Today, July 31st, is the Feast of St. Ignatius. Without a doubt, adopting the spirituality rooted in the life of this great saint has made a huge impact in my life. Nearly ten years ago, I happened to sit across a dinner table from Fr. George Lane, the publisher of Loyola Press. The initial conversation started with Fr. Lane asking me, “so what do you know about Ignatian Spirituality?” When I replied “not much at all,” he casually started highlighting some of the foundational components of this 500 year old rhythm of life, prayer, and action. The next day, Fr. Lane gave me a little stack of Ignatian Spirituality books, and recommended I make an 8 day retreat sometime in the near future. I read those books and took his advice, and I’ve never looked back. Now, with a doctorate from Catholic University of America which focused on how those dealing with chronic illness might benefit from integrating key Ignatian practices into their lives and potentially improve their overall health, I’ve realized that I’ll never stop learning new insights about this great saint.
Over the weekend, I was reading a little book entitled Managing Oneself by Peter Drucker, a business theorist. In the opening pages, Drucker was writing about the importance of feedback analysis, which he notes is not a 20th century concept but rather one which has been around a very long time. “It was invented sometime in the 14th century by an otherwise totally obscure German theologian (Ludolf of Saxony) and picked up quite independently some 150 years later, by John Calvin and Ignatius of Loyola, each of whom incorporated it into the practice of his followers. In fact, the steadfast focus on performance and results that this habit produces explains why the institutions these two men founded, the Calvinist church and the Jesuit order, came to dominate Europe within 30 years. Well, I can’t speak to the “Calvinist church,” can say that Ignatius’s reading of Ludolf’s Vita Christi while he recovered from battle wounds greatly facilitated his conversion. More on that another time.
From the Prologue of the Vita Christi, I leave you with this thought, which sounds so, well, Ignatian:
“to always be thinking somehow about Jesus, so that you are striving to imitate him more closely, or love him more deeply.” (#38)
What a nice life challenge, don’t you think?