to require audacity.

Whenever I want to know what audacity in practice looks like, I turn to the numerous stories of audacious Jesuits who have sought to do the impossible over the past five centuries. First is St. Ignatius himself, who had to be audacious enough to explore deeply every aspect of who he was, so that he could discover the unique person God was calling him to be and then help others do the same. Then there is Luigi Fortis, SJ, who, upon being elected Superior General shortly after the Suppression, had to be bold enough to rebuild the Society of Jesus from the ground up, remaining dedicated to the original vision of St. Ignatius. A century later, Pedro Arrupe, SJ, was audacious enough to step out in front of alumni of Jesuit schools and declare that Jesuit educators had not done enough when it came to working and teaching for justice, demanding they do more. Another example is Fr. Arturo Sosa, SJ, who, as current Superior General, continues to discern what Ignatius’s vision looks like in practice in the 21st century.

I turn to the Jesuits because I know the source of their audacity. It is not just innate courage that helps them do bold things when necessary. Instead, their audacity to try the impossible comes from their close, personal friendship with God born out of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Through the Exercises, a retreatant comes to acquire a deep and abiding friendship with God. The Exercises help retreatants come to know who they are uniquely created to be and inspires them to offer all of themselves in working hand in hand co-creating with God. When a retreatant has completed the Exercises, that person is inspired to be audacious and attempt the impossible, fortified by the companionship of a God who is with us every step of the way. I know that is how I felt when I completed the Exercises not too long ago.

So why do I want to harness the audacity of the Jesuits, the audacity that was also planted in me during the Exercises, for my first trip off the continent? Because this trip is about more than stepping out of my comfort zone. This trip is about making a contribution to continuing the mission of the Society of Jesus, particularly in Jesuit schools. In just a few days, I will head to Yogyakarta, Indonesia, to attend the II Seminar JESEDU-Jogja2024. One hundred delegates from Jesuit institutions all over the globe were invited to this seminar to discuss the future of Catholic/Jesuit identity and in-depth faith formation in Jesuit schools. It promises to be an audacious conversation, one that will be founded in the understanding that with God, nothing is impossible.

In order to contribute to the conversation, however, I first have to step on the plane.

What audacious step is God asking of you right now to help build the kingdom on earth? Will you take it?

Image via Pixabay.

Melinda LeBlanc reflects on Getting Through the Dog Days of the Spiritual Life, today in 31 Days with St. Ignatius. Use the hashtag #31DayswithIgnatius on your favorite social media channels when you share the link to any of our articles this month.

Gretchen Crowder
Gretchen Crowderhttps://gretchencrowder.com/
Gretchen Crowder has served as a campus minister and Ignatian educator for the Jesuit Dallas community for the last 15 years. She is also a freelance writer and speaker and is the host of Loved As You Are: An Ignatian Podcast. She has a B.S. in mathematics and a M.Ed. from the University of Notre Dame as well as an M.T.S. from the University of Dallas. She resides in Dallas, TX, with her husband, three boys, and an ever-growing number of pets.


  1. Bon Voyage. Working hand in hand co-creating with God is a humble yet meaningful way of a justice-centered worldbuilding. Wishing Gretchen and her co-participants at JESEDU-Jogja2024 divine blessings in abundance.

  2. By now you may have come and gone to Indonesia. As a former flight attendant I counseled many a flier who trembled throughout a flight. My calmness, encouragement, knowledge and faith in our safety helped to calm most of them. I held one lady’s hand the entire flight. I know our gracious Lord was holding your hand the entire flight.
    Your story is captivating and I like the final question. My husband of 65 years just went to Heaven in May. Now I don’t know what to do and I feel the unreasonable fear of the future as you did getting on a 16 hour flight. Please say a prayer for me…

  3. I feel just like you do when it comes to taking a long, long flight.
    I hope a future post will tell us some of the things you experienced during this amazing adventure to Indonesia.


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