Last week we celebrated the feast of St Ignatius of Loyola, one of the greatest saints on the Church’s calendar. He is the founder of the Jesuits, a religious order that has had more influence on the life and mission of the Church than any other. At one point there were more than 25,000 Jesuits around the world, serving in the “army of Jesus” as they are known. Today their importance has grown even greater because our wonderful Pope Francis is a Jesuit.
I have a deep respect and admiration for St Ignatius and his followers because of several reasons. First of all, my part of India owes her evangelization and conversion to the great Spanish and Portuguese Jesuit missionaries (St Francis Xavier and Blessed John de Britto, just to mention a couple) and we will always be grateful to them for the gift of faith. Secondly, I have several relatives and close friends who are Jesuits. Third, my father was a professor at a Jesuit university in Madras, India, and my personal faith sprouted and flourished on that campus. I learnt to serve Mass at the Jesuit chapel and celebrated my first Mass in the same chapel. In some way, I attribute my priestly vocation to that beautiful, gothic church. Finally, I am also a product of Jesuit education having received two graduate degrees from Marquette University.
Saints are given to us to help us on our faith journey and to guide us in our struggles. I do believe that St Ignatius has many lessons to teach us. I would like to share with you just one of those lessons.
When we read the history of the Church, we realize that God always raises up holy men and women so that they will respond adequately to the exigencies of a certain moment in the Church’s history. When Ignatius came on the scene, the Church was reeling from the devastating after-effects of the Reformation. The Church had lost huge numbers of the faithful to the churches that separated from us. God raised up St Ignatius to assist the Church in her Counter-Reformation. That is why St Ignatius called his band of followers, the Company of Jesus, much like the army. The Jesuits were supposed to be like soldiers who were eager to follow orders with just one purpose in mind – to re-build the Church. To assist them in their historic endeavor, St Ignatius gave them a motto: Ad majorem Dei gloriam (For the greater glory of God). His followers should be totally focused on just one thing: the glory of God. They were not supposed to be distracted by earthly motives.
As I get older, I understand that our sense of contentment and life efficacy have much to do with our motives. St Ignatius recognized that the motives of our actions are as important as, if not more important than the actions themselves. Even in ministry we can lose our focus and serve people for the wrong reasons. When we minister for the wrong reasons, we can easily get discouraged when we don’t see results. There is a story told in the life of St Ignatius that he was once visiting the novitiate where new Jesuits were starting their training. The saintly founder saw a young novice sweeping the hallway in a shoddy manner. He was not doing a great job. St Ignatius asked the young man, “For whom are you doing this chore?” The young novice replied, “I am doing this for God.” St Ignatius responded, “If you are doing it for me, that is fine. If you are doing it for God, then you need to do a better job.”
We are enjoying our summer break. Hopefully all of us can take some time to refresh ourselves. Just as Jesus invited the disciples to go to a deserted place, let us go to a lonely place and rest awhile. Let us examine the motives of all our actions. Let us ask ourselves why we parent, why we work hard, why we make money, why we take care of our families, and why we are what we are. Hopefully we can say with St Ignatius, “All for the greater glory of God.” We should be able to pray with the Psalmist: “Not to us, Lord, not to us, but to your name give the glory!”
Let us pray this beautiful prayer penned by St Ignatius. It certainly captures totally what I have tried to convey in this column.
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding
and my entire will, all I have and call my own.
You have given all to me. To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace.
That is enough for me.
God bless you!
Born in India to deeply-committed Catholic parents, Fr Britto is one of seven children. He joined the Salesians of Don Bosco as a young man and was ordained a priest in 1981.
After he completed his priestly formation and his early education in India, he came to the US for his graduate degree in Journalism at...Read more...