St. Ignatius of Loyola: A Role Model for today!

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A Brief History of St. Ignatius of Loyola

St. Ignatius of Loyola was born in 1491, one of 13 children of a family of minor nobility in northern Spain. As a young man Ignatius was inflamed by the ideals of courtly love and dreamed of doing great deeds. But in 1521 Ignatius was gravely wounded in a battle with the French. While recuperating, Ignatius Loyola experienced a conversion. Reading the lives of Jesus and the saints made Ignatius happy and aroused desires to do great things. Ignatius realized that these feelings were clues to God's direction for him. Over the years, Ignatius became expert in the art of spiritual direction. He collected his insights, prayers, and suggestions in his book called theSpiritual Exercises, one of the most influential books on the spiritual life ever written. With a small group of friends, Ignatius Loyola founded the Society of Jesus or the Jesuits in 1540. Ignatius conceived the Jesuits as "contemplatives in action." This also describes the many Christians who have been touched by Ignatian spirituality.

Above all, the life of St.Ignatius of Loyola becomes more relevant to today's broken world. His integrated personality teaches people to grow in every aspect of our life. The integral qualities of his life enable people to see and to relate with human persons, God and Nature differently. So he was an Integrated person for life who is the role model for today's broken world.

Person of Integration

 "Change and growth take place when a person has risked himself and dares to become involved with experimenting with his own life" says Herbert Otto. It gives me a great pleasure to share with you on ‘St. Ignatius of Loyola who took the risk to become an Integrated person for life.  It consists of three dimensions namely Ignatius – the Man of God, the Servant Leader, and the Lover of Nature. Today the world is growing at lightening speed in every field that promotes the life of Human beings. The specialization in each and every field is the core of the modern scientific development. There is no doubt that the miracle of development in science is a boon and blessing for the humanity. At the same time the specialization leaves the people and the entire universe in a havoc situation because of lack of an integrated approach. Today the integrated personality of St. Ignatius of Loyola shows the way to heal the wounded humanity and the universe.

St. Ignatius - the Man of God

St. Ignatius is a man of God.  His union and familiarity with God led him to find the will of God to his life.   His deep faith in God helped him to see everything as God sees it. His main goal was to serve God with the whole heart and mind. He saw God as the Source of everything. He drew his strength and energy from God.  As Jesus said ‘‘I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit…''  Ignatius' union with God was that of Christ's union with the Father.  God possessed his whole being because he gave himself fully to God. As St. Teresa says, ‘God does not give Himself wholly, unless the soul gives itself wholly to Him'.  Ignatius' prayer life resembled that of Matthew 5:8 Blessed are the clean of heart; they shall see God. It was through prayer that Ignatius experienced the grace of God in his life as spiritual peace and joy, tears, elevation of the soul, divine impulses and light etc. These graces had united him with God. He cultivated union with God through daily meditations, visiting to the Blessed Sacrament and so on. Seeking God everywhere, he found Him especially in the cave of human heart. Only the pure heart can find the presence of God in all things.  In short we are called to have the heart of St. Ignatius in order to have deep faith in God and to manifest that faith in and through our actions.

Today's Context: In our Indian society, many are facing conflicts and struggles. They are on the verge of losing the purpose and meaning of life. They are desperately looking forward to somebody who can guide them or give spiritual   consolation.  To attend to their spiritual need, the Lord invites us to become people of God or effective mediators to lead them to Him as Ignatius did. 

St. Ignatius - the Servant Leader

Ignatius, the man of God, repeatedly asks for the core grace mentioned in today's gospel acclamation: "May God grant us a deep-felt knowledge of Our Lord, made man for us, that we may better love and follow him. Ignatius knows very well that in the mystery of salvation, emptiness comes before filling, passion comes before glory and death before resurrection. He listens to the call of Christ the King in today's gospel and empties himself, denies himself, takes up his cross daily and follows his King.

