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St Ignatius of Loyola

Ignatius LoyolaFrom the life of Saint Ignatius from his own words by Luis Gonzalez

Ignatius was passionately fond of reading worldly books of fiction and tales of knight-errantry. When he felt he was getting better, he asked for some of these books to pass the time. But no book of that sort could be found in the house; instead they gave him a life of Christ and a collection of the lives of saints written in Spanish.

By constantly reading these books he began to be attracted to what he found narrated there. Sometimes in the midst of his reading he would reflect on what he had read. Yet at other times he would dwell on many of the things which he had been accustomed to dwell on previously. But at this point our Lord came to his assistance, insuring that these thoughts were followed by others which arose from his current reading.

While reading the life of Christ our Lord or the lives of the saints, he would reflect and reason with himself: “What if I should do what Saint Francis or Saint Dominic did?” In this way he let his mind dwell on many thoughts; they lasted a while until other things took their place. Then those vain and worldly images would come into his mind and remain a long time. This sequence of thoughts persisted with him for a long time.

But there was a difference. When Ignatius reflected on worldly thoughts, he felt intense pleasure; but when he gave them up out of weariness, he felt dry and depressed. Yet when he thought of living the rigorous sort of life he knew the saints had lived, he not only experienced pleasure when he actually thought about it, but even after he dismissed these thoughts, he still experienced great joy. Yet he did not pay attention to this, nor did he appreciate it until one day, in a moment of insight, he began to marvel at the difference. Then he understood his experience: thoughts of one kind left him sad, the others full of joy. And this was the first time he applied a process of reasoning to his religious experience. Later on, when he began to formulate his spiritual exercises, he used this experience as an illustration to explain the doctrine he taught his disciples on the discernment of spirits.

Saint Ignatius of Loyola

11828778_10153075513727749_8027644221796258258_nBlessed Feast of Saint Ignatius of Loyola!

“After we experience the great peace of knowing God’s love for us, which quiets our anxieties and insecurities, we find another deep desire stirring within us. We desire greatness because we are made for greatness.”

Here is a primer on the saint.

Saint Joan de Lestonnac 

St Joan de LestonnacYou know you are in the digital age when you learn about a saint that has an interesting place in people’s lives. This morning I learned of one of today’s liturgical memorials: St. Joan de Lestonnac.

According to a biographer, Saint Joan “was born in Bordeaux, France, in 1556. She married at the age of seventeen. The happy marriage produced four children, but her husband died suddenly in 1597. After her children were raised, she entered the Cistercian monastery at Toulouse [at the age of 46]. Joan was forced to leave the Cistercians when she became afflicted with poor health. She returned to Bordeaux with the idea of forming a new congregation, and several young girls joined her as novices. They ministered to victims of a plague that struck Bordeaux, and they were determined to counteract the evils of heresy promulgated by Calvinism. Thus was formed the Order of the Company of Mary our Lady of Bordeaux. In 1608, Joan and her companions received the religious habit from the Archbishop of Bordeaux. Joan was elected superior in 1610, and many miracles occurred at her tomb. She was canonized in 1949 by Pope Pius XII.”

One interesting point for me is that Saint Joan’s concern for souls lost to Calvinism was aided by members of the Society of Jesus. Another biographer writes:

“Two Jesuit priests, Fathers de Bordes and Raymond, whilst they celebrated Mass, received an understanding that they should assist in founding an order to counteract the surrounding heresies and that Joan must be the first superior.  The rule and constitutions of the Order were founded on those of St. Ignatius and the first house was opened in the Holy Ghost priory at Bordeaux.”

AND, “Finally, her great love shown by her patient example even whilst she was being emotionally, spiritually, psychologically and physically abused, with her reputation being ruined as a result of lies and hatred, she still remained firm in her Faith and love of God, even converting the person who was so mean and cruel to her.  Let us remember the extraordinary example of this beautiful and incredible woman always!  St. Joan is a true feminist, true to her Faith, true to her abilities and never afraid to love, even her most vicious enemies!  God be praised for this magnificent lady!”

Saint Joan’s body, as a sign of holiness, remains incorrupt.

Saint Ignatius of Loyola

Ignatius at ManresaThe Church liturgically recalls for us one of the Master’s of the spiritual life, Saint Ignatius of Loyola. The Pilgrim died in 1556 and was the author of the Spiritual Exercises and founder of the Society of Jesus.

It may be a little early to speak of a commemoration for the 500th anniversary of the Spiritual Exercises, but it may be good to keep this anniversary in mind. 2022 is the year when we will study and live the foundational experiences of Ignatius in Manresa. This picture shows Ignatius in awe in meeting the Lord as he writes his religious experience that gave rise to him following his vocation with prayerful  intensity. Do we have a similar conviction as Ignatius?

This 2008 animation of an Olive, gives a sense of the life Saint Ignatius of Loyola, written, produced and narrated by Jason Kapell of the Fairfield University Media Center. It is nicely done –remember it is short and sweet with a Spanish Olive narrating.

Making a General Examination of Conscience

From time-to-time I need to be reminded what it means to enter into a holy and general examination of conscience. Over time if I don’t review the method of examination proposed in the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, I forget. These days I have to admit I am a crusade to make the idea and practice of personal conversion a priority. From what I am sensing in the Church and in secular society we all need a lot less sin in our life, and a lot more happy, healthy and fruitful appreciation of where God’s grace is operative.

Where should you always start, in examining yourself? Loyola makes this proposal:

There are five points in this method

1. The first point is to give thanks to God our Lord for the favors received.

2. The second point is to ask for grace to know my sins and to rid myself of them.

3. The third point is to demand an account of my soul from the time of rising up to the present examination. I should go over one hour after another, one period after another. The thoughts should be examined first, then the words, and finally, the deeds in the same order as was explained under the Particular Examination of Conscience.

4. The fourth point will be to ask pardon of God our Lord for my faults.

5. The fifth point will be to resolve to amend with the grace of God.

Close with an Our Father.

The mystical tradition of the Catholic Church keeps before us the ideal of living in a state of grace because in doing so we walk the path of being in communio (here I will say this means friendship) with God. But other implications of living in a state of grace is that our relationships with others get better, and deeper knowledge of ourselves in action keeps us grounded and less self-righteous.

If you want to know one of the key points of discernment for Pope Francis lived –this is it, an examination of conscience. Plus, the new evangelization that is so much part of our church-existence today revolves around our willingness to examine our mind, heart and actions with a firm desire to amend life. Discernment is key to all things Catholic. An alive, a mature Christian faith is known only to the extent that we give ourselves over to Grace. A certain path to conversion is this method of Loyola.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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