by Eric Clayton
This past Saturday — the Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola — my wife and I attended a wedding.
It was the wedding of a good friend, someone we’ve known for many years and with whom we share many friends, acquaintances and colleagues. The church was full of familiar faces. The Sign of Peace was particularly joyful, the first time I’ve hugged some of those friends in well over a year.
The church itself was familiar, too: Our own parish of St. Ignatius, an apt place to be on the feast day!
And St. Ignatius himself was present there, as well, as familiar as a saint can be. Behind and above the altar is an enormous painting by Constantino Brumidi: “Mystical Vision of Saint Ignatius at La Storta.” St. Ignatius looms large in the image.
The art reflects a pivotal moment in the life of the would-be saint. Ignatius and several of his companions are en route to Rome to put themselves at the disposal of the pope so as to be available to serve the needs of the Church. Still several miles from Rome, Ignatius stops to pray in a small chapel at La Storta. There, he has a mystical experience.
From his autobiography: “One day, a few miles before reaching Rome, he was at prayer in a church, and he experienced such a change in his soul, and saw so clearly that God the Father had placed him with Christ his Son, that he would not dare to doubt it.”
(p 81, A Pilgrim’s Testament: The Memoirs of Saint Ignatius of Loyola)
This experience consoles Ignatius, who trusts that God is intimately present in his work and ministry — and that Jesus walks alongside him. The vision leads to the founding of the Society of Jesus — the Jesuits. It reinforces how Christ, with whom — in Ignatius’ own words — “God the Father had placed him,” is central to Ignatian spirituality and Jesuit life.
All things flow from this relationship with Christ. And, during this Ignatian Year, we continue to ask ourselves how we might see all things new in and through that very relationship.
Which brings me back to the wedding. Our friends had selected the Feast of St. Ignatius quite intentionally. It was an invitation to reflect on what it means to enter into and sustain a relationship through the lens of St. Ignatius’ life and legacy.
Sitting in my pew, it was impossible not to take in the artistic representation of Ignatius’ mystical vision each time I looked at the new couple. I heard that echo of Ignatius’ vision, his words: God has placed one person with another, and in so doing invites us to contemplate Christ present in that other person.
But this Ignatian lens is not limited to married life. How much more poignant do our relationships become if we look at every friend, acquaintance, colleague and stranger as a person with whom God has placed us, within whom Christ dwells?
In God’s peace,
Deputy Director of Communications
Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States