Yes, Sunday takes precedence, but we can still remember him.
Because he had spent all those months in his sickbed, Ignatius got bored. He asked for something to read. He was hoping for adventure books, tales that were popular back then: knights fighting for the hands of beautiful ladies, traveling to distant lands, and battling strange creatures.
But for some reason, two completely different books were brought to Ignatius. One was a book about the life of Christ, and the other was a collection of saints’ stories.
Ignatius read these books. He thought about them. He was struck by the great sacrifices that the saints had made for God. He was overwhelmed by their love of Jesus.
And Ignatius thought, “Why am I using my life just for myself? These people did so much good during their time on earth. Why can’t I?”
Ignatius decided that he would use the talents God had given him—his strength, his leadership ability, his bravery, and his intelligence—to serve God and God’s people.
While Ignatius continued to heal, he started praying very seriously. God’s peace filled his heart and assured him that he was on the right path.
When Ignatius was all healed and ready to walk and travel again, he left his home to prepare for his new life. It wasn’t easy. He was 30, which was considered old in those days, and he was getting a late start in his studies for the priesthood. In those days, the Mass was said only in Latin, and Latin was the language all educated people used to communicate with each other. Ignatius didn’t know a bit of Latin. So for his first Latin lessons, big, rough Ignatius had to sit in a classroom with a bunch of 10-year-old boys who were learning Latin for the first time too!
That takes a different kind of strength, doesn’t it?
Take Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all that I have and possess. Thou hast given all to me. To Thee, O lord, I return it. All is Thine, dispose of it wholly according to Thy will. Give me Thy love and thy grace, for this is sufficient for me.
In The Words We Pray, I wrote about the Suscipe Prayer. That chapter is excerpted here:
The more you roll this prayer around in your soul, and the more you think about it, the more radical it is revealed to be.
One of the primary themes of the Spiritual Exercises is that of attachments and affections. Ignatius offers the account of “three classes of men” who have been given a sum of money, and who all want to rid themselves of it because they know their attachment to this worldly good impedes their salvation.
The first class would really like to rid themselves of the attachment, but the hour of death comes, and they haven’t even tried. The second class would also like to give up the attachment, but do so, conveniently, without actually giving anything up.
Is this sounding familiar at all?
The third class wants to get rid of the attachment to the money, which they, like the others, know is a burden standing in the way. But they make no stipulations as to how this attachment is relinquished; they are indifferent about the method. Whatever God wants, they want. In a word, they are the free ones.
The prayer “Take Lord, receive” is possible only because the retreatant has opened himself to the reality of who God is, what God’s purpose is for humanity, and what God has done for him in a particularly intense way.
A Response to God’s Love
The retreatant has seen that there is really no other response to life that does God justice. What love the Father has for us in letting us be called children of God, John says (1 John 3:1). What gift does our love prompt us to give?
In ages past, and probably in the minds of some of us still, that gift of self to God, putting oneself totally at God’s disposal, is possible only for people called to a vowed religious life. Well, God didn’t institute religious life in the second chapter of Genesis. He instituted marriage and family. I’m not a nun, but the Scriptures tell us repeatedly that all creation is groaning and being reborn and moving toward completion in God. Every speck of creation, everything that happens, every kid kicking a soccer ball down a road in Guatemala, each office worker in New Delhi, every ancient great-grandmother in a rest home in Boynton Beach, every baby swimming in utero at this moment around the world—all are beloved by God and are being constantly invited by him to love. And all can respond.