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From Chapter 1 of Saint Josemaría Escrivá’s book The Way: Character

#23

You say that you can’t do more? Could it not be that… you can’t do less?

*****

To illustrate this point I looked no further than to the man who’s feast day the Church celebrates today: St. Ignatius of Loyola.

Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556)

Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556)

When he had turned 20, Ignatius had hired himself out as a soldier. One day he was sent out to defend the city of Pamplona against the French when cannonballs began to pound the city wall. As Ignatius rushed to defend an opening in the wall made by cannon fire he was struck by a cannonball that shattered his leg. For nine months he endured a painful recovery in bed. From today’s Office of Readings comes this excerpt from the life of St. Ignatius by Luis Gonzalez that picks up the story:

Ignatius was passionately fond of reading worldly books of fiction and tales of knight-errantry. When he felt he was getting better, he asked for some of these books to pass the time. But no book of that sort could be found in the house; instead they gave him a life of Christ and a collection of the lives of saints written in Spanish.

By constantly reading these books he began to be attracted to what he found narrated there. Sometimes in the midst of his reading he would reflect on what he had read. Yet at other times he would dwell on many of the things which he had been accustomed to dwell on previously. But at this point our Lord came to his assistance, insuring that these thoughts were followed by others which arose from his current reading.

While reading the life of Christ our Lord or the lives of the saints, he would reflect and reason with himself: “What if I should do what Saint Francis or Saint Dominic did?” In this way he let his mind dwell on many thoughts; they lasted a while until other things took their place. Then those vain and worldly images would come into his mind and remain a long time. This sequence of thoughts persisted with him for a long time.

But there was a difference. When Ignatius reflected on worldly thoughts, he felt intense pleasure; but when he gave them up out of weariness, he felt dry and depressed. Yet when he thought of living the rigorous sort of life he knew the saints had lived, he not only experienced pleasure when he actually thought about it, but even after he dismissed these thoughts, he still experienced great joy. Yet he did not pay attention to this, nor did he appreciate it until one day, in a moment of insight, he began to marvel at the difference. Then he understood his experience: thoughts of one kind left him sad, the others full of joy. And this was the first time he applied a process of reasoning to his religious experience. Later on, when he began to formulate his spiritual exercises, he used this experience as an illustration to explain the doctrine he taught his disciples on the discernment of spirits.

*****

Ignatius became so inflamed with the idea of serving God that he ultimately didn’t ask himself “What more can I do?” He instead asked “How can I not do more for God?”

“Go forth and set the world on fire.” – St. Ignatius of Loyola

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