Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Ignatius Loyola

(Picture Source: Young Adult Ministry in a Box)

“The Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field,
which a person finds and hides again,
and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Mt 13:45

As we grow older, younger people often ask a question like this:  What is the most important event in your life?  For me it is not difficult to answer that question without hesitation: my twenty-six years in the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits).  Today I look back on those years as a treasure because during those years I came to know and admire the life of the Founder, Ignatius of Loyola.  And now, I genuinely believe his Spiritual Exercises brought me to a most difficult decision in my life:  to depart from the Society of Jesus to become a parish priest, imbued with the spirit of Ignatius.  Never to regret this decision which I truly believe was guided by Ignatius for a reason:  to bring my experience of Ignatian spirituality to so many people in so many different places and in so many different ways.  When Cardinal James Hickey, then Archbishop of Washington, spoke with me about my expressed request to become a "diocesan priest," he welcomed me to the Archdiocese of Washington, my home, with these words:  "The day I sense that you do not think and act as a Jesuit, I will not trust you.  You have been so formed by the great Jesuit tradition. If you abandon the formation that is yours, I would not be able to understand you."  Throughout my years working with His Eminence, there were times when we disagreed.  Each time I would hear these fatherly words:  "You Jesuits never change.  Once a Jesuit, always a Jesuit."

The many postings I have made for the "blogosphere" come about primarily because of my experience in Jesuit spirituality.  I have been blessed by God with the opportunity to celebrate Mass in the small room where Ignatius died.  It is in Rome, in the Jesuit residence attached to the magnificent Mother-Church of the Society of Jesus.  Usually with friends as I stood at the altar in that room, there was for me a genuine experience of Father Ignatius.  It is his spirit, his way of relating to Jesus Christ, that I always try to make a part of each reflection I prepare for those who will be with me at the altar each day that I have the privilege of preaching the Word of God and bringing Christ Jesus present upon the altar.

Always in my mind as I prepare these postings, the first question I ask myself is this:  how does this set of readings impact the lives of the women and men who will take the time to read or hear my thoughts, hopefully inspired by the Holy Spirit.  Secondly, my preparatory thought is to imagine how the scripture verses for the day's Mass plays a part in the lives we live in the world that is ours today.  Lastly, I always ask myself if I am making every effort, like Ignatius to be thinking with the Church in what I do and write for others to read or hear in my homily that day.

Yes, for you Jesuit fans, I am following the traditional Ignatian manner of prayer:  following three points or three topics within the readings.  You who have worked with Jesuits or who have made the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius recognize the "Jesuit format."

Today, I invite to join with me in thanking God for the gift of an Ignatius Loyola in the life of the Church.  Like other saints, Ignatius has brought his life and spirituality to the Church.  Today those who know Jesuits and Jesuit life stand in admiration of the work that the Jesuit's motto, AMDG-- Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam -- All for the Greater Glory of God, has brought to the Church and the many who have been touched by Ignatian Spirituality.

Thank you, Father Ignatius, and all the Jesuits who have impacted my life. 

PS:  To read Pope Francis' first encyclical click here: Lumen Fidei.  The first encyclical presented to the Church by its first Jesuit Pope!  Viva La Papa, le primo Jesuito Episcopo!