The conversion of St. Ignatius originated from a dramatic episode. A cannonball shattered his legs and throughout his life Ignatius walked with a limp. But the most remarkable effects were in his heart, with a long evolutionary process that changed his way of seeing the world and opening himself to a future he had not even imagined before. The paradox is that an episode that at first glance seems like a personal drama, ending his military career as a messenger boy, is actually the beginning of a journey that pushes a man closer to God and opens a new path for him within the Church.
The Ignatian Year
In May 2021, the beginning of the ceremonies was celebrated in Pamplona, where it all began. And it was the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Father Arturo Sosa, who led the solemn act that began the course of events.
Among them, an itinerary for young people called "From Pamplona to Rome, in the footsteps of St. Ignatius," an opportunity to explore Ignatius' journey of conversion in an experiential way. Then, in June 2021, a prayer to entrust to God the journey of the Euro-Mediterranean Province of the Society of Jesus was celebrated on the anniversary of the day Ignatius began to recover from the danger of death that had followed the leg wound he had suffered in battle. In addition, a traveling summer camp for young people was held in the mountains of northern Albania in July 2021.
In March 2022, the anniversary of the canonization of St. Ignatius and St. Francis Xavier, there was a pilgrimage to "La Storta" outside Rome. In April, there was a three-stage pilgrimage from Formia to Rome, following in the footsteps of Ignatius, who had landed in Gaeta, near Formia, for his first journey to Italy. The closing act is the Mass in the Church of the Gesù in Rome on July 31, 2022, on the Solemnity of St. Ignatius. To these events that are now commemorated, we can add another important event that recalls the life of St. Ignatius of Loyola: his first stay in Rome in March-April 1523. He then left for Jerusalem, where he stayed for about twenty days in September 1523.
The Ignatian Year not only took place in Italy, but there were initiatives in various parts of the world: from the United States to France; from Hungary to Latin America and then also Africa.
In the footsteps of Ignatius
In this year dedicated to St. Ignatius, we will retrace in some way his journey, which from the beginning was distinguished by its Marian character: his stop at the famous sanctuary of Montserrat took the form of a true military vigil dedicated to the Virgin, and like an ancient knight he hung his military vestments in front of an image of the Virgin Mary. Later, from there, on March 25, 1522, he entered the monastery of Manresa, in Catalonia. And in the cave of Manresa he decided to write the Spiritual Exercises, an instrument of modern devotion that has become a characteristic of Jesuit spirituality.
At that time he also changed his name from Inigo to Ignatius, probably because of his devotion to St. Ignatius of Antioch. Father John Dardis, director of the Office of Communication at the Jesuit General Curia, recalls one of the lessons Ignatius taught: "When you love, you are vulnerable: if you don't accept your wounds, your vocation remains a lie: Learning to let go of defense mechanisms is not easy, and Ignatius' discovery was precisely that he could be vulnerable and loved at the same time. His struggle consisted in seeking God, in exercising with all his strength to face any obstacle: in Manresa he even had to overcome thoughts of suicide.However, what he won in the end was a sense of trust in the Father's will. Hence the final thought: "If we lose this, we will cease to be the Society of Jesus",
Universal apostolic priorities
The Jesuits in organizing the Ignatian Year have put in first place what Pope Francis has given them for the decade 2019-2020. Here is a summary of the objectives: to point the way to God, particularly through the Spiritual Exercises and discernment; to walk alongside the poor, the excluded of the world in a mission of reconciliation and justice, something very close to the heart of Pope Francis; to accompany young people in a future of hope; to collaborate in the care of the Common Home. This will make known what animates the apostolic thrust of the Society, that is, its spirituality, which is not only for her, but for all those who experience it as true for them.
Some of the priority notes are a great personal love for Jesus of Nazareth, which leads each one to grow towards fullness in humanity; to see God at work in all things and events in history and to respond with magnanimity to the calls that come from reality, that is, from the Lord.
On July 30, the eve of the end of the Ignatian Year was celebrated with a concert by Michele Campanella, in the dual role of concertmaster and first piano, to play Gioacchino Rossini's La Petite Messe Solennelle, composed by the Pesaro-born artist after decades of silence. The term "petite" had a double motivation: the reduced ensemble of two pianos and harmonium and a choir of only 16 singers, but also the attitude of the Christian who becomes small when he dedicates his music to God. The Barber of Seville is far away and Rossini uses for the last time his old style for a new and moving message.
On the occasion of the Ignatian Year, Pope Francis has sent a message highlighting the conversion of St. Ignatius, wishing everyone to live this year as a personal experience of conversion. "In Pamplona, 500 years ago, all the worldly dreams of Ignatius were shattered in a moment. The cannonball that wounded him changed the course of his life and the course of the world. Seemingly small things can be important. This cannonball also meant that Ignatius failed in the dreams he had for his own life. But God had an even bigger dream for him. God's dream for Ignatius was not about Ignatius. It was about helping souls, it was a dream of redemption, a dream of going out into the whole world, accompanied by Jesus, humble and poor.
Conversion is a daily event. It rarely happens all at once. Ignatius' conversion began in Pamplona, but it did not end there. Throughout his life he was converted, day after day. And what does this mean? That throughout his life he put Christ at the center. And he did this through discernment. Discernment does not consist in having certainties from the beginning, but in navigating, in having a compass to be able to take a path that has many twists and turns, but always allowing oneself to be guided by the Holy Spirit who leads us to the encounter with the Lord. In this wandering on earth, we meet others as Ignatius did in his life. These others are signs that help us to stay the course and invite us to convert again and again. They are brothers, they are situations, and God also speaks to us through them. We listen to others. We read situations. We are also pointers for others, showing God's way.
Conversion is always done in dialogue, with God, in dialogue with others, in dialogue with the world. I pray that all those inspired by Ignatian spirituality may make this journey together as an Ignatian family, and I pray that many others may discover the richness of this spirituality that God gave Ignatius.
I bless you with all my heart, so that this year may truly be an inspiration to go out into the world to help souls, seeing all things new in Christ. And also an inspiration to let ourselves be helped. No one is saved alone. Either we are saved in community or we are not saved. No one can teach another the way. Only Jesus taught us the way. We help each other to know and follow this way. And may Almighty God bless you, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen."