10 The Battlefield Within - Wesley D’Costa S.J.

posted Jul 25, 2018, 11:05 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Jul 25, 2018, 11:06 AM ]
The march of St Ignatius" is a hymn popularly sung on his feast day on July 31. It boasts of St Ignatius as a noble knight and a brave soldier. These two words, a saint and a soldier, being used to describe one person seem rather contradictory. The characteristics associated with a saint seem very different from those associated with a soldier. St Ignatius was able to reconcile the differences between these two profiles—a saint and a soldier—because he shifted his focus from the battlefield that was outside to the battlefield within.

The Battlefield Outside: In his autobiography, St Ignatius claims that during the early years of his life, he spent most of his time and energy in the pursuit of what he calls "vainglory"; in other words, honour, fame and riches. During the battle of Pamplona, his army was struggling, and the soldiers felt the need to retreat. However, he refused to go back, stood his ground and fought, even if it meant certain death. He was grievously injured in the battle. The enemy was fascinated by this man who fought so bravely, and they ensured that he could receive the necessary medical treatment. Through these events, we see the type of person he was, a person who was highly ambitious, and who generously gave of himself in the service of the king and his country.

The Transition: When we consider the life that St Ignatius lived before his search for God could begin, it is difficult to comprehend the transition, the conversion or the transformation in his life. What could be the odds that a person whose whole being was geared to leading armies in battle, winning honours and earning a great reputation would suddenly turn to a lifestyle that meant a life of prayer, fasting, service of the poor, rejections and humiliations? A lifestyle that proclaimed values quite contrary to what he sought all his life.