In the journey of life, there are experiences that God gives us that help us to realign our lives more intimately to Him. Variations of this can happen every day. These experiences are the things of conversion. The conversion experience helps us to be more convicted of the reality that we are created by God and we are meant for Him. There are certain experiences in the Christian life that are meant to be capstones in the conversion experience. These events are the big conversion experiences that are given to us to change our lives forever. St. Ignatius of Loyola was a man who knew what it meant to be converted to God radically through an experience of Him. He knew what it meant to be knocked off his horse like St. Paul and to see the light of Jesus burn within him.
Ignatius was born in Loyola, Spain in 1491. Ignatius before his conversion was a soldier. While in battle, a cannonball wounded one of his legs and broke the other. Heavily injured, Ignatius was forced to spend weeks recovering. It was during his recovery that he read The Life of Christ by Ludolph of Saxony. Ignatius was used to knight’s tales and romantic stories, but was moved in a way he never was before when he read about the life of Christ. He was brought to an experience, which he referred to as spiritual consolation. Ignatius described this experience in his classic Rules for Discernment as “an experience of an interior movement in the soul, through which the soul comes to be inflamed with love of its Creator and Lord; and when it can in consequence love no created thing on the face of the earth in itself, but in the Creator of them all.” It was this experience of the Lord bringing him consolation that led him to his guiding spiritual principle called the “principle and foundation.” The essence of the “principle and foundation” is a need to discern what in our lives is ordered to union with God and His will for us. These things need to be embraced. The things that are a distraction to us growing in intimacy with God and conformity with his will for us needs to be purged from our lives. This process stems from the conviction that we are nothing apart from God’s loving will for us. This loving will from our creator is the only thing that can direct our lives to its purpose. In going through the principle and foundation, we must allow God to bring us to the place where we are ready to look at every aspect of our lives, to be purified in God’s loving mercy and be brought to a deeper intimacy with Him.
Few people in the Church’s history can be said to have impacted the life of the Church as profoundly as St. Ignatius. Ignatius lived in a time of great confusion in the Church with the protestant reformation brewing as he was coming into his conversion. Ignatius was a saint that God raised up, to provide much needed renewal to the Church. St. Ignatius heard God’s call to be a specialist in promoting the encounter between man and God. He once again taught the Church how to pray.
At the heart of the St John Paul II’s Theology of the Body is a call to receive the redeeming gift that Christ comes to bring us. St. John Paul II teaches us how to receive the gift and be a gift to each other. This dovetails St Ignatius’s call to remove anything in our lives that is not from God or ordered to His Will for us. But, why do this? Because we are dignified people, adopted sons and daughters of a loving Father. We cannot fully experience redemption without knowledge of the person of Jesus Christ and knowledge of who we truly are. As St. Ignatius taught the Church how to pray anew, he taught her how to know Christ and what he desires to bring into our life. Prayer must be a primary pursuit of every Christian who is in touch with his or her desire to be free. St. Ignatius has shown us a way. May St. Ignatius continue to inspire the Church to live our lives for the greater glory of God.
Father Andre Melancon was ordained in 2011 and is the pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas Church on the Campus of Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, Louisiana. He is also the Vocation Director for the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux. Father Andre has attended the Theology of the Body I and II courses with the Theology of the Body Institute and has served as a chaplain for a Theology of the Body I course.