-Fr. Jaroslaw Kurek OSB
Until the age of twenty-six he was a man given up to the vanities of the world’. The man I want to talk to you about this morning wasn’t the most devout Catholic in his youth, yet this same individual was destined to become one of the most prominent figures in the Church.
His name was Ignatius of Loyola, better known to most of us as the founder of the Jesuits. This year his memorial is not celebrated, as it falls on a Sunday. But his story, with an interesting Benedictine link, and today’s scripture readings inspire me to talk about him.
Why? Because Ignatius is a living example of the two kinds of thinking spoken about in our readings. I say ‘thinking’, because in his autobiography Ignatius shows what a reflective person he was. From the very start of his spiritual life, he kept thinking on things and never stopped this reflection for the rest of his life. Initially he struggled with internal tension, being often interrupted by vain thoughts. Over time these would disappear as he reflected more and more on what was godly.
It was in the course of this protracted process of meditation on the life of Christ that his real turning towards God began. He started thinking to himself: ‘How would it be, if I did this which St Francis did, and this which St Dominic did?’ Francis and Dominic, saints who have their minds set on things that are above. Ignatius, clearly called by God, was preparing for a serious spiritual undertaking in his life.
Now compare his thinking with the thinking of the protagonist in the Gospel parable, compare the directions. You don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to deduce that the mind of the man in the Gospel wasn’t focused on these things at all. To use the language of the gospel, he was simply foolish. Foolish ultimately means a misuse of our thinking, of our minds, something so precious when it comes to our interior life, something that is given to us specifically to meet God, in an intimate way.
So what does St Ignatius teach us, the Christians of today? Ignatius offers us one very basic lesson: devote your time and energy to reading about Jesus Christ and thinking on him, and this will make you more and more thoughtful of God; if you do so, you will, gradually, raise your mind toward God, and finally set it firmly on the things that are above.
St Ignatius teaches us this through the example of his own life. After a few years of engaged reflection on the divine things and simultaneous retreat from the vanities of the world, he was finally able to make up his mind. He was ready. Exactly five hundred years ago, in the year 1522, in the Benedictine Abbey of Montserrat, Ignatius of Loyola performed his act of conversion and fully dedicated his life to God.
May it also be so in our lives, ad maiorem Dei gloriam; may each of us become rich toward God for his greater glory.