The feast of St. Ignatius just passed, with much attention on our Jesuit campus. In high school, I picked “Ignatius” for a confirmation name. It was either that or Dymphna, the strangest-sounding saint name I could find. But, Dymphna’s story didn’t do much for me, and I thought that Ignatius would be a good choice. After all, I was attending a Jesuit high school and, while I doubt I was able to articulate much about Ignatian spirituality, I sure did like the red Hearts on Fire: Praying with the Jesuits book.
Since then, I’ve always felt some claim on St. Ignatius, so it wasn’t surprising that I chose to work at a Jesuit school when I finished my M.Div. It seemed like the right place. I liked the emphasis on justice, the commitment to education, and the deep sense of spirituality. The longer I work here, though, the more I realize how little I understand Ignatian spirituality. I’ve read the exercises, I can toss around the catch phrases, but I am realizing that the richness of this spirituality is like a very large ice berg with a very tiny tip, and I’m still trying to see below the surface.
As I do come to know St. Ignatius a little better, I find he keeps hitting the spiritual nail on the head for me. For example, I came across this unexpected gem in an article from America Magazine that a friend sent along:
It is necessary to suppose that every good Christian is more ready to put a good interpretation on another’s statement than to condemn it as false.
I felt instantly shamed by this quote from St. Ignatius, as though I was being scolded by the saint himself. How quickly I’ve found myself rushing to judgment about other Catholics who think differently than I do. It almost becomes knee-jerk: if a person says X, then she is certainly Y, and that’s simply not how I think (and, consequently, wrong and misguided). The more I’ve felt that my ideas are unheard or unwelcome, the more quickly I’ve found myself making assumptions about others. And, don’t get me started on the blogosphere, where harsh criticisms are rarely blunted, nor often given the discernment of a night’s sleep before being broadcast to the world. Rarely are the comment sections on websites filled with people who exercising the kindness and respect Ignatius reminds us we must use when we correct each other.
Truth be told, Ignatius is really on to something here. Some of the most spiritually enriching and illuminating relationships I’ve had have been with people whose interpretations on faith are very different than my own. The times I’ve had the grace to look for the best in others’ motivations, I’ve been rewarded by fuller perspective, deeper understanding, and greater hope in the people of the Church.
So, Ignatius, thanks for another wake-up call: a reminder to be charitable in my attitude, offering a generosity of spirit rather than a cynical scoff. Heaven knows that’s how I would hope others would receive my words.
The author was confirmed Angela Ignatius Batie. She works at Saint Louis University, advocates for faith doing justice, and seeks to find God in all things. She first encountered the Jesuits at Bellarmine Preparatory School, and later got her M.Div. from Yale. She thanks Mary Lou Bozza for sending the article her way.