This year the feast day of St Ignatius of Loyola (31st July) takes place in the midst of an Ignatian Year celebrating 500 years since his conversion in 1521.
From a flamboyant upstart and fancy dresser to a simple priest possessing a walking stick and one pair of well-worn shoes, Ignatius’ journey from courtier to pilgrim, from failed soldier to saint, can be characterized as one of deepening inner freedom, a gradual dying to self, a stripping back of all that stood in the way of his relationship with God.
Ignatius called these impediments to spiritual growth disordered attachments. For Ignatius some of these included vanity, the desire for fame and worldly glory. Even his pursuit of holiness at times became disordered, excessive mortification and penances leaving him weakened and depressed.
Ignatius found inner freedom by surrendering to God’s grace in these moments of weakness. He came to recognize that God’s love did not depend on what he did and what he achieved but that it was a free gift to those open to receiving it. In this light discerning God’s will became about recognizing what deepened that free gift of love and inner freedom in his life.
The feast of Ignatius and story of his conversion show us what’s possible when we make space for receiving God’s grace in our lives. Ignatius’ life and the Christian spiritual tradition show us that inner freedom, spiritual freedom, is found in letting go rather than holding on, in surrendering our God given gifts back to the one who gave them. As we celebrate this Ignatian Year we can reflect on our own opportunities for conversion and on what we need to detach from in order for God to deepen God’s love and life in us. Through this may we too experience the inner freedom that defined Ignatius and his journey with God.