06 From Imitation to Identification - Fr K. John Cyriac S.J.

posted Jul 25, 2018, 11:11 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Jul 25, 2018, 11:12 AM ]
St Ignatius of Loyola grew up steeped in the tradition of imitation. Born in 1491, in Spain, the youngest among thirteen children, he followed in the footsteps of his brothers, who became soldiers for local Spanish rulers. Schooled in the legacy of his forefathers and local folklore, he desired to be a knight. Like a traditional knight, he was filled with total unbridled loyalty and commitment to a king. The 30-year-old "Inigo" was surrounded by the garrison of the French troops. This cost him his leg, but his imitation of a valiant knight won him the admiration of the French troops who escorted him to the castle of Loyola.

While recovering at the castle, desiring and looking forward to imitating courtiers at the court, he discovered that his leg was not set straight. Like a brave knight, clenching only his fist, he allowed the doctors to break his leg once again, and reset the bones. During the long and protracted convalescence, he wanted to while away the time by reading books on Amadís de Gaul. This was not to be, as the castle housed only two books – The Life of Christ and The Life of Saints. While reading these books, he found that the thoughts of chivalry no longer gave him sustained delight. However, the more he read the lives of saints, and the more he sought to imitate them, the more joy he experienced.

Inigo, the knight errant who served an earthly King, left home in 1522. He was now to become a Pilgrim, with his eyes set on doing great things for God by outdoing the saints in their acts of penance. He began with a night vigil at the Shrine of Aranzazu, like other knights who kept similar vigils while embarking on something new. The neophyte pilgrim was then slowly schooled in spiritual matters by God at Montserrat and Manresa. As he watched his plans of imitating the Saints being shattered, he felt and understood that God was leading him to something bigger. Inigo would begin to experience interiorly the process of mystically identifying with our Lord. Imitating the example of other pilgrims, he soon embarked for the Holy Land. There too, he found God calling him to serve Him, not through the path of imitation, but through the path of academic learning. In the subsequent years, through schooling at Barcelona and the universities of Alcala and Salamanca, and finally at the University of Paris in 1535, Inigo the pilgrim would become 'Master Ignatius'.