So, on this feast of St Ignatius we find him walking with us, still a pilgrim on our pilgrimage. As our companion, what might he want to share with us to keep us going in these difficult times?
For a start, I think he would ask us not only to focus on the spiritual but also on the practical. In his own life and in that of the early Society, we can see how one is nourished by the other. Like so many caregivers in hospitals and homes today, Ignatius and his companions did not hesitate to help the sick or the victims of the plague.
They knew they were at risk but somehow ‘the love of Christ’, the love of neighbour – especially one who was in need – was always greater. It was this that determined priorities and made them creative in finding the means to respond. Even faced with the uncertainties and daunting needs of our own time, I think Ignatius would encourage us to live in this magis – the movement of the Spirit who enables us to transcend our fears and prudent self-protection for the sake of others (‘caritas Christi urget nos’ [2 Cor 5:14]).
Near the end of the Spiritual Exercises (§230), Ignatius frames the great concluding contemplation of God’s love with the simple principle that, ‘love ought to show itself more in deeds than words’. For him it was no cliché. We prove love by living it and when we do, it changes things. Simple though it is, it is a revolutionary truth.I don’t think Ignatius found it in books of philosophy, theology or self-improvement and well-being. For him, it was not a principle but a person. It was all that he had experienced and seen in the reality of Christ. He learned it from Christ, and he understood that it was the way Christ wanted to be served – to put our love for him into action by loving the world that he loves in all its neediness.