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.
In the year 1521 a cannon ball fractured the left leg of Captain Ignatius Loyola, the future founder of the Jesuits. While he was convalescing, Ignatius read about Christ and His saints and thus turned wholly to God. He then undertook to equip himself for Christ's service by acquiring a good classical and theological education. The members of the Society of Jesus became the shock troops of the Church in the battle against the spread of Protestantism in Europe, as well as one of the greatest foreign mission organizations that the world has known. Ignatius died on July 31, 1556.
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 complete 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 shaking up the Church and challenging the world. 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.
O God, who raised up Saint Ignatius of Loyola in your Church to further the greater glory of your name, grant that by his help we may imitate him in fighting the good fight on earth and merit to receive with him a crown in heaven. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen