Today is the feast day of St. Ignatius, July 31st. Best known as the founder of the Jesuits, Ignatius of Loyola was a soldier who came to his faith while recovering from wounds he received in battle. Bored, Ignatius resorted to reading the stories of saints because he ran out of the fiction he preferred. Maybe that’s why I associate St. Ignatius and writing.
Most of us think of saints as being something more than human- as people with only lofty, noble and Godly desires; we do this for many reasons, I suspect, but the main reason we do it is to distance ourselves from this man or woman called a saint. These people were not like us; these were holy people…risking life and reputation for God. We’re only human, after all…how can we aspire to sainthood? But then again, could we be missing the whole point?
Consider this young man, a lover of battle and one can surmise, of all of the fruits of battle, who runs out of the soldier of fortune stories that give him such intense reading pleasure during a time of enforced immobility as he recovers from wounds received in battle. And then turns to stories about saints by default. Who then founds the Jesuit Order. Who then writes a series of spiritual exercises which continue to be used by people of many traditions as a way of meditating on the life of Christ.
We were in Rome, had visited the Vatican several times but it was the Chiesa di Sant Ignazio that beckoned me. St Peter’s was stunning to be sure; the Sistine Chapel, indescribable. But it was at the Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola where I wanted to worship, over and over again. It was there that I wanted to participate in the Mass.
And it was here that I began to think of this long dead man, this soldier who had come to Christ in a way I could get, seemingly by accident for the lack, if you will, of anything better to do, as a source of direction for me. Although it felt decidedly strange, I knelt at the coffin shaped wooded box where his remains are housed and asked for his help- St Ignatius and writing, my writing.
I believe in the community of saints... we claim this belief each time we recite the Apostle’s or the Nicene Creed. The community of saints feels itchy when we decide to act on our belief—to take the risk of asking for intercession…to make the invitation to a person or people whom we are told await our invitation. And when we receive a response…what then?