Daily Office Readings for the Feast of Ignatius of Loyola
Of course, we know today’s saint as Ignatius of Loyola…but once I learned his first name in Spanish, Iñigo, from that point forward I can’t help but think of Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride when I think of St. Ignatius.
I think one would have to be under a pretty big rock for a long time not to know the classic line from that movie: “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”
Well, as it turns out, Ignatius’ autobiography includes a story that could have turned out very similarly, but the line would have been, “Hello, my name is Iñigo Lopez de Loyola. You insulted my Blessed Virgin Mother, Mary. Prepare to die.” Luckily, he got some guidance from a very unlikely source.
You see, before his conversion, Ignatius was probably just as big a swashbuckler as Inigo Montoya, and if we could suspend the veil between real life and fiction, I suspect the two of them would have either been great friends or bitter enemies. Ignatius was a soldier of fortune, and a bit of a rake (He was certainly popular with the ladies and the feeling was mutual), until a cannonball shattered his right leg. He experienced a religious conversion while convalescing from multiple surgeries that still left him with a limp.
Now, remember, Ignatius the deep and devoted saint was still many years in the making, when he began his Christian pilgrimage, and he had a few character flaws to work through–namely his hot temper. Ignatius was journeying down a dusty road, and met up with another man along the way, a Moor. As incidental traveling companions do, they struck up a conversation, and somehow the topic got onto religion–namely Mary’s virginity. It might be an understatement to say that, since the Moor was Muslim, there weren’t many points of agreement in the conversation, so the Moor rode off–and delivered a parting shot to Ignatius about his opinion of the matter with a pretty big insult aimed at Mary.
Ignatius was livid–so livid, in fact, that he decided to catch back up to the Moor and kill him. (Remember, I told you he had a few issues to work through first before he would be the Ignatius of Loyola we’ve all heard about.) He put a heel to his mule’s flanks, and off he went–but while pursuing the Moor, he was starting to feel a conflict. His old instincts said that he should do the knightly thing, to catch up to the guy and kill him–and, at the same time, a new instinct was starting to grow inside of him–that maybe that wasn’t exactly the Christian thing to do. Before long, he came to a fork in the road. As he stopped and looked around for any clues as to which way the Moor went, he decided to leave it up to the mule to pick the path. I don’t know whether the mule went left or right, but whichever way the mule went, Ignatius never caught up to the Moor and he was able to let it go. Perhaps it was just dumb luck, or perhaps the Holy Spirit put a hand on the mule’s bridle and gave a little tug, but whatever the reason, Ignatius avoided becoming a murderer and spent the night in prayer at a monastery instead.
Now, a lot of us would be too embarrassed to even tell such a story about ourselves, but it speaks to the vulnerability that Ignatius was able to grow into, and to live the life we now honor with a feast day. I can’t help but think of our Old Testament reading today when we read about Jacob wrestling with a fellow who Jacob thought was a man like himself, but it turned out he had been wrestling with the Divine. Those things in our lives that we wrestle with, those places where our old instincts and our evolving new instincts grapple head to head with each other, are precisely the exercises we need to have the chance to choose our own forks in the road where we discover what God truly had in store for us. We seldom know it at the time we choose it, but time and insight often reveal them retrospectively.
When is a time that a fork in the road–and a choice that we really didn’t make ourselves–ended up leading us into a new instinct that helps us to better follow Jesus?
Ignatius of Loyola stained glass window, Church of St. Paul the Apostle, Westerville, OH, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Maria Evans splits her week between being a pathologist and laboratory director in Kirksville, MO, and gratefully serving in the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri , as the Interim Pastor at Christ Episcopal Church, Rolla, MO.