Friday, July 30, 2010

St. Ignatius Loyola

One of the very greatest saints (who would not have liked being called that in his lifetime), founder of the Jesuits, he is honored with a feast day on July 31, the anniversary of his death in 1556.

I feel one point of connection with him. When he finally responded to his priestly vocation -- at the (then) advanced age of 33 -- he had to learn Latin as an adult, and he found it difficult. I learned Latin as an adult too. And it is difficult.

I've decided that, as an Ignatian "spiritual exercise" for August, I am going to try to live out this summary of the saint's attitude toward judging others (from History of the Life and Institute of St. Ignatius de Loyola, by Fr. Daniel Bartoli):

"To avoid condemning the actions of our neighbors, we must have recourse to their intentions, which are sometimes innocent, although their actions appear guilty; and if the action is so manifestly bad that there is no possibility of excusing it, we must search for extenuation of a violent temptation, and think that our weakness would probably have succumbed under the same, or perhaps under a lesser one."

Evidence of the greatness of the Jesuits' accomplishment can be found in the grudging respect they won from even as unrepentant an anti-Catholic as the historian Thomas Babington Macaulay, who said this about the Society of Jesus in his famous essay on Ranke's History of the Popes:

"That order possessed itself at once of all the strongholds which command the public mind, of the pulpit, of the press, of the confessional, of the academies. Wherever the Jesuit preached, the church was too small for the audience. The name of Jesuit on a title-page secured the circulation of a book. It was in the ears of the Jesuit that the powerful, the noble, and the beautiful, breathed the secret history of their lives. It was at the feet of the Jesuit that the youth of the higher and middle classes were brought up from childhood to manhood, from the first rudiments to the courses of rhetoric and philosophy. Literature and science, lately associated with infidelity or with heresy, now became the allies of orthodoxy. Dominant in the South of Europe, the great order soon went forth conquering and to conquer. In spite of oceans and deserts, of hunger and pestilence, of spies and penal laws, of dungeons and racks, of gibbets and quartering-blocks, Jesuits were to be found under every disguise, and in every country; scholars, physicians, merchants, serving-men; in the hostile Court of Sweden, in the old manor-houses of Cheshire, among the hovels of Connaught; arguing, instructing, consoling, stealing away the hearts of the young, animating the courage of the timid, holding up the crucifix before the eyes of the dying."

O God, in order to promote the greater glory of your name, you fortified your Church militant with a new army through the work of blessed Ignatius. May his help and example bring us through our battle on earth to be crowned with him in heaven. Amen.

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