Ignatius of Loyola as Leader

[Homily: ADDU Celebration of St. Ignatius of Loyola, 30 July 2012

We are happy today once again to come together in celebration of a great man of God, St. Ignatius of Loyola, who was many things: a mystic, a spiritual father, a priest, a man of the Church, a servant of God. He was also a leader.

H i s W a y To L e a d e r s h i p

Ignatius was a remarkable leader. But quite different from Rome’s Ceasar, the Holy Roman Empire’s Charlemagne, or France’s Napoleon. He didn’t win any great military campaigns. As a matter of fact, his greatness begins with the account of his having lost a battle. The battle was not for a continent; it was for one citadel. When Ignatius’ level-headed comrades in arms had already given up the battle as lost, Ignatius fought on. He fought against all odds, rallying the troops, refusing to surrender. For him it was a matter of honor; it was a matter of glory – which may not have been too far from vainglory. In his commitment and martial prowess, he won the admiration even of his French enemy. In the end, his determination could only be broken by a vicious cannon ball, which broke his one leg and injured the other. Saluting his courageous leadership, his conquerors provided him their best surgeons to repair his leg.

They may have been the French’s best surgeons, but I think Ignatius would really have preferred our Dr. Vicky Bello. When he realized the result of surgeons’ handiwork was that part of his bone would protrude beneath an unsightly lump of flesh and his leg would be deformed, he ordered that an operation be performed to cut off the offensive lump and protruding bone, even though there was no anesthesia available for him. This self-conscious leader preferred to endure torture rather than suffer a deformity.

For what would the lovely ladies whom he thought much about in life think were he to have to appear in the tight fitting garments of his day with a deformed leg? While convalescing on his bed, he thought much about those beautiful ladies, and how he would impress them with his eloquence, his gallantry, and his heroic feats. But having been reading from a Carthusian’s life of Christ and a book recounting lives of saints, he suddenly began thinking about imitating the saints and even surpassing them in their saintly practices and accomplishments. He began noticing differing interior movements as he thought about performing feats to impress his beautiful ladies, then about feats that would be performed for God. That introduced him to the workings of the Holy Spirit in his life which converted him from a relatively frivolous life at the service of earthly royalty, to a life in the service of the eternal Lord and King. It was in the service of this Crucified King, into whose loving eyes he peered then asked, “If you have done this for me in love, what have I done for you? What am I doing for you? What ought I do for you?” that he distinguished himself in discipleship and leadership.

“What ought I now do for you?” he asked. After a general confession, he hung up his sword and dagger at Our Lady’s altar in Montserrat, then went on a spiritual journey that took him to the heights of consolation and the depths of despair in a cave of Manresa, which resulted in his renowned Spiritual Exercises, and brought him eventually on a personal pilgrimage to the Holy Land, despite the difficulties of travel at that time of war between Christians and Turks, the shortage of food, and the plague. In the Holy Land, where he thought he could spend his life imitating the life of Jesus, and delighted in examining the supposed footprints left by the Lord before his ascension to heaven, he was ordered to return home to Europe by the Franciscan Administrator on pain of sin.

After an arduous journey back to the continent, at 30 years of age, he decided he needed to study “in order to be of greater help to others.” That was the decision which initiated eleven years of academic learning, first, at Barcelona for grammar, then at Alcala for philosophy, then at Salamanca for more philosophy. In seeking education, he suffered humiliation, poverty, self-imposed penance, and worst of all the Inquisition, which never found him guilty, but imprisoned him in Alacala, then again in Salamanca. Here he was thrown into a common prison and shackled by the foot to his companion, Calisto. Not wanting to accept a prohibition to teach religion until he had finished all his studies, he eventually found his way to the University of Paris. There he was flogged in public by mistake. Clearly, on the battlefield, on the operating table, on arduous journeys, in prison, in the classroom, this disciple of Jesus could take a lot of pain!

But it was this discipleship that was the heart of his leadership. It was at the University of Paris that he won his first companions, each learned, each talented, – till the end of their lives, friends in the Lord: Francis Xavier, James Laynez, Alonso Sameron, Nicolas Bobadilla, Simon Rodiguez, Jean Codure, Paschase Broet, initially bound together by a devotion to their leader, Ignatius, and the desire either to travel to the Holy Land or to put themselves at the service of the Pope. Since travel back to the Holy Land turned out to be impossible, the Spirit put them in the service of the Pope. The company of friends was to be formally recognized as the Society of Jesus and their members would be called what was originally a pejorative term, “Jesuits.” Its General Superior, their leader till death, would be Ignatius.

