31 july 2018 - St. Ignatius of Loyola

Vocations “come and follow me”

31 July 2018 - Jerusalem - St. Ignatius of Loyola

A life founded upon relationship with Christ
Dt 30,15-20; Ps 1; 1Tm 1,12-17; Lk 9,18-26

Excellencies, dear members of the Company of Jesus, dear brothers and sisters,
May the Lord give you peace!

1. I have known about Saint Ignatius through his great disciple, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, a great lover of the Bible, of the Holy Land and of Jerusalem. It was he who educated my generation and taught us how to nourish ourselves with the Word of God in order to give a solid foundation to our own existence.
When I was a young friar studying theology, the biblical reflections of this great Churchman have constituted for me a constant existential and vocational nourishment, and have formed me both in content and method.
It is through his courses of spiritual exercises that I came to know the figure of Saint Ignatius. One course was entitled “Two pilgrims for Justice”, and placed on parallel lines the story of the patriarch Joseph and that of Ignatius. It was a course of spiritual exercises that conveyed a particular significance for me, since it was an interpretation of the entire existence and story of the patriarch Joseph and of Saint Ignatius according to the category of pilgrimage.

2. As we all know, in this Eucharist we are not celebrating the figure of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, but in fact we are celebrating the marvellous deeds that God worked through the life of Saint Ignatius of Loyola and through his person. We shall never forget his teachings, so distant from the present egocentric and narcissistic culture. Indeed, he taught us that all our existence and everything we do in our life should be done “ad majorem Dei gloriam”.

3. In the light of the Readings that we have heard today, I would like to propose three simple thoughts that can help us to build our life on the example of Saint Ignatius: 1) the principle and foundation of our life and vocation consists in the choice that Jesus made when he called us and placed His trust in us, in spite of everything (1Tm 1,12-17); 2) the meaning of our life is found within our relationship with Jesus and in our following Him along the way of the cross (Lk 9,18-26); 3) the Word of God educates us continually to carry out the necessary discernment in order to choose Him in the concrete situations of our life and to find our life in Him (Dt 30,15-20). Let us now try to summarise these three passages.

4. First and foremost, the principle and foundation of our life and vocation is found in a free act of election, full of merciful love that God has manifested towards us.
The text that we heard as a second reading presents to us the Apostle Paul, who had arrived at the full maturity of age, and who was capable of looking back with gratitude when describing the way that Jesus Christ intervened in his life in a surprising, merciful, and exemplary manner. This intervention of Jesus Christ gave solidity to the life and vocation of Paul:
“I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength. By calling me into His service he has judged me trustworthy, even though I used to be a blasphemer and a persecutor and contemptuous. Mercy, however, was shown me... the grace of our Lord filled me with faith and with the love that is in Christ Jesus... and if mercy has been shown to me, it is because Jesus Christ meant to make me the leading example of His inexhaustible patience for all the other people who were later to trust in Him for eternal life.”
As a consequence, if the protagonist of my life, of my vocation and also of whatever I have become and can accomplish through grace is Jesus Christ, then I must not lift up my head, nor appropriate those merits that pertain to God: “To the eternal King, the undying, invisible and only God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
It seems to me that this word also describes very well the foundation of life, vocation and the example given by Saint Ignatius, as is so evident in his brief autobiography. I think that it is also useful for us, since we can easily become at times egocentric and narcissistic in our way of looking at ourselves.
It might be useful at this stage to ask ourselves a question: in which concrete experiences have I experimented this merciful intervention of Jesus Christ in my own life? In what way has mercy been used in such a way as to shape my life and my vocation? What experience do I have of feeling myself strengthened by the grace, faith and charity that Jesus Christ has shown me in personal terms?

