The great saints of the Catholic Church dedicated their lives to the Glory of God.
One such saint is the Founder of the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits. His name is St. Ignatius of Loyola, and he lived from 1491-1556.
His life and Jesuit charism are summarized in the phrase Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam – For the Greater Glory of God. This simple phrase has focused, grounded, and motivated the mission of holy Jesuits and Jesuit universities, institutions, and apostolates for centuries.
St. Ignatius’ life is a beautiful commentary on St. Paul’s Letter to the Colossians: “Brothers and sisters: if you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory.”
Concluding the Ignatian year
Today, July 31, 2022, we complete in the universal Church a Year of St. Ignatius of Loyola which began on May 20, 2021.
Considered a spiritual master in his own day, St. Ignatius’s masterpiece, his Spiritual Exercises, has formed our present Jesuit Holy Father Pope Francis, generations of clergy and lay people, and many saints with a wide variety of charisms and ecclesial missions in every geographical context. The work speaks across the centuries and continues to inspire and guide believers today.
The Ignatian Year began on May 20, 2021 because it was the 500th Anniversary of the Battle of Pamplona and St. Ignatius’ Conversion. It ends today on July 31, 2022 because it is the date of St. Ignatius’ Death and Annual Memorial on the Church’s liturgical calendar.
On March 12, 2022, we celebrated the 400th Anniversary of the Canonization of St. Ignatius. On March 12, 1622, St. Ignatius was canonized along with St. Francis Xavier, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Philip Neri, and St. Isidore the Farmer.
An ambitious Spanish soldier, Ignatius was wounded by a cannon ball at the Battle of Pamplona on May 20, 1521.
St. Ignatius was so vain about the appearance of his leg after the battle wound that he submitted himself to a series of painful operations without anesthesia so that he could wear the fashions of the day.
The Book of Ecclesiastes says so memorably: “Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth, vanity of vanities. All things are vanity.”
The Book of Ecclesiastes speaks to the human embrace of vain pride and ego and the fact that life is short. All things pass – including physical beauty and youth.
The Book of Ecclesiastes and Luke 12 ask us to examine where our true security is in life.
Convalescence and conversion
In his convalescence, the Holy Spirit led St. Ignatius to a conversion to a spirit of holiness and mission that has impacted Church and world history ever since.
His attachment to pride, ego, ambitious advancement, and physical vanity were purified. He realized that true and eternal security rest in Jesus Christ alone and the mission of mercy of His Church.
Ignatius had a strong-willed ambition to rise in the Spanish military and to rise at the Spanish court. In this life context and in his convalescence from his military wound, he experienced a type of Copernican Revolution, a revolution that removed his own face from the center of his universe and placed the Son of God, the Face of Jesus Christ, at the center of his life, unique charism, and mission.
His obedience to Jesus Christ and to the Church was so fine-tuned mystically that the Jesuit charism includes a special fourth vow of obedience to the Pope, the Successor of Peter. We pray today for the holiness of Jesuits around the world and for their radical fidelity to the objective truths of Church teaching and a radical fidelity to that fourth vow of obedience to the Holy Father that all Jesuits commit themselves to and are bound by.
Together, during this Ignatian Year, we have prayed and will continue to pray that St. Ignatius of Loyola may be proclaimed a Doctor of the Church, and we give thanks for the Jesuit contemplative charism and missionary spirit expressed so powerfully in St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises.
A Doctor of the Church is someone recognized for making an outstanding theological, spiritual, mystical contribution illustrated in their writings and by their holiness in life and creative influence in and on the mission of the Church, an influence that endures centuries after their death.
St. Ignatius of Loyola does precisely that.
In The Spirituality of St. Ignatius Loyola, Fr. Hugo Rahner, S.J., traces to the contemplative heart of St. Ignatius the tremendous influence of the Society of Jesus through the centuries. He writes: “In the final analysis, the influence of Ignatius and his Order upon the Church, upon politics, civilization, and world-wide missions, derives from the spiritual life that animated them. For the great achievements which history records always have their beginnings in the tranquil center of the human heart.”
The National Shrine of the North American Martyrs is in Auriesville, New York, in the Diocese of Albany, and is dedicated to the three Jesuit missionaries who were martyred at the Mohawk Indian village of Ossernenon in 1642 and 1646. These New York Jesuit martyrs include the lay brother St. Rene Goupil (1608-1642), the priest St. Isaac Jogues (1607-1646) and the lay brother St. John Lalande (died 1646).
We give thanks to God for our Holy Father Pope Francis, a Jesuit himself from Argentina, who is a son of St. Ignatius and his Spiritual Exercises.
We give thanks for the many American sons of St. Ignatius and his Spiritual Exercises, such as the theologian Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J., (1918-2008) who in his evangelizing theology called for a rebirth of Catholic apologetics.
We give thanks for Fr. John Courtney Murray, S.J., (1904-1967) who had such a prominent role as the theological architect of the Second Vatican Council’s 1965 Declaration on Religious Freedom (Dignitatis Humanae).
We also remember Fr. Walter Ciszek, S.J., (1904-1984), a native of Shenandoah, Pennsylvania in the Diocese of Allentown. Fr. Ciszek survived 15 years in a Russian prison camp – including five in solitary confinement. He tells his story and how his Catholic faith gave him courage to endure the Gulag in With God in Russia (1964) and in He Leadeth Me (1973).
We give thanks for the many American daughters of St. Ignatius whose ecclesial missions and expression of the feminine genius in the Church were forged and formed in Jesuit spirituality.
We ask the intercession of so many great Jesuit saints: St. Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621), St. Francis Borgia (1510-1572), St. Edmund Campion (1540-1581), St. Peter Canisius (1521-1597), St. Peter Claver (1580-1654), St. Claude de la Colombiere (1641-1682), St. Aloysius Gonzaga (1568-1591), St. Stanislaus Kostka (1550-1568), St. Paul Miki (1562-1597), St. Nicholas Owen (1550-1606), St. Alphonsus Rodriguez (1532-1617) and many more.As today we complete the celebration of the Year of St. Ignatius of Loyola, we continue to be inspired by his life and teaching. We ask his intercession, and we follow in his path — the path of He who is the Way, the Truth and the Life — grounding every remaining moment we have on earth Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam — For the Greater Glory of God.