Ignatius and his fellow companions harboured an intense desire to make that journey of a life-time – to be pilgrims to Jerusalem – the Holy City. After a period of prolonged study, they were ready to reconnect with the world and part of that would be to undertake this trip of devotion to their Lord, so to prepare themselves for service in his vineyard.
However, best laid plans were unfulfilled. Once again Ignatius’ life was turned upside down. There was to be no trip to the holy land but instead they were to learn love of God and neighbour more deeply by being drawn to service of the poor, the sick and the needy especially during 1537 and 1538
The number of people helped by the companions was large. By the time they settled in Rome unable to travel to the east, and the Pope had told them ‘Rome is your Jerusalem’, this group of priests saw their ministry as directed not only to spiritual needs of people, but also to their material needs and they were entirely practical in their response
Little by little their identity was being created under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. They knew themselves because of what they did together. They were indeed the Companions/Friends in the Lord, this group to become the earliest members of the Society of Jesus
The first Companions in Venice
(from Jesuit documents: GC36 Decree 1)
#4 The meeting of the First Companions in Venice is a powerful image, an important step in the formation of the Society. There, the Companions confronted the frustration of their plans to go to the Holy Land. This drove them to a deeper discernment of the Lord’s call. Where was the Spirit drawing them? As they discerned new direction for their lives, they held fast to what they had already found life-giving: sharing their lives together as friends in the Lord; living very close to the lives of the poor; and preaching the Gospel with joy. Our first Fathers entered into such a rich discernment of God’s call together because they had experienced the grace of Christ that set them free.
#93 The nine companions arrived at Venice early 1537. There they separated to serve the sick in different hospitals. After two or three months they all went to Rome to get the Pope’s blessing before setting out on their journey to Jerusalem (this latter, not to eventuate).
Thank you to Fr Michael Ryan SJ, director of JISA Campion for this reflection. Michael’s ministry in the Jesuits includes being principal and Rector of Jesuit schools as well as leading the Sevenhill and Campion retreat centres.