On Sunday, 23 May 2021 the global Ignatian Family gathered together in prayer in an online prayer service, broadcast in 3 languages at 8pm across three timezones to thousands of Jesuits and friends, and the wider Ignatian Family. (Click here to watch it again.)
Fr General Arturo Sosa SJ addressed the online gathering:
I’m in Rome in the Church of the Gesu, at the tomb of St Ignatius. I’m happy to join you Jesuit brothers, scholastics, priests, novices, valued members of the Ignatian family, and all our friends, from this place where Ignatius’ earthly pilgrimage ended. While we’re celebrating 500 years of this wound that was inflicted on Ignatius in Pamplona, it’s good to remind ourselves that this was not so much a happy ending, but rather a happy beginning! Conversion consists sometimes of great moments of change, but it is also a never-ending process. I invite you to take a moment to imagine this pilgrimage that Ignatius undertook from Pamplona to here. Ignatius’s conversion was gradual. He set out trying to imitate St Francis and St Dominic. He wanted to be better and holier than them! He was still very impulsive and stubborn, but God would work with that, and slowly and patiently transform him. God met Ignatius where he was in his life and gently accompanied him on his pilgrimage. Ignatius learned on his way that conversion means to be available and open to God, to be trusting, laying his life completely into God’s hands. His plans changed so often! This asked for a continual discernment, and a continual conversion. He had to decentre every time in order to put Christ in the centre again. The same thing happened with the foundation of the Society of Jesus. Things didn’t go smoothly like in some sort of a business plan. Rather, it was a continual listening to the Spirit, and a daily conversion. Not putting the focus on the Society as an institution, but on Christ as head of that institution. Ignatius’ story is 500 years old, but also 500 years new. Today the Society of Jesus, the Church, and all of us, are in need of continual conversion. We need to put Christ in the center, every time, again and again. This process is a pilgrimage along winding roads, up and down, sometimes having to retrace our steps, sometimes feeling lost, but meeting people along the road who indicate the way and reach out their hands to us. May this year be an opportunity to be more open to the voice of the spirit which so often speaks through other fellow human beings. May we welcome the conversion God wants for us, instead of trying to force our own conversion. May we have the patience and the determination to put obstacles and distractions to one side, and welcome the newness of the gift of our always unpredictable God. Let us divest ourselves evermore of self-love, self-will, and self-interests so as to make progress on this pilgrimage we humbly take together. We ask God that he may help us to truly see all things new in Christ.
At the end of the prayer service, Pope Francis personally offered a special blessing after a few that he recorded in a video message.
I am happy to join you in this prayer for the Ignatian Year, the celebration of the conversion of St. Ignatius. I hope that all who are inspired by Ignatius and Ignatian spirituality may truly live this year as an experience of conversion. In Pamplona, 500 years ago, all the worldly dreams of Ignatius in one instant. This one cannonball that wounded him changed the course of his life, and of the world.
Seemingly small things matter. This cannonball also meant that Ignatius failed in the dreams he had for his life. But God had a bigger dream for him. God’s dream for Ignatius wasn’t centered on Ignatius. It was about helping souls. It was a dream of redemption, a dream about going out to the whole world, accompanied by Christ, humble and poor.
Conversion is a daily matter. It is rarely once and for all. Ignatius’s conversion started at Pamplona, but it didn’t end there. All through his life he converted, every day again. And what does this mean? That all through his life, he put Christ in the centre. And he did so through discernment.
Discernment is not about always getting it right from the start, but it’s rather about navigating, about having a compass to be able to set out on the road which has many twists and turns and letting oneself be guided always by the Holy Spirit who is leading us to an encounter with the Lord. On this pilgrimage on earth, we meet others – as Ignatius did in his life. These others are signposts who help us to keep on track and who invite us to convert every time again. They are brothers, they are situations and God speaks to us also through them.
Let us listen to one another.
Let us read the situations.
Let us be signposts for others, showing the way to God.
Conversion always happens in dialogue: with God, with the others, with the world.
I pray that all who are inspired by Ignatian spirituality may take this journey together as one Ignatian family. And I pray that many others may come to discover the richness of this spirituality that God gave to Ignatius.
I bless you with all my heart, that his year may really be an inspiration to go out in the world to help souls, and to see all things new in Christ.
May it also be an inspiration to let ourselves be helped. No one saves himself. We are either saved together, or we are not saved. No one demonstrates the way to the other. Only Jesus showed us the way. We help one another to find and follow this way together.
May almighty God bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The prayer service can be viewed at https://ignatius500.global/live.