IGNATIUS LOYOLA: A PERSON FOR TODAY
-Fr. Cedric Prakash sj*
On the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, it is important for all of us to reflect on some qualities of this great man who has left such a profound impact on the world he lived in; today, hundreds of years after his death, his legacy continues in many different ways. The qualities of Ignatius include:
Ignatius was a contemplative - but not in the ordinary and traditional sense of the word. His contemplation was a deep communion with his Lord and Master: Christ Jesus; but it did not confine him to the four walls of the chapel. His Spiritual Exercises steered one beyond the mere gaze of Christ on the cross: it necessitated that one had to move towards the “more” and ask oneself “what I ought to do for Christ?” For him, it was always “contemplation in action”.
This movement towards concrete action had much to do with the tremendous compassion Ignatius had for others in his life. He was compassionate in all that he did: be it in his heroics for the earthly Queen for whom he was ready to die or later on, for those suffering from the plague in Rome. This compassion also becomes the running streak in the Spiritual Exercises which culminates in the contemplation to obtain the gift of love….and the readiness to give of “one’s all!”
Ignatius was a soldier and on the earthly battle field, he showed exemplary courage despite all odds till a cannon ball maimed him for life. This is when he showed even greater courage to seek God’s will in his life. It was not easy for a man to give up the comforts of this world and to follow Jesus carrying his cross. All through his life, he faced plenty of hostility but he did so with great determination. He always took an unflinching and courageous stand for what was right and just.
Ignatius was a creative genius. He did things differently. He thought out-of-the-box and did not conform to the mould of tradition. The Society he wanted to form had to be based on “availability” rather than to subscribe to the rigidity and rituals of the monastic traditions of his day. This creativity enabled him and his companions to win the hearts of the men and women of his times across the board - the poorest and the most powerful.
For Ignatius, his Society had to be named ‘Companions of Jesus’: the ability to accompany one another and others on their pilgrimage, on earth. Very significantly, he called himself ‘the pilgrim’ – a person always on the move. ‘Companionship’ for Ignatius epitomized what Vatican II would speak about centuries later, “the joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the men (and women) of our times, especially of those who are poor or afflicted in any way, are the joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as will.”
So, as we celebrate the memory of this great visionary, let us all humbly ask ourselves whether we are able to give ourselves the possibility of imbibing an iota of his sterling qualities – Contemplation, Compassion, Courage, Creativity and Companionship. Our world will indeed be a happier place if each one of us tries to do so!
31st July, 2014
(* Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ is the Director of PRASHANT, the Ahmedabad-based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace)