Daily Reflection
July 31st, 2004
Dick Hauser, S.J.
Theology Department and Rector
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Memorial of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, priest
Deuteronomy 30:15-20

Psalm 1: 1-6

Ephesians 1:3-10
Luke 9:18-25

Today, throughout the world, more than 20,000 members of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) celebrate the feast day of their founder, St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556).

Today also multitudes of Christians join in the celebration, for Ignatius is well known by Christians for his little book of meditations on Christ called The Spiritual Exercises. In these Exercises Ignatius leads all Christians to discover an  image of Jesus capturing their imaginations and propelling them to serve the Kingdom of God alongside of Jesus.  Ignatius himself was drawn to the image of Christ the King.  Ignatius, a gentleman-at-arms and courtier, imagined Christ as the noblest of medieval kings and resolved to follow him to conquer the whole world for the Father. Today's readings draw us into the mystery of our identification with Christ: "In all wisdom and insight, he (the Father) has made known to us the mystery of his will in accord with his favor that he set forth in him (Christ) as a plan for the fullness of times, to sum up all thing in Christ, in heaven and on earth (Eph.1:10)."

And as the first general of the Jesuits Ignatius sought to conquer the whole world with Christ for the Father.   From 1540 until his death in 1556 Ignatius led the Jesuits as the numbers of Jesuits grew astronomically from 10 to 1000.  He sent them throughout Europe to reinvigorate the Church's pastoral ministries and to establish schools as part of the Catholic Counter-Reformation.  And he sent them throughout the world to implant the faith in foreign missions in India, in the Far East and in the Americas. This is the Ignatius most remember.

But there is another Ignatius, much less known but for many equally compelling: the person who found God in the beauty of nature. We see this Ignatius early in his conversion. Ignatius' leg had been shattered while defending the fortress of Pamplona for the king of Navarre.  He was carried to his family's castle at Loyola for recuperation and there confined for months in a little room, bed-ridden. In this room he found God in reading about Christ and the saints; and he found God in nature. His Autobiography notes significantly that during this time, "The  greatest consolation he received was to look at the sky and the stars, which he often did and for a long time, because as a result he felt within himself a very great desire to serve Our Lord."

Significantly in concluding his Spiritual Exercises,Ignatius returns to this theme.  In the introduction to the "Contemplation to Obtain the Love of God" Ignatius reminds us that that love is shown primarily in deeds rather than merely in words. If we want to grasp God's love for us we consider not only the deeds of God in the gift of our redemption  but also the deeds of God in the gifts of creation. Listen to Ignatius: "The Second Point: This is to reflect how God dwells in creatures: in the elements giving them existence, in the plants giving them life, in the animals conferring upon them sensation, in man bestowing understanding.The Third Point: This is to consider how God works and labors for me in all creatures upon the face of the earth, that is, He conducts Himself as one who labors. Thus, in the heavens, the elements, the plants, the fruits, the cattle, etc.; He gives being, conserves them, confers life and sensation."

Diego Lainez, Ignatius' successor as general of the Jesuits, gives this recollection of Ignatius' own evening contemplations:  "At night he would go up on the roof of the house, with the sky there up above him.  He would sit there quietly, absolutely quietly.  He would take his hat off and look up for a long time at the sky.  Then he would fall on his knees, bowing profoundly to God."

And on this particular lovely summer day, July 31, 2004, we may appropriately choose to honor Ignatius  by reflecting  on the beauties of the heavens and the earth, allowing  them to speak to us as they spoke to Ignatius about God's infinite love for us. Then in communion with Ignatius we offer ourselves:

"Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all that I have and possess.  You have given all to me.  To You, O Lord, I return it.  All is Yours, dispose of it wholly according to Your will.  Give me Your love and Your grace, for this is sufficient for me."


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