My Own Personal Ignatius


St Ignatius at Manresa

For the Feast of St Ignatius 31 July, Provincial of the Jesuits in Britain, Dermot Preston reflects on who St Ignatius is to him.

It is reported that when a British Jesuit was asked, ‘Father, when you die, will you be afraid to meet Jesus?’, the Jesuit’s prompt response was ‘No… but I’m terrified of meeting St Ignatius!’ I suspect many Jesuits would smile and resonate with that. Yes: on the Day of Judgment, Ignatius will be giving us a harder time than Our Lord and Saviour.

An imaginative contemplation? Picture the scene: Jesus is the rather understanding Major-General, mingling with us, his recently-returned troops, back from a demanding (but only partially-successful) mission. He moves among us and shakes hands; he is grateful for our labours, he murmurs encouragement and thanks us for our contribution in difficult circumstances.

But we know that in the shadows of the arrivals lounge, waiting patiently, is Sergeant-Major Ignatius. He is just biding his time, waiting for that amiable Major-General to move on – and then we just know that Ignatius is going to come over and give us ‘a right bollocking’.

Strangely, I find this a comforting image. In a world which is afraid of prophetic contradiction and pushes rampant individualism, hard task-masters are frowned upon because they question our singular pace and push us to keep up to a collective mark. As Superior of the Society, Ignatius famously used to tear strips off his closest colleagues if he felt that they had fallen short of his (and their) standards. But they adored him, because they knew that he understood them, knew what they were capable of, loved them and really only wanted the best for them, ad maiorem Dei gloriam.

Thus, there are times as a Jesuit that things just come together, you fully co-operate with the grace of God, and suddenly you get a big Ignatian hug…and it is all the more precious because it is so unexpected.

Originally published on Thinking Faith