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Saint Ignatius of Loyola and the Supreme Virtue of Obedience

Updated on July 31, 2020

“The power of obedience! The lake of Gennesareth had denied its fishes to Peter’s nets. A whole night in vain. Then, obedient, he lowered his net again to the water and they caught ‘a huge number of fish.’ Believe me: the miracle is repeated each day.” ~ Saint Josemaria Escriva

The walls are closing in on the prophet Jeremiah in today’s 1st Reading (Jer 26:1-9) as he finds himself on the threshold of experiencing firsthand what it means to “shoot the messenger” so to speak. Unfortunately for Jeremiah, he is in fact the messenger. The Lord has directed him to deliver to the people of Judah this stern warning:

“If you disobey me, not living according to the law I placed before you and not listening to the words of my servants the prophets, whom I send you constantly though you do not obey them, I will treat this house like Shiloh, and make this the city to which all the nations of the earth shall refer when cursing another.”

Upon hearing this message, the people gathered around Jeremiah poised to kill him for prophesying in the name of the Lord. You’ll have to “tune in tomorrow” ~ or read Jeremiah 26:11-16 ~ for the stunning conclusion to this tale and the subsequent fate of the man who would go on to become known as “the weeping prophet,” but once again, the topic of obedience, or in this case disobedience, finds itself front and center as a point of reflection. We’ve touched upon it in the past by way of Saint Paul and his most profound letter to the Romans, we’ve discussed the Holy Spirit’s role in helping us to cultivate an obedient heart and most recently, we sought to dispel the misguided notion that obedience is a sign of weakness or simple-mindedness but instead an undeniable sign of a humble heart, fortitude, and proof of our love for God, whose Commandments are meant to set us free from the shackles of sin and vice In her legendary diary entitled ‘Divine Mercy in My Soul,’ Saint Faustina noted that in one of her mystical encounters with Jesus, He told her “My daughter, know that you give Me greater glory by a single act of obedience than by long prayers and mortifications.” (894).

Today marks the Feast Day of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, a Spanish Basque Catholic priest and theologian who co-founded the Society of Jesus ~ better known as the Jesuits ~ becoming its first Superior General in the year 1541. He was a major figure in the Counter-Reformation who would be remembered for his renowned missionary, educational and charitable works.

Born into a noble Basque family in Northern Spain in the year 1491, Ignatius became a soldier in service to the King of Spain. During the defense of the fortress at Pamplona in 1521, a cannonball would shatter his leg rendering him unable to carry out his duties as a soldier. It was during a very long and painful convalescence however that he would experience a life-altering conversion. No longer did he desire knightly glory, but instead he sought to serve Jesus. He left Loyola and set out as a pilgrim to the monastery at Montserrat. It was there that he spent all night in deep prayer and offered his knight’s sword to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Dressed as a beggar, he spent the next few months living in a cave in nearby Manresa. He began to reflect deeply on the life of Jesus, in the same way they you and I can by way of the daily recitation of the Holy Rosary. The copious notes that he took highlighting his prayer experiences became the foundation for a small book entitled “The Spiritual Exercises.” Ignatius would go on to use this book to lead others to a deeper knowledge of the mystery of God through lucid meditation on the life of Jesus.

“It is not hard to obey when we love the one whom we obey,” he would often say, and those who practice “Ignatian Spirituality“ know that his teachings are rooted in finding God in all things, listening for the God who is present among us, inner freedom ~ the likes of which can only be achieved by way of self-awareness and discernment, and “contemplation in action,” that is to say the cultivation of an active/non-monastic existence which is, at the same time, rooted in prayer.

May obedience to God’s teachings be our utmost priority in these difficult and confusing times. May we always fight the temptation to live impulsively, allowing “feelings” to dictate our course of action, instead relying on the unchanging and everlasting truth of God’s Commandments. For as Saint John Climacus once said, ”He who follows his own ideas in opposition to the direction of his superiors needs no devil to tempt him, for he is a devil to himself.”

Saint Ignatius of Loyola, pray for us.

For more on Saint Ignatius of Loyola, I invite you to revisit the Link below:


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