This Sunday commemorates not only the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, but also, because it falls on July 31st, the conclusion of the Ignatian Year. For those attending Mass at the St. Mary of the Assumption Chapel on campus the liturgy will be that of the Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola rather than that of the 18th Sunday.
This Ignatian Year, beginning last March 20th with the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the life-changing injury of Ignatius at the battle of Pamplona and including the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the canonization of both Ignatius and Francis Xavier on March 12th, commemorated and highlighted the importance of the conversion, life, and legacy of St. Ignatius of Loyola for the Church and for the world.
This special year called to mind the fact that without a cannonball there would be no canonization, and it offered, and continues to offer, each of us an example of finding God in all things - even in a life-threatening injury - and of answering the ultimate question of life: “What does God want from me?”
That question was proposed by Fr. Robert Welsh, S.J. ’54 as the basis for a Saint Ignatius education and as the foundation of all that we do at Saint Ignatius High School. Finding out what God wants from each of us is truly the task of a lifetime, but there are key moments for each of us - cannonball moments - where we are literally required to give an immediate response.
When Ignatius was in bed convalescing he could never have known what future events hinged upon his decision to change his allegiance from the King of Spain to the King of the Universe. None of us knows what will be precipitated by our own personal “butterfly effect” as we choose directions in life. Cannonball moment decisions are momentous, and they have an effect on that person and all with whom she or he will come into contact for the rest of their lives and beyond.
After his recovery, as he lived for 11 months in a cave along the River Cardoner in Manresa, Spain, Ignatius wrote in his Spiritual Exercises that our call is to come to be able to see God in all things: even in the life-changing shattering of bones by a cannonball.
Earlier in the Spiritual Exercises Ignatius notes that we should be indifferent to sickness or health, poverty or riches, dishonor or honor, a short or long life. Only a man who has gone through what Ignatius went through could make those statements and not be laughed at. He knew first-hand sickness, poverty, dishonor, and therefore also was confronted with the very real possibility of a life that was, to quote Thomas Hobbes, “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”
Finding God in such a Hobbesian life is not very common these days, yet it is important for all of us to keep in mind that even the healthy, wealthy, honored, and long-lived of our world have cannonball moments. Realizing that an Ignatius approach - seeing God even in these life-shattering events - is the only authentic way to deal with such times can be one of the lasting benefits of having gone through the Ignatian Year, and it will help us to strive to get better and better at answering the question, “What does God want from me?”