H i s S p i r i t u a l I t y

Let’s now consider his spirituality.

He was a leader. Initially, he led energized by his own ambition to impress admirers in the courtly culture of romance and chivalry. To lead, he was willing to pay a dear price, to risk his life, to suffer pain.

But then this leader, discerning the spirits, found himself led to an experience of the overwhelming presence of God in the world, to the experience of forgiveness for his many sins, to a gentle conversation with Jesus crucified on the Cross, to discipleship energized by an increasing intimacy with him; Ignatius followed him in loving people in the world and proclaiming to them the Kingdom; he followed him in inviting people to discipleship, and making them choose, either/or, either Him or the Evil One; either/or, either Him and poverty, insults, contempt and humility, or the Evil One and riches, honor and pride. On this basis, Ignatius was a leader. He was to lead people to choose Christ, to choose life. To do so, he was wiling to suffer in battle against the Evil One for not having chosen death.

He was a leader who had attained great clarity in fundamentals. “Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save his soul. All other things on the face of the earth are to help him fulfill the end for which they were created. From this it follows that man is to use these things to the extent that they will help him attain his end. Likewise he must rid himself of them in so far as they prevent him from attaining it. Therefore we must make ourselves indifferent to all created things….” Tantum quantum. Use things tantum quantum, to the extent that they help. Be rid of them when they don’t. If he did not need noblemen’s clothes, he would make a beggar happy with these. If he did not need money, even for difficult journeys, he would not accept it, not even from his brother. If for God’s greater glory, he would need to send his closest friend to the farthest of lands, he would. If he would need ten long years to write the Constitutions, he would take ten years to do so.

He was a leader of great inner freedom. In following the self-incarnating Lord proclaiming the Kingdom, he too accepted the world with its many diverse peoples, some laughing, some weeping; he did not turn his back on it, but loved it as the theatre of God’s Kingdom.

But his proclamation of God’s Kingdom entailed his free and active personal rejection of the opposed worldly realm, the reign of self-interest, selfishness, riches, honor, pride. He was willing to lead in advocating God’s Kingdom to others, rejecting the worldly realm. Necessary was a world worthy of the King, a world of peace, justice, love and harmony among different peoples on God’s earth, a world were people were free to live in peace with each other under God’s rule.

For this he had to be a leader free of distracting, sometimes destructive attachments, and was therefore willing to take the means to be free of attachments. He structured his life to remain free.

He was a leader who would find his increasing degrees of perfection in increasing degrees of humility, ultimately by “desiring and choosing poverty with Christ poor, reproaches with Christ reproached, and to be a fool for Christ.”

He was a leader who knew the meaning of love: that love ought to be manifested in deeds rather than words, and that love consists in a mutual interchange by the two parties, a giving and sharing between the two parties. He knew that God’s love present through his deeds in one’s life and in one’s redemption and in one’s world, needs to be responded to in deeds. Ignatius led in love, in responding to God’s deeds of love in deeds.

F r e e d o m t o C h o o s e L i f e

There are many Ateneans from ADDU who are leaders. They are among the elders of Davao, the leading class. They are leaders in industry, in politics, in education, in sports, in the arts, in the NGO world. You may perhaps already be among them, exercising leadership in this metropolis, or even beyond Davao. Or, you may be a leader here in the school, in grade school, in high school, or numbered among the 400-plus college student leaders who on my invitation participated yesterday in a special “gathering” on the ADDU Leader Sui Generis, 160 of whom suffered severe food poisoning. In being numbered among ADDU leaders, I wonder whether given Deutoronomy’s stark alternative between life and death (Deut 30:19), you would have the freedom to choose life and not death, knowing that it profits you nothing if you gain the whole world and suffer the death of your selves (Cf. Lk 9:25). Ignatius was a leader energized by his experience of the mercy and goodness of his Lord and King. He was appointed to service despite his sins and weakness. (Cf. 1 Tim. 1:12ff.) He was a leader for the Kingdom. Perhaps, in celebrating his memory in our difficult world, you too are being invited to leadership.

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About Joel Tabora, S.J.

Jesuit. Educator
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2 Responses to Ignatius of Loyola as Leader

  1. Society of Judas says:

    Jesuits are fallible

    -Catholic Encyclopedia

  2. Society of Judas says:

    The Smoke of Satan has entered the Church.

    -Pope Paul VI

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