Friday, April 22, 2005

Jesuit feast day

Today is the feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Society of Jesus.

April 22 was the day St. Ignatius and his companions pronounced their first vows as Jesuits.

Jesuits honor Mary today because Ignatius placed himself and the Society under her protection at every step of his spiritual life.

As a young Spanish nobleman, he had been a worldly soldier, largely unconcerned with religion.

That changed in autumn 1521, when he was recovering from a wound at the battle of Pamplona.

Ignatius could find nothing to read at Loyola Castle but a book on the life of Christ and a book on the lives of the saints.

The adventurous lives of the saints so appealed to his competitive nature that he decided he too could be another St. Dominic or St. Francis of Assisi.

It was in this setting that Ignatius had a vision of Mary.

Although he did not leave behind many details of the vision, Ignatius tells us it happened on the night of his conversion.

In speaking about the event many years later, in 1555, he notes that he "clearly saw the likeness of our Lady with the holy Child Jesus, and because of this vision he enjoyed an excess of consolation for a remarkably long time. He felt so great a loathsomeness for all his past life, especially for the deeds of the flesh, that it seemed to him that all the images that had been previously imprinted on his mind were now erased."

Upon recovering from his wound, Ignatius laid his sword at the altar of Our Lady of Monserrat and started walking to Jerusalem. The rest is history.


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