Five hundred years ago, during the summer of 1521, a young soldier from northern Spain found himself injured and immobile, recovering from a cannonball wound received in battle. Until his injury, the goal of the young man, Ignatius of Loyola, had been to serve as a soldier and to make a name for himself as a war hero. After he was wounded, his dreams died and his hopes for a heroic life came to an unexpected end.
What does one do when the unexpected happens? How do we realign life when our dreams die? What do we do with ourselves when our physical bodies no longer function as they once did? Perhaps these are questions that at some level are common for all human beings.
In the summer of 1521, Ignatius could do nothing but lie in bed and contemplate his life. To pass the time, he began reading. He read anything that he could find, stories on romance, stories of suspense, and he even began reading the Scriptures. At a certain point in his recovery, he spent most of his time reflecting on the life of Jesus. He reflected on Christ’s passion, teaching, and the wounds of the cross. In the summer of his recovery, Ignatius began a journey of faith. He let go of his passion for a heroic life and discovered the peace found in a spiritual life.
This work of spiritual growth in the life of Ignatius would eventually impact the lives of thousands. A small band of friends soon began this journey of faith with him. Later, others would join. Ignatius and his community grew and became known as the Society of Jesus; they are known today as The Jesuits. This expression of Christian faith has helped create colleges all over the world, call priests, train spiritual directors, and has helped teach many of us the need for exercising our faith in an intentional way.
There are few prayers more meaningful to me than the prayer of Ignatius of Loyola. This prayer was offered by Ignatius toward the end of his book called The Spiritual Exercises. I invite you to take a few moments and read through this prayer:
“Take, Lord, receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, my whole will, all that I have and all that I possess. You gave it all to me, Lord; I give it all back to you. Do with it as you will, according to your good pleasure. Give me your love and your grace; for with this I have all that I need.”
Which words or phrases from this prayer mean the most to you today? Take a moment to imagine what it would mean to pray, “Give me your love and your grace; for with this I have all that I need.”
Five hundred years ago, a young man recovering from a difficult wound discovered a deeper truth about living life on this earth. I wonder today as we long for hope, peace, and recovery from a pandemic, if Ignatius might serve as a model as we mend and move forward in these post-pandemic days?
May God’s love and grace fill you with all that you need!
Dr. Cory Smith is the Senior Minister of Auburn United Methodist Church. He is a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, The Candler School of Theology at Emory University and Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia. He is married to Alicia, and they have one daughter, Sarah Morgan.