Saint Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556)
for July 31
Ignatius of Loyola was the youngest of 11 children of a noble family in Spain. As a young adult, his goal in life was to achieve fame and fortune. At the age of 30, he was seriously injured in a battle. During the long months of his recovery, he had the opportunity to examine his life and read about the saints. Ignatius never did anything halfway. Once he realized that God was calling him, he devoted all of his energy to discerning God's will and then carrying it out. In search of what he ought to do, Ignatius encountered setbacks, closed doors, and even imprisonment. He was convinced that God could be found in all things, and was guided by an inner peace that comes from knowing one is doing the will of God. Ignatius developed the Spiritual Exercises, a practical guide for those who want to live a truly Christian life, and he shared them with his companions. Ignatius called his community the "Company of Jesus." Today they are known as the Society of Jesus, or the Jesuits, one of the largest religious communities in the world. Besides the three vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, members take a fourth vow of obedience to the Pope. Saint Ignatius's feast day is July 31.
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Saint Ignatius of Loyola was, like many of us, hungry for money and recognition. He wanted to be known throughout the world for his greatness. But he learned that, in God's view, greatness is not about how famous or wealthy one is, but about how holy and devoted one is. Despite his unimpressive religious background, Saint Ignatius knew that, simply by virtue of being a human created in God's image, he could become one of the great saints of the faith--he could become holy. Can you think of ways that you, like Ignatius, focus your energies too much on attaining power and money? How can you devote yourself more fully to developing virtue? Do you believe, as Ignatius did, that you have the capacity to become a great saint?
Saint Ignatius's Spiritual Exercises are sometimes called "Imaginative Prayer" because they involve placing oneself in the center of a biblical story and, with one's imagination, experiencing the full range of senses and thoughts resulting from the story. Through this kind of exercise, we learn to listen to God's lessons for us. Place yourself in your favorite biblical story. Pretend to be a character in the story. Feel what you imagine that character would feel. Notice the colors, sounds, sights and smells of the world in which you are placing yourself. Listen for God's voice in the actions, thoughts and emotions of yourself and the other characters in the story.