Image text: Ad maiorem Dei gloriam is the Latin motto of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), and means “For the greater glory of God.”
Born in 1491, Ignatius began his life as a privileged young man. In his autobiography he writes, “Up to his twenty-sixth year, he was a man given over to the vanities of the world and special delight in the exercise of arms with a great and vain desire of winning glory.” That great desire for glory nearly cost him his life as he was severely injured in the battle of Pamplona in 1521. It was during this time of healing that he had a great spiritual awakening and understood that his life must be dedicated to the work of Jesus. No longer would he be a knight in the battles of the world, but would become Christ’s knight, in the battle for souls.
This dedication led him to first write his Spiritual Exercises, a collection of prayers and exercises practiced over 30 days – a rather intense spiritual retreat if practiced fully. Next, following his education he would go on to form the Society of Jesus – the Jesuits – and become their first Superior General.
His prayers are some of the most beautiful. To maintain his dedication he wrote:
“O my God, teach me to be generous,
teach me to serve you as I should,
to give without counting the cost,
to fight without fear of being wounded,
to work without seeking rest,
to labour without expecting any reward,
but the knowledge that I am doing your most holy will.”
In our Gospel reading, we are told of one coming to Jesus and saying, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” I would imagine that it is the same with our modern farming equipment as it was with an oxen in the time of Jesus: If you keep turning to look where you have been, instead of where you are going, then you will have rows as crooked as Louisiana politician. You must stay focused on what is ahead, not behind. The same is very much true when Christ calls someone into his service. He calls us to abandon our former way of life and turn to him. Focus on him and him alone. If we are constantly looking back, wondering what we might have done, thinking of the temptations of our old life, or even dwelling on past sins that have long since been forgiven by God, then – as Jesus states later in Luke’s Gospel – one like this cannot be my disciple.
For us, Ignatius of Loyola is one who put his hand to the plow and appears to have never even considered looking back. He is an example to us of what unwavering faith and dedication to Christ and his Church can accomplish. May we learn from him and emulate his life in keeping our focus on the Master.
There are a few prayers which are near to my heart: Ave Maria – Hail Mary, The prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, and the Anima Christi, Soul of Christ, by Ignatius. I’ll conclude with it. Let us pray:
Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
Good Jesus, hear me.
Within the wounds, shelter me.
from turning away, keep me.
From the evil one, protect me.
At the hour of my death, call me.
Into your presence lead me
to praise you with all your saints.
Forever and ever.