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Ignatius pic monkey
St. Ignatius Of Loyola (Author rendition).

“The goal of Ignatian prayer and ministry is not to find God but to allow God to find you”

The leading Jesuit voice in Philadelphia is at Old St. Joe’s with Father Duff Society of Jesus (SJ) presiding. The emphasis is certainly on the Jesuits today, from Pope Francis (a Jesuit) and his exuberance recently displayed from the World Youth Day in Rio, to James Martin SJ of America Magazine author of the famous book My Life With the Saints. And of course, it all started with the founder of the Jesuits, the great Ignatius of Loyola, whose feast is celebrated today.

Entrance at Old St. Joseph’s National Shrine, Philadelphia PA

From Paul Coutinho, S.J.:

Ignatius is one of those Great Seers (Rishis) who attained Enlightenment (Satori in Zen Buddhism) on the banks of the river Cardoner. It was here that ““the eyes of his understanding began to be opened, not that he saw any vision, but he understood and learnt many things, both spiritual and earthly and this was so great an enlightenment that everything seemed new to him”” (Aut 30). From this moment on Ignatius was convinced that ““if there were no Scriptures to teach us these things of faith, he would be resolved to die for them, solely because of what he has seen”” (Aut 29). Ignatius found his own secret religion that helped him to scale mystical heights and also led him into constant conflict with people in power and institutions of his time.

We know that the Ignatian mysticism of service is nothing if not a deepening of our union and communion with the Divine. It is not so much doing things for God but it is a being in the Divine. Ignatian gazing or seeing is a spiritual method and exercise of contemplation where we open ourselves to what we contemplate and allow what we contemplate to seep into our hearts, filling us and transforming us into the mystery that we contemplate. Ignatius spent hours of his life gazing at the sky and through his contemplation would be moved to serve the Divine Majesty. ““It was his greatest consolation to gaze upon the heavens and the stars, which he often did, and for long stretches at a time, because when doing so he felt within himself a powerful urge to be serving Our Lord.”” (Aut 11).

What is Ignatius trying to tell us? If we have not shared our experiences of God with someone in one way or another, then we have lost them. But when we take the opportunity to share our experiences with someone, we will be confirmed and grow in those experiences.

Above excerpts from:
NUMBER 116 – Review of Ignatian Spirituality
Editor: “IGNIS” Ignatian Spirituality, South Asia Gujarat, India


From Brian O’Leary, SJ:

Ignatius chose to live with the tension between accepting both the validity of inner experience and the authority of the Church.

From his conversion onwards the element of movement played a central part in the spirituality of Ignatius. At Loyola he noticed how different spirits moved him and through this he learned the rudiments of discernment. When later he offered descriptive descriptions of consolation and desolation in the Spiritual Exercises (SpEx. 316, 317) the text can, according to some commentators, be best understood in terms of inner movements towards God (consolation) and inner movements away from God (desolation).

Within the Autobiography itself the centrality of movement can be demonstrated by a comparison between the very first sentence in the text and a statement referring to the time when Ignatius was dictating his story:
Up to his twenty-sixth year he was a man given to worldly vanities, and having a vain and overpowering desire to gain renown, he found special delight in the exercise of arms. (Aut 1)
He made a solemn avowal, the gist of which was to inform me that his intention had been to be sincere in all that he had related…and that his devotion, that is, his ease in finding God, was always increasing, now more than ever in his entire life. At whatever time or hour he wanted to find God, he found him. (Aut 99)

Above excerpts from:
Brian O’Leary, SJ
Consultant in Ignatian Spirituality Dublin, Ireland

Altar, Old St. Josephs Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Here, the pastor of Old St. Joe’s, Fr. Dan Ruff, gives the “Ignatius Story”:

For many of you, this will be old news; but I am keenly aware that we constantly have new parishioners registering.  I am also often surprised to discover that some “old-timers” still have not heard the basic “Ignatius story.”  So here is the nickel version . . .

Iñigo Lopez de Loyola was born (we think) in 1491 in the little village of Azpeítia in northern Spain.  The village – now called Loyola, after its “favorite son” – is in the Basque Country; and Iñigo’s own family (he would not adopt the name Ignatius until adulthood) were of the Basque landed gentry.  The 13th child, he was orphaned very early in life and was raised by his older brother Pedro and his wife Maria.

