Fr Paul reads from the Gospel of Matthew (13: 31-35) in which Jesus tells the story of the mustard seed, so small, and yet it grows into a tree that allows birds to perch in its branches. Afterwards, Fr Paul shares a little about Saint Ignatius of Loyola, whose memorial we celebrate today.
Fr Paul says, Ignatius was born in Loyola in the Spanish Basque country. He was a soldier, but was wounded in the battle of Pamplona (against the French) at the age of 30. During a long convalescence he read a life of Christ and a collection of lives of the Saints. Through this he discovered that his true vocation was to devote his life wholly to God. He was as systematic about this as he had been about his military career: he spent a year’s retreat in a Dominican friary, made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and then set about learning Latin.
Such enthusiasm in a layman caused grave suspicion in the Spanish authorities, and he was questioned and imprisoned more than once. In 1528 he moved to Paris and continued his studies; and then in 1534 Ignatius and six companions bound themselves to become missionaries to the Muslims in Palestine. By the time they were ready to set out, war made the journey impossible and so the group offered their services to the Pope in any capacity he might choose. A number of them were duly ordained and they were all assigned to various tasks.
Soon it was proposed that they should organise themselves into a regular religious order, and in 1540 the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) was formed. Ignatius was the first Superior General until his death. Soon after the foundation of their order the Jesuits began to meet the challenge of the Reformation.
Ignatius had a gift for inspiring friendship and was the recipient of deep spiritual insight. Soon after his conversion Ignatius wrote the Spiritual Exercises, a systematic step-by-step retreat that can be followed by anyone – and has been followed by many ever since.
So today, Fr Paul invites us to ask, ‘St Ignatius Loyola…pray for us!’