In a few days we will be celebrating the feast of St Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits and the man who tried to put his spiritual experience at the service of others through his writings and through the foundation of the Jesuit order. Though he lived in the 16th century (1491-1556), his spirituality – the way he understands and speaks of God, prayer and our place in the world – still sounds very relevant to us 500 years later. This is the second in a series of four blogs which will present some central points of his spirituality.
2. Life as a pilgrimage: Discerning God’s will for me now
Putting order in one’s life implies looking for what the Lord wants from me now, in the context of my present duties, my present struggles and my hopes. This is a continuing quest, an ongoing discernment rather than a single decision that sets my life on a certain course.
When, some months before his death, Ignatius accepted to dictate some of his reminiscences, he decided to refer to himself as The Pilgrim, for he knew that his life had been a real pilgrimage towards God and his will in his life.
When he left Loyola shortly after his conversion, Ignatius was convinced God wanted him to be a pilgrim, begging his way through life in extreme poverty, trying to emulate St Francis and St Dominic. In Manresa, he was certain he was called to spend his whole life as a pilgrim in the Holy Land, to be as close as possible to the Jesus he had discovered and for whom he had decided to give all his life. Imagine his surprise when, a few days after his dream had come true and he was finally in Jerusalem, he was told in no uncertain terms to return to Spain, under pain of excommunication.
He then realised that he was called not only to become a holy man but to help others reach Jesus. That meant he had to dedicate long years to study, ending up for seven long years in the best university in Europe, in Paris. During that period he saw that God was putting him in contact with others who were ready to give themselves to this common mission. These companions decided that for the sake of this mission they should become priests, and set up a new religious order, the Society of Jesus. Ignatius was elected the first superior general.
His pilgrimage came to an end in a small house in central Rome where he spent the last 17 years of his life: Rome had become his Jerusalem.
Though for most of us life is not as complicated as Ignatius’, few of us would have imagined how our life would develop. When, like Ignatius, we are on the look-out to live as God is inviting us to at every turn in our life, in freedom and love, we are happy, even in our struggles. If we let our life slip into disorder, ruled by self-seeking and greed, we know we will be disappointed.
Lord, teach me to be generous. Teach me to serve You as You deserve; to give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labour and not to ask for reward, save that of knowing that I do Your will. St. Ignatius Loyola
Below you will find St Ignatius’ ‘Prayer for Generosity’ with instrumental track.