5. The second underlining element is found in the Gospel text we have heard, which reminds us how the meaning of our life is found in our relationship with Jesus and in our following Him along the way of the cross. It is a very profound text, since it contains the famous question of Jesus: “Who do the crowds say I am?” The answer of Peter is as follows: “The Christ of God.” Next comes the first announcement of His passion, death and resurrection and the invitation to a radical following: “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow Me. Anyone who wants to save his life will lose it, but anyone who loses his life for My sake will save it.”
Saint Ignatius understood this calling to follow Jesus in a radical way as a personal calling, even before he founded the Company. He perceived it as a calling that permitted him to give meaning also to all the difficult experiences that befell him. This fact emerges in a constant manner in his autobiography. Regarding this, there is an episode that occurred here in Jerusalem, which enlightened Ignatius and which he narrates in the third person. The episode occurred immediately after the Custos of that time notified Ignatius that he could not remain in Jerusalem, as he had wished to do, but that he had to board a ship and return to Europe.
Ignatius felt a strong desire to visit the Mount of Olives and Bethfage, and he did so without notifying the friars. “When the friars of the monastery came to know that he had gone without a guide, they went to look for him most earnestly. Thus, while he was coming down from the Mount of Olives, he met a ‘Christian of the cord’ who was giving service in the monastery. This man was armed with a large stick and he was fuming with rage and threatened to hit him. He approached him and grabbed him violently by the arm; the pilgrim let himself be led back without offering the least resistance, but that rough man did not seem to want to let go of him. While he was going along the road, always being held captive by the servant of the monastery, he received a great consolation from our Lord: it seemed that he was seeing Christ continually above him. This consolation continued, with great intensity, until he arrived at the monastery” (Autobiography 48).
Ignatius never lamented in any of his subsequent adversities, including the moment when he faced a trial, but he always felt himself to be one with Christ “bound and led away” (Autobiography 52), and walking along the way of the cross.
Regarding this second aspect, I find it useful that we also ask some questions: who is Jesus for us? What place does He occupy in our life? What kind of experience do we have regarding the way we interpret the difficult moments of our lives and vocations, and whenever we feel we are alongside Jesus on the way of the cross? Do we feel ourselves in His company? Are we consoled by remaining within this experience?

6. We shall just briefly hint at the third underlining element: the first reading from the Book of Deuteronomy and the responsorial Psalm show us the option between life and death. Life consists in choosing to walk along the path of the Word of God, while death consists in turning away from God and from his Word. Nowadays, more than ever before, it seems to me to be essential and necessary that our discernment be anchored in the Word of God. Certainly, we cannot despise the contribution that the various sciences offer us today, but even in our time, it is the Word of God that can indicate to us the way of life. It is always the Word of God that must be the critical and central event that helps us face new idols that tend to confuse our conscience, to draw us away from our journey, to disorient our vocation.
In his masterpiece of discernment namely the Spiritual Exercises, Saint Ignatius teaches us that it is necessary to know how to choose which part we must stay with. We need to know how to rally under the banner of the eternal King and we should do so with the offering of our entire person and for the entire span of our life, within a concrete form of vocation and in the concrete circumstances of daily life.
Authentic discernment does not lead to the choice of just means, of mediocrity, but it leads us to live the radicalism of the Gospel to the point of offering our own selves. Let us ask ourselves whether, in the vocation to which we have been called, we have this ability to choose day by day to follow the Lord Jesus and His Word, and whether we know how to be radical followers.

7. May the Lord Jesus make each and every one of us capable of enjoying an intense and personal experience of His boundless and everlasting mercy. May He give us the grace to walk in His company along the way of the cross. May He educate us daily to discern and to choose the way of the Gospel, which is the way of life. May Mary our Mother, be our Advocate and Queen and keep watch over our journey. Amen.

Fr. Francesco Patton, ofm
Custos of the Holy Land


Events calendar


Vigil of Christmas. Bethlehem: 13.30 Entrance of the Archbishop & I Vespers - 16.00 Procession - 23.30 Office & 00.00 Mass - 1.45 Procession to the Grotto


Nativity of the Lord. Bethlehem (St. Catherine): 10.00 Mass Shepherds' Field (Greek & Catholic): 14.00 Pilgrimage


Feast St. Stephen, Protomartyr. St. Stephen: 16.00 Pilgrimage


Feast of the Holy Innocents. Bethlehem:10.00 Mass - 14.00 II Vespers (Vicar CTS)


Octave of Christmas. Beit Sahour: Holy Angels ad pastores

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