Born into a world still dominated by the feudal system, the 13th child did not have much claim to family inheritance; so Iñigo no doubt counted himself fortunate when his brothers used their influence to place him, at the age of 15, as a page in the house of Juan Velásquez de Cuellar, the treasurer of King Ferdinand of Castile.  There, the young man received a formal courtly education, although the evidence suggests that he took to sword play and courtly rituals more than he did to book learning. 

When his patron died in 1517, Iñigo was able to secure a similar post in the retinue of Antonio Manrique, Duke of Nájera and Viceroy of Nazarre.  I like to think that if he were alive in theU.S.today, this whole “courtier” phase of Ignatius’ youth would correspond to his becoming a congressional “page” with business or political aspirations.  The real motivation was the chance to network, rub elbows with the powerbrokers, and enjoy the parties and “perks” along the way. 

Late in life, in his so-called “Autobiography,” Ignatius would characterize his youthful self as having been much given over to vanity and worldly ambition.  We also know that, like many a brash young man, Ignatius indulged in the occasional “youthful indiscretion,” relying on his political connections to protect his reputation and get him out of his self-made scrapes.  At one point, for instance, he was taken to court for having injured someone in a hot-headed brawl; and rumors persist about illegitimate children.
In 1521, when he was already 30 years old, Ignatius ‘ duties to the Duke of Nájera found him defending the fortress of Pamplona with a small contingent of Spaniards against an army of French invaders.  Ignatius and his comrades were greatly outnumbered, but our young hero – displaying great courage and pluck (bravado?!) – persuaded them that they could successfully defend the besieged fortress.  Things were going surprisingly well until a French cannonball came over the ramparts and seriously injured both of Ignatius’ legs.  With their “cheerleader” laid low, the Spaniards soon surrendered; and the French victors, impressed with Ignatius’ valor, agreed to transport the injured man to the family home in Azpeítia (Loyola).

View of Organ, Old St. Joseph’s, founded 1733 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA

Once there, Ignatius nearly died of infection; but that did not prevent his having the right leg rebroken and reset – not once, but twice (both times unsuccessfully)!  Why?  In hopes that he could once again wear the fashionable tight hose that would show off his fine calves to the ladies at court!  As the long lonely bedridden months stretched on, Ignatius was reduced by depression and boredom to reading the only two books available – a life of Christ and a collection of lives of the saints.  Attending to his daydreams, he began to find that his old ambitions for fame, glory, and the hand of a beautiful woman, while still attractive, left him unsatisfied.  By contrast, new thoughts of serving God and imitating Sts. Francis and Dominic seemed to offer him deeper and longer-lasting satisfaction.  Thus began Ignatius’ great conversion, and his discovery of what would become “discernment of spirits.”

In 1522, having recovered his health (but left with a permanent limp), the new convert went to the monastery at Montserrat where he made a 3-day general confession and kept a knightly vigil-at-arms at the altar of his new “Lady fair,” the black Virgin of Montserrat.  Leaving his armor behind there, he dressed in a pilgrim’s sackcloth, substituting a walking staff for his sword.  Intending to pass through the town ofManresa, he ended up instead residing in a cave for 10 months of solitude and prayer, living on alms and building a friendship with God and Jesus. 

His extensive notes would become the basis for his “Spiritual Exercises” – the famous manual which would ground Ignatian spirituality and eventually win its author the title of “patron saint of retreats.”  It is noteworthy that he wrote the “Exercises” and began to lead others through them while still a layman with no thoughts of religious life or priesthood.  His lay status would lead to repeated arrests by the Inquisition, which would eventually lead to theology studies at theUniversityofPariswith an eye toward ordination.  His school chums there, having made the “Exercises” under his guidance, would eventually become the first members of the Society of Jesus (the Order was given papal approval in 1540).

Ignatius envisioned a priestly order of well-trained men, distinguished in virtue, who would serve the universal (global) Church at the pope’s good pleasure, going wherever they might “help souls” – particularly where the need was greatest, and where others could not and would not go.  That sense of Jesuit mission would eventually dictate that a missionary, Fr. Joseph Greaton, S.J., would found a parish in colonial Philadelphia 279 years ago.  And here we are.  Come celebrate our Ignatian heritage on July 31!

Above excerpt from Fr. Daniel M. Ruff, S.J. “From the Pastor” Old St. Joseph’s Parish July 2012

A fine Ignatius blog is here.

“Go forth and set the world on fire.”

St. Ignatius of Loyola