This morning, José Ignacio García SJ took us on a tour of the birthplace of Saint Ignatius, the house where his family lived and where he had his conversion experience after his leg was shattered by a cannon ball.
At four different “stations” around the house, we listened to texts from Saint Ignatius to find out how he was doing advocacy in his time. Outside the house, we reflected on the political situation Ignatius found himself in: The Call of the Temporal King. It was a time of great changes in the way the world was perceived – people in Europe suddenly realised that there was a wider world around them, and had difficulties to come to terms with this insight. Maybe they felt a little bit like we feel in times of globalisation?
In the kitchen, we listened to Saint Ignatius telling his companions who were advisors at the Council of Trent not to lose contact with the grassroots engagement with the poor, but also how to listen rather than speak: To the Fathers attending the Council of Trent.
In the main family meeting room, we heard about speaking truth to those in power. Some Jesuits, when asked to be confessors to the Portuguese king, had proudly said “no” to this task which seemed too “honourable”. Ignatius wrote to them with his own perspective: “The influence that a reminder from a confessor would have had in bringing to a happy conclusion the business of the Patriarch of Ethiopia, which is of such great importance to the salvation, I won’t say only of many persons, but of many cities and provinces.” (On being Confessors to Kings).
Outside the chapel of the conversion, we listened to the account of Saint Ignatius’ conversion to remind ourselves how small the steps are of really discerning and understanding. We finished with the contemplatio ad amorem. Here is the full conversion text for your own meditation:
He had been much given to reading worldly books of fiction and knight errantry, and feeling well enough to read he asked for some of these books to help while away the time. In that house, however, they could find none of those he was accustomed to read, and so they gave him a Life of Christ and a book of the Lives of the Saints in Spanish.
By the frequent reading of these books he conceived some affection for what he found there narrated. Pausing in his reading, he gave himself up to thinking over what he had read. At other times he dwelt on the things of the world which formerly had occupied his thoughts. Of the many vain things that presented themselves to him, one took such possession of his heart that without realizing it he could spend two, three, or even four hours on end thinking of it, fancying what he would have to do in the service of a certain lady, of the means he would take to reach the country where she was living, of the verses, the promises he would make her, the deeds of gallantry he would do in her service. He was so enamored with all this that he did not see how impossible it would all be, because the lady was of no ordinary rank; neither countess, nor duchess, but of a nobility much higher than any of these.
Nevertheless, our Lord came to his assistance, for He saw to it that these thoughts were succeeded by others that sprang from the things he was reading. In reading the Life of our Lord and the Lives of the Saints, he paused to think and reason with himself. “Suppose that I should do what St. Francis did, what St. Dominic did?” He thus let his thoughts run over many things that seemed good to him, always putting before himself things that were difficult and important which seemed to him easy to accomplish when he proposed them. But all his thought was to tell himself, “St. Dominic did this; therefore, I must do it. St. Francis did this; therefore, I must do it.” These thoughts also lasted a good while. And then other things taking their place, the worldly thoughts above mentioned came upon him and remained a long time with him. This succession of diverse thoughts was of long duration, and they were either of worldly achievements which he desired to accomplish, or those of God which took hold of his imagination to such an extent that, worn out with the struggle, he turned them all aside and gave his attention to other things.
There was, however, this difference. When he was thinking of the things of the world he was filled with delight, but when afterwards he dismissed them from weariness, he was dry and dissatisfied. And when he thought of going barefoot to Jerusalem and of eating nothing but herbs and performing the other rigors he saw that the saints had performed, he was consoled, not only when he entertained these thoughts, but even after dismissing them he remained cheerful and satisfied. But he paid no attention to this, nor did he stop to weigh the difference until one day his eyes were opened a little and he began to wonder at the difference and to reflect on it, learning from experience that one kind of thoughts left him sad and the other cheerful. Thus, step-by-step, he came to recognize the difference between the two spirits that moved him, the one being from the evil spirit, the other from God.