Deep in the heart of Basque country of Spain, a soldier of Christ was born. Ignatius would become a great saint with a gifted intellect, a zeal for God and His kingdom, and a fighting spirit. Ignatius of Loyola grew up in a noble family and became a Knight as a young man. He was passionate about dueling and fighting. Wounded by a cannonball at a young age, he had to recover in the family castle. He asked his attendants for romance novels, but instead they gave him books on lives of the Saints and a book on the life of Christ.
Over a period of several months, as Ignatius convalesced, he read the lives of the saints and about Christ. He thought about his life. During his recovery time, Ignatius began to dream of doing something wonderful with his life for God. He realized just as these men and women in the books he read had become Saints, he could also become a Saint with God’s grace. He also realized that God was with him in the movements of his heart. When he began to think of serving a certain noblewoman, he became depressed and sad. But when he thought of giving his life to God in his vocation and of being a soldier for Christ, he felt happy, joyful, and at peace.
Ignatius said that God gives us desolations (as in the case of his thoughts about serving the noblewoman) and consolations (as in the case of thinking about serving God). In this way, God is present in our thoughts and uses our thoughts to guide us in making good choices for our lives.
Ignatius spent time creating the spiritual exercises. These are exercises for prayer made famous by the Jesuits. They are still used on many Jesuit retreats. He also went to Paris and pursued further studies. He met several others and formed a small community which would later become the Society of Jesus. This community would grow. Today the Jesuits are the largest religious community in the world. Our own Pope Francis hails from this religious tradition. Ignatius was a true soldier for Christ. He later died in Rome. He is the Patron Saint of soldiers, retreats and spiritual exercises.
Ignatius was a priest and a celibate, but his life contains many lessons for singles:
1. MAKE THE EXAMEN
All Jesuits are called to make the examen each day. This is a way of reflecting on your life and finding God in your life each day. One variation of the examen consists of asking for God’s light in reviewing your day, thanking God for anything good and beautiful in your day, asking God to help you see where you may have sinned during the day, asking God’s forgiveness for your sins, resolving to do better tomorrow with God’s grace and looking forward to tomorrow.
As singles, we should be using our time well to grow in our prayer life. The examen is a great addition to your daily prayers.
Discernment in Ignatian spirituality means asking for God’s grace to make good decisions. You can use this tool in many areas of your life. It can be used in asking God’s guidance in making a career decision or in marrying a certain person.
You might use this tool in the following way. Perhaps you are a young man thinking about marrying a certain woman named Joy. You might start with a certain prayer asking God’s guidance, and think about your life if you had married Joy. Notice the movements of your soul, when you think about marrying Joy, do you feel happiness and peace? These are called consolations. Or do you feel anxiety and dread and a lack of peace? These are called desolations. Cleanse your palate so to speak with another prayer, perhaps a Hail Mary. Then think of not marrying a certain woman named Joy. See how your heart feels.
God speaks to us in the movements of our heart. God can be leading you in this way. Our vocations should feel like a good fit to us. They should make us feel happiness or peace.
3. IGNATION RETREAT
There are many Jesuit retreat houses all over the world. In the Chicago area, there is Bellarmine Retreat House which is in a beautiful pastoral setting outside of the city. They are peaceful places of prayer. You can make a retreat which can last anywhere from two days to five days to thirty days. You can also request a spiritual director to guide you through the spiritual exercises during these days. These can be good times of solitude where we speak and listen to God about our lives. As singles, we should be discerning God’s will in our lives and doing it. You do not have to be a Jesuit to use the retreat houses. They are wonderful gifts to our Church.
4. BE A SOLDIER FOR CHRIST
Ignatius of Loyola realized that life is a battle. We are all engaged in a spiritual battle. At the end of the battle lies victory, and eternal life with Christ in heaven forever. We are the Church Militant, we are still in the battle. And life is a battle each and every day. We have to struggle to overcome the sinful tendencies within us and to grow in virtue each and every day throughout our lives. We have to struggle to become the saints God is calling us to be. By virtue of our confirmation, we became soldiers for Christ. We have to become Saints, overcome ourselves, defend our Church and bring others back to the Church.
5. MAKE GOOD USE OF YOUR TIME
Most singles have much more time than married people do. We need to make good use of our time to improve ourselves as people. So whether you are recovering from a serious illness, spending time in the car, or waiting in line, make good use of your time. Study, learn something, pray, reflect, recite a Psalm, pray the Rosary, pray for the Holy Souls in Purgatory, memorize Scripture, or just be in God’s presence. There are many valuable ways to use our time. Ignatius’ good use of his time during his recovery was life-changing.
St. Ignatius of Loyola, pray for us!
Ad Maiorem dei gloriam.