Ignatius' servant leadership stands on the four pillars of self-awareness, ingenuity, love and heroism. The longest journey is the journey within. Ignatius leads Jesuits in this inner journey and cultivates in them the habit of continuous self-reflection and learning through the Spiritual Exercises and Examination of Conscience. This helps them to understand their strengths, weaknesses, values and worldviews and equips them to cope with the challenges of the changing world with ingenuity.

Under the guidance of Ignatius, Jesuits achieve ingenuity, a mix of adaptability, daring, speed and good judgment by first cultivating the attitude of ‘indifference'. This leads them to confidently innovate and to embrace change. Ignatius teaches all to do everything for the greater love than fear. Ignatius' servant leadership engages people with a positive loving attitude. The motivating factor is none other than the love-made man, Jesus Christ. Ignatius develops in his followers great love for the Lord by making them contemplate on the law of the Lord day and night as we hear in today's responsorial psalm. No wonder he provides the Church with a Society of apostles on fire with love for Jesus and others, fires that kindle other fires.

Ignatius' servant leadership is an essentially heroic leadership of the noble knight. He elicits great desires in his followers by energizing them through heroic ambitions. He inspires many to seek God's greater glory. Nothing is enough for the Lord's service. Magis, more, ever more is the battle cry of Ignatius' battalion. Fr. Nadal, one of his first companions puts it rightly, "The whole world becomes our house." Through his servant leadership with its four pillars of self-awareness, ingenuity, love and heroism, Ignatius truly becomes a universal man, a man of cosmos.

St. Ignatius- The Lover of Nature

Ignatius was not only a Man of God and the Servant Leader, but also a Lover of Nature. According to the document of Jesuit's General Congregation 35 (Decree 3.3- 32) care of the environment affects the quality of our relationships with God, with other human beings, and with the creation itself. God made us and gave us the stewardship over His creation (Gen 1:28) not to subdue it by means of exploitation of the environment by industry, technology etc. rather to overcome every sign of the chaotic forces in various spheres of life, and lead this world towards its God-appointed destiny. Hence St. Ignatius in the Principle and Foundation teaches us the goodness of creation, to use things to the extent that they help us toward our end i.e. only for needs and never for greed.

An experience at the Cardoner River taught Ignatius to encounter God in the whole of universe. All things in the universe were ways to experience and reach God because God is at work in all things from microbes to macrobes, even in the sinful situations of our world and the brokenness of humanity. Thus in Contemplatio ad Amorem (230-237) Ignatius describes the active presence of God within creation i.e. to find God in all things.

According to the World Commission on Environment and Development, a variety of air pollutants are responsible for the destruction of trees, lakes, damaging buildings, and cultural treasures.  It is estimated that "everyday 2,700 tons of chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) and 15 million tones of carbon dioxide (CO2) are added to the atmosphere. As a result the earth becomes still hotter. Therefore, the health of billions of living beings in the universe is badly affected every day. We need to heal the wounded mother earth. This is the need of the hour. Due to sever ecological crisis, it is time for us to resonate with the Ignatian Spirituality in taking care of the universe and promoting environmental awareness. Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, the former Superior General of the Jesuits called all those in mission ‘to show ever more effective ecological solidarity in our spiritual, communal, and apostolic lives.' This invitation calls all to move beyond doubts and indifference to take responsibility for our home, the earth as St. Ignatius did.

 

The integrated personality of St. Ignatius of Loyola is a boon for healing the wounded heart of oneself, people and Nature. Certainly these divine and humane qualities of his would bring each and every one of us to live in peace and to build harmony in a broken world. We need to discover our life as St. Ignatius did. Martin Luther King says, "If a man hasn't discovered something that he will die for, he isn't fit to live." As we celebrate the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola on 31st July, let all of us stand together to pray to Our Heavenly Father that we acquire the spirit of holy boldness and certain apostolic aggressivity and to rediscover our life for the protection and promotion of lives which are the gift of God.
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