During the course of the week the Church celebrated the feast of Saint Ignatius of Loyola (31 July). Saint Ignatius is perhaps best known for two reasons. Firstly, he is known as the founder of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits, of which Pope Francis is a member) and secondly, he is the author of the Spiritual Exercises. The Spiritual Exercises are a series of meditations, prayers, and contemplative practices to aid the reader in deepening their relationship with God.
One part of Ignatius’ life that I would like to share is his recovery from a broken leg. Ignatius was a soldier and during the course of battle he was struck by a cannonball which broke his right leg. This meant that Ignatius had to return from the battlefield for a long period of rehabilitation. This rehabilitation involved breaking his leg again in order to straighten it out. Can you imagine the pain he endured given this occurred in the early 1500’s. Ignatius read extensively to take his mind of the pain and the long periods of bed rest. Ignatius read two types of books. Firstly, he read the chivalrous ‘rags’ of the day. These works were all about knights on daring adventures and about chasing fair ladies. This brought him momentary comfort, but Ignatius felt hollow, empty and unfulfilled shortly after reading them. The other reading Ignatius did was on the life of Christ and of the saints. Ignatius relished these books and they brought him deep comfort and joy. This led him to devise what is a famous Ignatian concept, thediscernment of spirits. In essence, this concept articulates that thoughts which are from God fill the soul with consolation, peace and tranquillity. Whereas, thoughts that aren’t from God, might bring momentary delight but quickly leave one resentful, empty and with heaviness of heart.
This practice of discernment is a technique all of us can find fruitful in the myriad choices we make every day. For example, will this or that (choice) be for the greater glory of God? Will this big decision in my life bring fleeting satisfaction or deep joy?