"Remember, I am with you always to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20)

[2/9] Novena of Grace: "I beg for the grace of childlike interiority"

Peter Paul Rubens: Ignatius joins the poor in begging for alms


here are three childlike virtues that St Ignatius of Loyola received during the first couple of years in the path of his conversion. The first is Ignatius's childlike trust. Let me quote at length from the Autobiography (AB) or Pilgrim's Testament:

In the beginning of the year 1523, therefore, he set out for Barcelona. Many offered to accompany him, but he refused, as he wished to go alone. He expected to derive great advantage from placing his whole trust in God alone... he wished to place all this confidence, hope, and affection in God alone.

However, he went through a lot of death-dealing scruples, which literally were capable of killing him permaturely. He did not even reach full recovery yet from his cannonball injuries and succeding operations. When he arranged for his voyage, the ship captain agreed to take him free knowing that Ignatius had no money. But there was one condition, i.e., he should take with him as much sailors’ bread as would suffice for his sustenance throughout the voyage. Were it not for this condition imposed by the captain, Ignatius would have refused to take with him any provision at all.

When he left Rome for Venice. He had in his possession six or seven pieces of gold which they had given him to pay his passage from Venice to as far as Jerusalem. He had taken this money with him from Venice only because he was told he cannot enter Jerusalem without it. But when he realized that the act ran contrary to his trust in God alone, he gave the money away to beggars. There was one last hurdle when Ignatius fell very weak and ill and he was left alone in an open field by his fellow pilgrims. But Christ appeared to him, as He had appeared on former occasions. By this vision he was greatly strengthened and consoled. The next morning, filled with new courage, he came to the gate of the city, and although provided with no certificate of good health, entered unquestioned by the guard. In the same way he left the city unquestioned. His companions were surprised at this, for they had to present a certificate, which he had taken no pains to procure. Ignatius made no effort to get money for his voyage to Jerusalem because he felt sure nevertheless that God would provide him with means.

The second is Ignatius's stubbornness which is a kind of childishness and the other side of childlike trust. Throughout Ignatius's voyage starting from Loyola he moved from one extreme of hard-headedness to another extreme. But we can understand Ignatius for he was still an infant, a child. He came from a world thinking of exploits and renown for himself, may that be spiritual or worldly. He was being purified from those desires little by little. He admitted to his secretary, Gonçalves da Câmara, that “he had been bothered by this vice [of vain glory] for two years” (AB Preface, 1). He seems to have suffered of it from Loyola to Barcelona (AB 36). Thanks to the exploits of the saints that he read when he was still in Loyola. His desire to follow in the footsteps of Sts Francis, Dominic and Onuphrius, albeit, childish, ignited the fire in his heart.

The third and last is Ignatius's childlike interiority. Ignatius journeyed from the "exterior" to the "interior." Both his childlike trust and childish stubbornness led him to tarry the interior path where God had been calling him. This path was freed little by little from his inordinate attachments. He became more and more like an obedient child who knows how to listen to the Spirit. He matured interiorly and spiritually such that despite his dream to remain in the Holy Land, he was able to listen no longer to himself alone but to God. It was at this stage that Iñigo becomes Ignatius. His spiritual rebirth or renaissance happened in Jerusalem. Let me end with an excerpt from the article Iñigo’s Pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1523 by Fr Maurice Gilbert SJ, translated into English from French by Fr Josef Mario Briffa SJ.
Apart from the arrival in view of Jerusalem and what he lived the day before the departure from the Holy City (i.e. on September 22, 1523), Ignatius summarised his stay in the Holy Land in only one sentence: “He always felt this same devotion [experienced when seeing the city for the first time] on his visits to the holy places” AB 45). Without the accounts of Füessli and Hagen, we would be reduced to conjectures about what they saw and under what conditions! But this discretion on the timetable reveals above all, it seems, that Iñigo is, in Jerusalem, completely interior and spiritual.
Today is the second day of our Novena of Grace in honor of St Ignatius of Loyola. We retrace the footsteps of the pilgrim when he embarked on a life-changing, far-reaching and intense journey exactly 500 years ago.

Grace to beg for: "I beg for the grace of childlike interiority"

Suggested Scripture passages to ponder: Matthew 11:25-27—"Although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike"; Matthew 13:24–43—"Let them grow together until harvest"

'TODAY, IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE HARDEN NOT YOUR HEARTS'—EVER IN SCRIPTURE, IT IS THE HEART THAT PRAYS. In today's featured reading, what word or phrase from God speaks to me?—PONDER—LISTEN—THANK—SURRENDER. I contemplate God's word and then end with the OUR FATHER...

Repeat this prayer for nine successive days.

Suscipe (Prayer by St Ignatius)

ake, O Lord, and receive
all my liberty, my memory,
my understanding and my entire will. All I have and call my own. Thou hast given all to me, to Thee, O Lord, I return it. Everything belongs to Thee; do with it as Thou wilt. Give me only the love of Thee and with it Thy grace, that is enough for me. Amen.

With St Ignatius we pray:

oul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O Good Jesus, hear me.
Within Thy wounds hide me.
Suffer me not to be separated from Thee.
From the malignant enemy defend me.
In the hour of my death call me.
And bid me come unto Thee,
That with all Thy saints,
I may praise Thee
Forever and ever.


St Ignatius of Loyola, pray for us.