Today we celebrate the feast of St. Ignatius Loyola. This is a big day for Jesuits and others in the Ignatian sphere of influence. Here are a couple of my thoughts on his feast.
Name a saint. Chances are one idea pops into your mind: Francis (poverty), Vincent de Paul (charity), Therese (simplicity in love). This isn’t so with Ignatius Loyola. Several ideas jostle for attention. He was a soldier, a mystic, a writer, a teacher. He founded an order renowned for education, missionary work, learning, and devotional piety. He invented the modern practice of spiritual direction. The more you learn about him, the more complex he seems. I’ve recently come to appreciate his accomplishments as a leader, a psychologist, a communicator, and entrepreneur.
This diversity of talents is appealing. Everyone can find something to like about Ignatius. We moderns like his story too. We can relate to a saint who often didn’t know what God wanted of him and made many mistakes trying to find out. The saint who invented discernment knew all about following Plan E after Plans A, B, C, and D didn’t pan out.
I like two things about Ignatius. A person formed in Ignatian spirituality is said to be a “contemplative in action.” Much ink has been spilled (and blog posts written) about what this means, but to me it’s simple. Bringing prayer and work together is what I try to do all day. It’s what my friends and colleagues try to do all day. Ignatius rightly said that this is the central challenge of life, and he had much to say about how to do it. Nothing is more relevant to life than this.
The second thing is a question that Ignatius would have us continually ask of ourselves: What do you really want? Peel away the layers of desires, fears, ambitions, and dreams, and get in touch with the deepest desire of your heart. Ignatius believed that when you touch what the poet Hopkins called the “dearest, freshness, deep-down things,” you’ll find God there.
What an optimist! That’s another thing I like about Ignatius.
Share your favorite Ignatian articles and experiences with the hashtag #31DayswithIgnatius.