Ignatius arrived by stretcher at his family home in Azpeitia, Loyola, a broken man, physically and in every other way – a casualty of war, with a totally shattered leg, a man stopped in his tracks, all the dreams and hopes of his youth smashed to pieces…his future disintegrating before his eyes, his legacy a permanent limp from his broken leg being reset three times. Here was ‘a man given to the vanities of the world, whose chief delight consisted in martial exercises, with a great and vain desire to win renown’ (Autobiography, 1). No more dancing, his prospects of fame and glory narrowing.
Exhausted from the pain, (no anaesthetic!) he lay for months struggling with the reality of his broken life. Bored, sapped of energy and at times delirious, he struggled to maintain the desire to live. To occupy his time he began reading the life of Christ and the Saints and reflecting on how he felt about what he had read and his situation.
When we visited the room in which Ignatius lay convalescing, we were struck by the fact that out of this dire and tragic situation, came a life that was in fact going to make a difference in a completely different direction to the one to which he had originally aspired. (C & J. Gardner on Ignatian Pilgrimage)
Pope Francis encourages us to see that a ‘stoppage’ can always be a good time for sifting, for reviewing the past, for remembering with gratitude who we are, what we have been given, and where we have gone astray. These are moments in life that can be ripe for change and conversion. Each of us has had their own ‘stoppage,’ or if we haven’t yet, we will someday: illness, the failure of a marriage or a business, some great disappointment or betrayal. As in the Covid lockdown, those moments generate a tension, a crisis that reveals what is in our heart. Pope Francis. (2020). Let us Dream: The Path to a Better Future, pp. 35-36. Simon & Schuster, London, England.
A group of us in Perth reflected together on this time in Ignatius’ life. It spoke to us of many things- of struggle and suffering, passion and stubbornness, of vulnerability, ‘crises in my own life when I realized I could no longer continue on a certain path’, ’memories of my childhood as one of nine children, of being sick and laying in bed daydreaming for many weeks and a hunger for books and reading’, ‘the gradual change I notice in myself especially through the examen,’ physical suffering and healing leading to spiritual healing. ‘It spoke to me of loss, grief and stopping to notice where God is calling me.’ ‘It spoke to me of the time that change or healing takes in me, it is so gradual.’ ‘I am amazed at Ignatius’ capacity for self reflection.’ (Ignatian Spirituality WA Network)
Does this idea of ‘stoppage’ resonate with you? When have you experienced a ‘stoppage’ that has led to a change in your life direction?
Thank you to members of Ignatian Spirituality Western Australia (ISWA) for this contribution to our ErromeriaPilgrimage: Anne Zevis, Chiara von Perger, Chris Harkness, Rom Cirillo, Chris Gardner, Jenny Gardner, and John Auer. ISWA is an informal network of people committed to promoting Ignatian Spirituality and its gifts by connecting people and information about Ignatian initiatives and opportunities in Western Australia.