July 31 – Ignatius Loyola

These weekly “People to Commemorate” posts are a kind of calendar for the commemoration of the saints, reproduced here from a Uniting Church Assembly document which can be found in full here. They are intended for copying and pasting into congregational pew sheets on the Sunday closest to the nominated date.

Images (where provided) are of icons by Peter Blackwood; click on the image to download a high resolution copy of the image.

Ignatius Loyola, person of prayer

Ignatius Loyola was born in 1491 in the Basque region of northern Spain. He lived in a time that was characterised by both the violent and bewildered imagery of the medieval age and the bright and enthusiastic expectations of the Renaissance. He grew up in a society that was structured around the principles of knightly chivalry, and served as a courtier to the Duke of Najera. In this service he was seriously wounded during the defense of Pamplona in 1521. Until his early years, he was a practicing Catholic though with little intensity in his spirituality. While he was convalescing, however, he yearned to read books of chivalric romance, but the only books available were a Life of Christ and a book of the Lives of the Saints. The more he read of these books, the more there developed in him a desire to reflect on that reading. This reflection led to him making a commitment to serve Christ as his only Captain.

For a time, Ignatius supposed that he would live out this service though pilgrimage to the Holy Land, where he could live in the footsteps of Christ and serve the poor. When this course was closed to him, and because of a sanction from the Inquisition, Ignatius became a student at a number of educational institutions, including the University of Paris. It was during this time that Ignatius began to formalise his own experiences into a program he called The Spiritual Exercises. At the same time, there gathered around Ignatius a group of people who recognised his spiritual leadership, and together they formed the Society of Jesus. The Spiritual Exercises continue to be a source of blessing for many people, being offered as a means by which the will of God may be discerned, and Christ’s presence better experienced.

Divided into 4 “weeks” of reflection, the Exercises provide opportunity for reflection on our relationship with God, on our experience of the presence and power of Jesus, with an invitation to use imagination to enter into the experiences of the Gospels, and on different ways of prayer through which we can wait more patiently, listen more effectively, and respond more fully to the Word God speaks to us.

Ignatius rightly holds a place in the Calendar of Commemorations as a person of prayer, both from the example of his own life and from the legacy by which he continues to provide guidance to people as we seek to discern the Spirit of Christ in our own living.

A prayer of Ignatius is given us in the “Treasury of Prayers” in Uniting in Worship 2:

Teach us, good Lord,
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 any reward,
except that of knowing that we do your holy will;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Contributed by Graham Vawser