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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

homily on the feast of st. ignatius

Ignatius: the Limping Pilgrim
31 July 2007, Santa Maria Parish, Iloilo City

Good afternoon. Every year, during this time, the Jesuits, especially the Jesuit Scholastics are busy in giving recollections, prayer sessions, talks, and para-liturgies to Ateneo students from different levels, regarding the life of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Yesterday, I took part of that tradition by giving a para-liturgy to our primary school students which includes the students from grades 1, 2, and 3. I started my homily with them by asking “What was the height of St. Ignatius?” To facilitate this question with the young ones, I gave them two options to choose from. Perhaps, you would like to make a guess from this question. The first option was 5 feet and 1 inch and the other is 5 feet and 2 inches. I presented these options to them and I asked them to raise their hands when it was time to choose. Predictably, many of them were confused on which was the right answer.

But “What was really the height of St. Ignatius?” Historical facts show that St. Ignatius was indeed 5 feet and 2 inches. Just like the height of Dr. Jose Rizal, Christina Aguilera, yours truly and the like. But because I wanted the kids to be motivated and get their attention, I made a little twist from the answer. I told them that the height of St. Ignatius was both 5’1” and 5’2”. After saying this, I went in front and made a limping action. I refreshed their memories by saying that St. Ignatius was hit by a cannonball that is why his right leg was shorter than his left leg. That is why he walks 5’2”, 5’1”, 5’2”, 5’1”. Hence, his height was practically both.

My friends, I told you this story because today we celebrate the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus. It was in May 1521 that he was struck by a cannonball during the battle defending the fortress in Pamplona. One leg was wounded, the other broken. He was brought back to recuperate at his home, the castle of Loyola. St. Ignatius, being worldly and vain, really wanted to go back to a life of a gentleman at the royal court. Hence, he doesn’t want to have a crooked leg. So he demanded that the bones of his leg be reset even at the price of two painful surgical operations without any form of anesthesia during that time. The leg eventually healed, but he was left with one leg shorter than the other. Because of boredom, he read the only two books available in the house – a book on the Saints and a book on the life of Christ. Then a miracle happened. The more Ignatius read these books, the more he considered the exploits and courage of the saints worth imitating. This experience marked the beginning of a conversion that eventually led him to become a pilgrim, a scholar, a priest, a saint – all for God’s greater glory. And the rest is history.

The story I told you at the start is something that is very catchy especially to the young ones. At least at their very young age, they know something about St. Ignatius which is actually a very crucial part in Ignatius’ life. Furthermore, we can draw some insights from this story for our personal reflection and consideration. There are two things I invite you to focus on. First the cannonball experience. And second, the limping Ignatius.

First, the cannonball experience. The famous cannonball really paved the way for the conversion of Ignatius. The experience made Ignatius think and reflect upon what to do with his life. We too experience different cannonballs in our lives. Some hit us soft and others hit us hard. But these cannonballs make us think of ourselves, our love ones, and perhaps life and God in general. These are the moments when our principles and values are tested. These are the experiences that make wonder. Yet, I like to believe that our cannonball is our cross in life that constantly invites us to follow our Lord. The most important component of the cross is not that it causes pain and not that is causes suffering. The most important component of the cross is that it gives life to others. When our pains do not bring life to others, this is not the cross of Christ because the cross of Christ always gives life. Christ invites us in the Gospel to give more of ourselves in order to give more life to others.

Second, the limping Ignatius. I think it was really hard for Ignatius, being a courtier, to accept that he was crippled. Yet that didn’t stop him from giving himself to the call of God. It wasn’t an excuse for him not to go the extra mile. Instead of just staying in Loyola, he traveled far places by foot just to reach Jerusalem and eventually Rome, to serve our Lord. For me, this is Magis: the desire to serve impelled him to give himself more, and to be more available for others. This is also very evident in the life of St. Ignatius and his companions. When St. Ignatius and his companions waited for a boat to go to the Holy Land so as to give their service, “to save souls”, they waited for sometime before finally resolving instead to serve under the Vicar of Christ in Rome. During those times, travels could take months and even years. Yet, while waiting, they never become idle. They busied themselves with many ministries like attending the sick in nearby hospitals, teaching and preaching the young and old alike, and even doing ministry with prostitutes and prisoners. They always found an opportunity to be missioned, to be called by Christ, even in situations of waiting, even in situations of great challenges. And this was all possible because they knew where their heart was, it was always in Christ, in all that they did for His greater glory. Christ was always the center of their life.

