It wouldn’t be surprising to learn that St. Ignatius was a passionate man; he was a Spaniard, after all! And by his own admission, he did his share of romancing—or, at least a lot of time chasing after love and folly, back when he was a young man.
I remember those awkward, longing teenage years, when I was first learning to desire love and romance and the good-looking guys who seemed to promise both. Difficult times for an introvert, especially one who was not particularly striking to look at. After years of hoping and having my hopes dashed, I tried mightily to discount all that passion stuff. Surely, it didn’t lead to much spiritual advancement. A person filled with passion didn’t have much room for anything else—such as good works, high grades, and a future. And, really, if passion was not finding its object, then shouldn’t I just put it away somewhere and cultivate my mind and spiritual faculties?
Ignatius had to give up passion when he was wounded and going through months of recuperation. Then, when he converted to a life dedicated to God, I think he was inclined to put his passion away. He had to get down to business now—furthering the cause of Jesus Christ! There would be no lovely lady in his life; this was determined when he took his vows as a priest. Why attend to any of that old passion?
But love is love, and passion is passion. And Ignatius found himself in a relationship with God that stirred up more love and passion than he’d ever known before. In fact, I believe this saint—as well as many others, especially the great mystics—came to understand that, when we are our truest selves, we cannot avoid the welling up of pure passion in our lives. We are created to be passionate—to feel deeply, to work wholeheartedly, and to love with great energy. And when we have nurtured that passion within the home of relationship—relationship with God, with creation, and with all our brothers and sisters—our passion becomes a means of great redemption and healing in the world.
My initial teenage dreams of love and romance were never realized—because they were formed, not from reality, but from stereotypes, Hollywood fictions, and selfish motives on my part. I wanted to be loved! To be the #1 person in someone’s life! To be adored and attended to constantly. I now dwell in a marriage of 21 years that is wonderful and faulty and always changing. It is real, every day, and I’m very grateful for it.
But my passion—the fire at the heart of my soul—has found expression in so many ways beyond my marriage. And I trust it will keep finding outlets—places to spark and people to warm and visions to make real.