The Life of St Ignatius

St Ignatius had a rich and varied life – from soldier, to pilgrim, to founder of a new religious order (the Society of Jesus) - and Ignatius came to see God as active in all of it. His period of convalescence following his injury at the Battle of Pamplona, leading to his conversion is particularly interesting, a time during which, as he says in his Reminiscences God was dealing with him in the same way as a schoolteacher deals with a child[27].
These Reminiscences were dictated towards the end of his life and set down in the third person, as if not so much about Ignatius but about God... God and Ignatius together ... just as our lives are the stories of God and ourselves. Our lives matter to God, what happens matters to God, and God engages with us exactly where and how we are (like any good schoolteacher) just as God dealt with Ignatius exactly where and how he was. Where he was – convalescing in the family castle, and how he was - confined to bed and wanting reading material to pass the time, wanting to read the tales of chivalry and courtly romances that he loved and was familiar with. However, all that was available was a Life of Christ and Lives of the Saints.
He continued to daydream about past military glories and winning the hand of a certain lady, but also read these books and found himself, with typical vanity and ambition, daydreaming of doing the great deeds the saints had done. He alternated between both sets of daydreams, both highly enjoyable, until he gradually noticed a difference. Dreaming of worldly glory, fame and romance, once the initial glow had worn off, he was left feeling discontented and ‘out of sorts’. On the other hand, daydreams about outdoing St Dominic, for example, and going to Jerusalem barefoot, etc, left him with a feeling of deep peace and joy which lasted. Gradually he realised that this latter set of daydreams was the gentle nudging of God leading him in a certain direction, the more worldly daydreams a distraction from it. So he learned in time to practice this gift of discernment in tune with the Holy Spirit in life’s experience. 
Recalling Ignatius’ life story, it took many years for his thinking to be ‘set down’ in the Spiritual Exercises, formative years of life as a wandering pilgrim, steeped in prayer, writing notes on his prayer, conversing with others and writing notes from their experiences. Remember how he engaged with his material – he had a lively imagination and could find material for prayer easily – e.g. looking at the sky and the stars, which he did often and for a long time [Reminiscences 11]. Remember his emphasis on the ‘inner feeling and relish of things’ rather than just knowledge, relishing his daydreams about doing great things for Christ.

St Ignatius of Loyola
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