Over the centuries, the Jesuits have been relied upon by Popes as trustworthy, heroic soldiers for Jesus Christ and His Church. Yes, there have been times when the company seemed to lose its fervor. However, Jesus Christ the King has always sent His Spirit to effect a renewal of their original charism when that has happened. So it is in our own day. A son of Ignatius, a Jesuit, is now in the Chair of Peter. He took the name Francis. But, not after Francis Xavier. Rather, after the little poor man of Assisi named Francis. Like the founder of his religious community, Ignatius of Loyola, Pope Francis seems to have asked himself the question, - What would happen if I carried out this thing that Francis did? We are witnessing the answer in a papacy which is already changing history. That is what can happen when men and women take the Gospel and the invitation of Jesus to sell all and pursue the kingdom of God with all of their hearts.
On July 31st we remember the founder of the Company or Society of Jesus (Jesuits), Ignatius of Loyola. He is the patron saint of soldiers and of retreatants. There is a connection. He was a soldier and the Spiritual Exercise which he left us have been used for hundreds of years to help men and women like us encounter Jesus Christ, on retreats, and in our daily lives. The disciplines they promote can help us to grow in holiness of life, no matter what our state in life, and equip us for service in the Army of the King, Jesus Christ.
CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - On July 31st in the liturgical calendar of the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church, we commemorate the Memorial of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Priest. Our Gospel texts at Mass all week have been taken from Matthew's presentation of the parables of the Kingdom.
Jesus used images which easily communicated to those who heard Him preach. In an agrarian society, a field is the source of income and held great value. So too did pearls. To his hearers, he immediately captured their attention. The kingdom of which he speaks is so valuable that the person or the merchant will enthusiastically pursue it.
The kingdom of God still is that valuable and we are all invited to pursue it. Another translation for the word rendered kingdom in English is Reign. We are all invited to let the King, Jesus Christ, reign in the real stuff of our daily lives. This will bring the kingdom into more of a lived experience. At the heart of the Kingdom is the only eternal King and Lord, Jesus Christ. It is when we enter into an intimate communion with Him that we begin to experience what it really means to begin live in the kingdom.
He initiated that relationship with each one of us at the waters of Baptism; however, like the people in the parables, we are called to respond by putting Him and His Kingdom first. We are invited to "sell all" and follow the King. That invitation beckons for each one if us - no matter what our state in life, career or vocation. It lies at the heart of the Christian vocation.
Jesus makes it clear, "You have not chosen me: but I have chosen you; and have appointed you, that you should go, and should bring forth fruit; and your fruit should remain: that whatsoever you shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you." (John 15:16)
The Saints put legs on this reality of living faith for each one of us. They demonstrate in their lives what can - and will - happen in our own, if we but choose to respond to the invitations of grace which are given to us daily.
Today, as we remember the founder of the Company or Society of Jesus (Jesuits), Ignatius of Loyola, we are invited to examine our own response to these invitations the Lord has given to us to follow Him. We are invited to ask ourselves, "How are we responding?"
Ignatius is the patron saint of soldiers and of retreatants. There is a connection. He was a soldier and the Spiritual Exercise which he left us have been used for hundreds of years to help men and women like us encounter Jesus Christ, on retreats, and in our daily lives. The disciplines they promote can help us to grow in holiness of life, no matter what our state in life, and equip us for service in the Army of the King, Jesus Christ.
We are all called to become saints.
When we hear a statement like that we can mistakenly think that somehow means we are to become less human. Nothing could be more mistaken. Truly holy men and women are the most human among us. You want to be around them, just as people wanted to be with Jesus. That is because He lives in them and they live in Him. They have come to the point in their lives where, through grace, they begin to comprehend - and to live - the words of the Apostle Paul, "No Longer do I live but Christ lives in me." (Gal. 2:20)
Ignatius is a great example of this truth.
He wrote in his autobiography "Up until the age of twenty six I was carried away with the vanities of this world. Above all, I found delight in the military profession and had in my activities a great and vain desire of winning honor." In 1521 a cannon ball broke his shin and tore open his calf in a battle defending the city of Pamplona. It was a severe wound. It also became an invitation of grace.
During his long recovery, he asked for books of great military men to inspire him. Those giving him care could not find any, so they brought him books on the Life of Jesus Christ and the Saints. While reading them, he was intrigued and inspired. He records in his autobiography that he thought to himself, "What would happen if I carried out this thing St Francis did, and that other, St Dominic?"
Ignatius began to reflect at length about the Saints, their lives, their faith and their heroic virtue. He discovered that as he did that, he was filled with joy. When he did not, sorrow would return. He also began to reflect upon his past life and ego-centered vainglory.
He became filled with sincere contrition. It was during these days that he had a deepening conversion experience; an encounter with the Eternal King, Jesus Christ. He determined to become His Knight, His Soldier, and to dedicate his life and service to His Kingdom and His glory alone.
Other men, including Francis Xavier, were drawn to Jesus Christ - as He was revealed in the way of life of Ignatius of Loyola. He was their friend and became their spiritual director. The natural gift of zeal and fervor which the Lord had given Ignatius was transformed by grace into magnanimity, or greatness of soul.
Grace perfects or completes nature.
Ignatius and the brothers who joined him became known as the Company of Jesus. They entered into a vowed way of life and sought first to do missionary work among the Muslims in the Holy Lands. When that did not materialize, they offered their services, in comlete loyalty and service, to Pope Paul II.
Over the centuries, the Jesuits have been relied upon by Popes as trustworthy, heroic soldiers for Jesus Christ and His Church. Yes, there have been times when the company seemed to lose its fervor. However, Jesus Christ the King has always sent His Spirit to effect a renewal of their original charism when that has happened.
So it is in our own day. A son of Ignatius, a Jesuit, is now in the Chair of Peter. He took the name Francis. But, not after Francis Xavier. Rather, after the little poor man of Assisi named Francis.
Like the founder of his religious community, Ignatius of Loyola, Pope Francis seems to have asked himself the question, "What would happen if I carried out this thing that Francis did"? We are witnessing the answer in a papacy which is already changing history. That is what can happen when men and women take the Gospel and the invitation of Jesus to sell all and pursue the kingdom of God with all of their hearts.
Let us choose this day to be numbered among the saints. Let us ask the Lord to give us more of His grace so that we can begin to live our lives more fully and completely for Him. Let us imitate the examples of those who have gone on before us and beckon us on. Thy followed the King of Kings in this world and now live with Him in the eternal communion of Love.That is our calling as well.
Deacon Keith Fournier is Founder and Chairman of Common Good Foundation and Common Good Alliance. A married Roman Catholic Deacon of the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia, he and his wife Laurine have five grown children and six grandchildren, He serves as the Director of Adult Faith Formation at St. Stephen, Martyr Parish in Chesapeake, VA. He is also a human rights lawyer and public policy advocate.
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