On February 26, 2020, when the entire Saint Ignatius community walked out of the Fr. Sullivan Gymnasium after our Ash Wednesday Mass, we could never have imagined that it would be our last all-school liturgical gathering until May 20, 2021. Not only was this year’s closing school Mass presided over by the Most Reverend Edward Malesic, Bishop of Cleveland, but he and the Jesuits who joined him at the altar stood on the roof of the first base dugout of Progressive Field as the congregation filled the seats from home plate to the right field foul pole.
To say that we went out with a bang would, in this case, be more than just mere hyperbole since May 20 marked the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Pamplona where a French cannon ball and the right leg of Iñigo Lopez de Loyola met in a demonstration of the timeless laws of physics. That wounded Spanish soldier, known to the world today as St. Ignatius Loyola, would look back on that event as one that changed his life forever. It also, unbeknownst to Iñigo, would change the lives of millions of people who would be brought to Christ through the efforts of the men of the Society of Jesus who would follow Iñigo into spiritual – rather than military – combat.
As a way of commemorating this momentous occasion for the Society of Jesus as well as for the Church, Fr. Arturo Sosa, S.J., Superior General of the Jesuits, has called for an “Ignatian Year” to be celebrated from May 20, 2021, to July 31, 2022, the Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Between these two important dates is a third – what has been called “the peak” of the Ignatian Year – the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the canonization of Ignatius Loyola and Francis Xavier on March 12, 2022.
It is impossible to place a value on the service that any religious order has offered to the Church through the centuries, but it would be hard to find any group that has had more impact in more areas than the Jesuits. From education to spiritual direction to missionary work and service to those in need the Society of Jesus has led the way for half a millennium. This Ignatian Year is meant to highlight these accomplishments, celebrate them, and refocus them for the 21st Century through the implementation of the four Universal Apostolic Preferences discerned by the Society of Jesus and promulgated by Fr. Sosa in February of 2019.
These four themes as enumerated in Fr. Sosa’s 2019 letter to the Society worldwide, are:
A. To show the way to God through the Spiritual Exercises and discernment;
B. To walk with the poor, the outcasts of the world, those whose dignity has been violated, in a mission of reconciliation and justice;
C. To accompany young people in the creation of a hope-filled future;
D. To collaborate in the care of our Common Home.
These UAPs are in some ways attuned to the specifics of 21st Century Catholic life as seen through a Jesuit lens, yet they have their roots in those core aspects of the Ignatian vision that have been with us since the time of the cannon ball. To steal from the greatest of all modern Jesuit theologians, Cardinal Henri de Lubac, S.J., this Ignatian Year will be an opportunity for ressourcement, a French term meaning “a return to the sources,” and the theme of all of de Lubac’s writings.
At the end of the film The Company: Inigo and His Jesuits the narrator, actor Cyril Cusack, concludes his summary of the history of Ignatius and the Society of Jesus with a sentence that de Lubac and Ignatius himself would see as fitting not only for the film, but for our entrance into the Ignatian Year: “Looking back is sometimes the way of looking forward.” And for those of us at Saint Ignatius High School this last line is also a fitting reminder of the essential nature of tradition as we strive to strengthen those ties of new days and old – ties that cannot be severed.