This past week I was at my first of four weeks of an Ignatian Seminars program for Ignatian educators. Near the end of the week, we heard the first part of the story of St. Ignatius of Loyola – St. Ignatius the Soldier. I have heard and even told various facets of Ignatius’ story so many times before that I admit I entered the experience with a bit of an internal sigh. Here we go again. As I listened, however, I found myself engaged once again in this piece of his story. St. Ignatius was a bit of a trouble-maker when he was younger. He is one of the few (if only?) saints to have an actual court record. He was arrogant and self-centered. And this was the portion of his story that we were listening to… the portrait of Ignatius the soldier. He was also, however, dedicated, imaginative, creative, and courageous. He had good qualities and bad ones. In other words, he was human.
As we discussed the story in a small group later, I expressed tremendous gratitude for hearing this portion of the story highlighted again. It reminded me that we do not tell the story of St. Ignatius of Loyola in two parts – before God and after God, sinner and then saint. Instead, more often than not, we tell his whole story as one continuous tale from solider to saint, each part informing not only the person he was but the tremendous legacy he left behind. All of the qualities he had before he laid down his sword to serve Christ were still inside him the rest of his life, but he learned to reflect on them and redirect them time and again. His ability to reflect on his life in its entirety inspired him to leave us a tool for doing that same kind of reflection on our own lives in the Spiritual Exercises.
I saw a post on Instagram a couple weeks ago from someone who was once an addict. She expressed that she wasn’t broken and then fixed, a sinner and then not… she was a whole person with a whole story. And not a single part of it could be siphoned out and regarded as unimportant to the journey.
In this weekend’s Sunday Gospel, Jesus heals ten lepers. He heals ten, but only one returns in gratitude to the Lord. He asks “Where are the other 9?” My hope? That the one leper, like Ignatius, set the stage for reflecting on his life with gratitude. And that the other 9 got there one day too when they finally reflected on the colorful and complex tapestry of their life and remembered when they were profoundly changed. Regardless of how long it took each of the final 9 to come to Christ, not one moment of their story can be siphoned out and regarded as unimportant – even this pivotal moment when they fled and only one returned.
I pray this week for the grace to recognize the colorful and complex tapestry of my life and to respond in gratitude for each and every moment along the way. And I pray the same for you as well.