The story of St. Ignatius is also our story. Everyday, God invites us to follow him more, to be with him more, to be like him more, even in situations of waiting, even in situations of difficulties, even in situations of great challenges. Come to think of it, we could have just settled with the height of St. Ignatius as 5’2” or even 5’1”. However, there is a bigger story in the one-inch difference of Ignatius’ height. It is a story that reminds us that there is always an opportunity to see Christ more clearly, love Christ more dearly, and follow Christ more nearly. And this is what we are celebrating this afternoon. We are all invited to follow Christ more so that we can give ourselves more to others whether we are 5’1” or 5’2”.

St. Ignatius of Loyola, pray for us.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

the sacrament of waiting

The Sacrament of Waiting
by Fr James Donelan, SJ

The English poet John Milton once wrote that those who serve stand and wait. I think I would go further and say that those who wait render the highest form of service. Waiting requires more discipline, more self-control and emotional maturity, more unshakeable faith in our cause, more unwavering hope in the future, more sustaining love in our hearts than all the great deeds of derring-do that go by the name of action.

Waiting is a mystery—a natural sacrament of life. There is a meaning hidden in all the times we have to wait. It must be an important mystery because there is so much waiting in our lives.

Everyday is filled with those little moments of waiting—testing our patience and our nerves, schooling us in our self-control—pasensya na lang. We wait for meals to be served, for a letter to arrive, for a friend, concerts and circuses. Our airline terminals, railway stations, and bus depots are temples of waiting filled with men and women who wait in joy for the arrival of a loved one—or wait in sadness to say goodbye and to give that last wave of hand. We wait for birthdays and vacations; we wait for Christmas. We wait for spring to come or autumn—for the rains to begin or stop.

And we wait for ourselves to grow from childhood to maturity. We wait for those inner voices that tell us when we are ready for the next step. We wait for graduation, for our first job, our first promotion. We wait for success, and recognition. We wait to grow up—to reach the stage where we make our own decision.

We cannot remove this waiting from our lives. It is part of the tapestry of living—the fabric in which the threads are woven that tell the story of our lives.

Yet the current philosophies would have us forget the need to wait. “Grab all the gusto you can get.” So reads one of America’s great beer advertisements— Get it now. Instant pleasure—instant transcendence. Don’t wait for anything. Life is short—eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow you’ll die. And so they rationalize us into accepting unlicensed and irresponsible freedom—premarital sex and extramarital affairs—they warn against attachment and commitment, against expecting anything of anybody, or allowing them to expect anything of us, against vows and promises, against duty and responsibility, against dropping any anchors in the currents of our life that will cause us to hold and to wait.

This may be the correct prescription for pleasure—but even that is fleeting and doubtful. What was it Shakespeare said about the mad pursuit of pleasure? “Past reason hunted, and once had, past reason hated.” Now if we wish to be real human beings, spirit as well as flesh, souls as well as heart, we have to learn to love someone else other than ourselves.

For most of all waiting means waiting for someone else. It is a mystery brushing by our face everyday like stray wind or a leaf falling from a tree. Anyone who has ever loved knows how much waiting goes into it, how much waiting is important for love to grow, to flourish through a lifetime.

Why is this so? Why can’t we have love right now—two years, three years, five years—and seemingly waste so much time? You might as well ask why a tree should take so long to bear fruit, the seed to flower, carbon to change into a diamond.

There is no simple answer, no more than there is to life’s demands: having to say goodbye to someone you love because either you or they have already made other commitments, or because they have to grow and find the meaning of their own lives, having yourself to leave home and loved ones to find your path. Goodbyes, like waiting, are also sacraments of our lives.

All we know is that growth—the budding, the flowering of love needs patient waiting. We have to give each other time to grow. There is no way we can make someone else truly love us or we love them, except through time. So we give each other that mysterious gift of waiting—of being present without making demands or asking rewards. There is nothing harder to do than this. It tests the depth and sincerity of our love. But there is life in the gift we give.

So lovers wait for each other until they can see things the same way, or let each other freely see things in quite different ways. What do we lose when lovers hurt each other and cannot regain the balance and intimacy of the way they were? They have to wait—in silence—but still be present to each other until the pain subsides to an ache and then only a memory, and the threads of the tapestry can be woven together again in a single love story.

What do we lose when we refuse to wait? When we try to find short cuts through life, when we try to incubate love and rush blindly and foolishly into a commitment we are neither mature nor responsible enough to assume? We lose the hope of ever truly loving or being loved. Think of all the great love stories of history and literature. Isn’t it of their very essence that they are filled with the strange but common mystery—that waiting is part of the substance, the basic fabric—against which the story of that true love is written?

How can we ever find either life or love if we are too impatient to wait for it?

Copyright © 2006 er2ol. All rights reserved. Patent Pending.