July 31 is the feast day of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the saint to whom I owe my job. He founded the Society of Jesus—known as the Jesuits—and Loyola Press is one of thousands of Jesuit ministries around the world.
So this week, I offer three posts about this saint—and what he has to do with those of us in the Days of Deepening Friendship online community.
My first point about Ignatius is this: His life did not turn out the way he’d planned. How many of us can relate to that? Kind of nice to know that a saint of the church stumbled his way into God’s will, just as most of us do.
He was born into a noble family in 1491 in the Basque region of Spain. A privileged life—until the politically powerful folks on whose favor Ignatius’s family relied fell out of power. The young Ignatius was accustomed to hanging around court, learning how to wheel and deal and pursue the ladies. Then, within a short time, he was mucking around as a soldier. And, not long after that, he was disabled in battle, thereafter losing the possibility of a military career.
He had tried to be the best soldier, and that was taken from him. He spent months recuperating from serious wounds to his legs. During that time, his spiritual life awakened, and then he dreamed of becoming a major force for God and spending his life in Jerusalem, serving in the Holy Land. He finally made it to Jerusalem, stayed about 20 days, and then was kicked out by the Franciscans in charge of Christian sites there. The whole area was under Turkish rule, and it wasn’t uncommon for Christians to be taken hostage. The Franciscans didn’t want random pilgrims wandering around getting kidnapped. That was the first and last time Ignatius saw his beloved Holy Land.
Years later, after he had matured and truly found his life in Christ and had, with several companions, formed the Society of Jesus, Ignatius dreamed of traveling the world, helping souls and taking the gospel wherever people would hear it. But once the Society was approved by the pope, Ignatius was needed for his organizational and motivational skills. He spent the rest of his life at a desk in Rome, writing more than 7000 letters to the Jesuits who in fact traveled the world doing what Ignatius had dreamed of doing.
You would think that a man who had possessed so many high dreams, only to have to let them go, would become angry, sorrowful, full of bitterness and regrets. But Ignatius had learned to recognize God with him in every situation, no matter how many times the plans changed. Ignatius thrived through all the shifts of his life. Not only that, but he taught others—through his Spiritual Exercises—how to dwell truly in their lives and trust God and develop deep and consistent gratitude and joy.
So if your plans have gone awry, and if your life has turned out a lot differently from what you had hoped, be encouraged. Sometimes God does the best work in us when we’re riding an adventure to places and opportunities unknown.