In His Own Words: Insights from Saint Ignatius on His Feast
July 28, 2017 — July 31 is the feast day of St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus. St. Ignatius passed away 459 years ago on that day in the year 1556.
During St. Ignatius’ lifetime, the Society of Jesus expanded from seven members to hundreds throughout the world. To keep in touch with his brother Jesuits as well as Church officials and members of foreign nations, St. Ignatius wrote or dictated more than 7,000 letters. Below are excerpts from just a few of his letters with the saint’s timeless insights on encouragement, poverty and prayer.
These letters were taken from the Portal to Jesuit Studies, a project assembled by the Boston College Institute for Advanced Jesuit Studies. This free online database provides access to numerous scholarly publications and sources in the Jesuit Studies. It is meant to serve as a "Jesuit Google," strengthening the institute's efforts to serve as a resource on the history, spirituality, and pedagogy of the Society of Jesus.
In 1553, Fr. Filippo Leerno, SJ, was named rector at the northern Italian city of Modena. Soon into his appointment, Fr. Leerno feared that that some of the young Jesuits in his charge did not want to change for the better while others lacked in obedience. The rector feared that he was not the right person to hold the office. Ignatius encourages Fr. Leerno in this letter.
"…Remember that God seeks from us solid virtues, such as patience, humility, obedience, abnegation of our own will, and charity—that is, readiness to serve him and to serve our neighbor for his sake—rather than other forms of devotion, though his providence may grant us these when he sees that they are good for us. But since they are not substantive matters, an abundance of them does not make anyone perfect, nor the lack of them imperfect..."
A college in Padua was insufficiently supported by its founder, Andrea Lippomani, who had hosted Jesuit scholastics in Padua as early as 1542. However, the Venetian government, stalled negotiations to transfer Lippomani’s bequest to the Society intended to support a college in the city, doing so despite a bull by Pope Paul III in support of the transfer in 1546. As a result of the yearlong delay, the Jesuits there suffered a great deal of deprivation. In response, Ignatius sent the following letter, an enthusiastic panegyric of real poverty the people voluntarily endured for the sake of Christ.
"The friendship of the poor makes us friends of the eternal King. Love of poverty makes us kings even on earth—kings not of earth but of heaven. This is shown by the fact that while the kingdom of heaven is promised in the future to other persons, immutable Truth promises it in the present to those who are poor and who suffer persecution for justice’ sake: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” They have a right to the kingdom even now."
Early in 1548, Francis Borgia, duke of Gandía, made his profession in the Society of Jesus, but he did so in secret since he was not yet able to renounce his dukedom. Borgia's penchant for long hours of prayer and rigorous penance started to damage his health. Ignatius himself had also engaged in such excesses earlier in his life and knew well the toll they took on his body. In the following letter to Borgia, Ignatius recommends that he reduce the time spent on these exercises. Instead, Borgia would be better served by devoting some of his time to study and other activities, in all of which he should continue to seek God.
"…For He sees and knows what is best for the person and, knowing all things, points out to him the way. To discover this way it is useful for us, with the help of His grace, to seek out and try a number of ways so as to tread the one made clearest to us, as the happiest and most blessed in this life and wholly directed and ordered to the other everlasting life—whereby we are encompassed and made one with these most holy gifts…a deepening of faith, of hope, of charity; spiritual joy and repose, tears, intense consolation, elevation of mind, divine impressions and illuminations…"
October 5, 2020 — Registration is open for Jesuit Friends and Alumni Sunday, which is returning once again this year — this time online. Mass will be celebrated by Fr. Joseph O’Keefe, SJ, provincial of the USA East Province, and Fr. Adam Rosinski, SJ, assistant director of vocations.
The Season of Creation concludes on the Feast of St. Francis (Oct. 4). Cecilia Calvo from the Jesuit Office of Justice and Ecology and Brenna Davis from the Ignatian Solidarity Network will offer a special Eco-Examen that asks us to reflect on our personal relationship with creation, acknowledge and amend our ways, and promote ecological justice by standing in solidarity with those most impacted by environmental harm.
The Office of Ignatian Spirituality (OIS) is hosting two virtual info sessions for a new initiative call "CURA." The first session will be from 5:00pm-6:00pm on October 1, and the second will be from 12:00pm-1:00pm on October 14.
September 8, 2020 – This month Pope Francis is asking us to join him in praying for Respect for the Planet’s Resources. We pray that the planet’s resources will not be plundered, but shared in a just and respectful manner.
August 12, 2020 – These two Ignatian examens are intended to guide prayerful reflection on the role that race, racism, and racial bias play in our lives and society. The first examen is written for everyone. The second is written primarily for people who identify as white.
August 12, 2020 – In early March, Jesuit ministry changed nearly overnight. Emails poured in, summarized in the word “canceled.” Masses were canceled. Retreats were canceled. Even Holy Week, for a moment, seemed like it might effectively be called off. But with remarkable speed toward the end of the Lenten season—no doubt attributable to the adaptability innate to the Jesuit way of proceeding—the ministry of Ignatian spirituality moved online.
August 3, 2020 – This month Pope Francis is asking us to join him in praying for The Maritime World. We pray for all those who work and live from the sea, among them sailors, fishermen and their families. Our world cries out for healing and renewal. May we place our hand into the hand of the God who calmed the seas that his beautiful gift of creation may be restored and all whose lives depend on the fruits of the ocean be protected, this day and always. As one, may we rejoice and give thanks. Amen.