Ignatius was born from a noble family. From being a page in his boyhood and as a soldier in his adulthood, he was exposed to the affairs of the courts, the luxurious lifestyles of the elites, and pleasures and privileges offered to him by being of high-birth.
In 1521, he led a troop in the name of the Spanish king to defend Pamplona from their French adversaries. Pamplona had been the subject of territorial dispute between two countries and only by going to and winning the war could the victor assert its claim over the disputed land. Fully armed for battle with the strong desire to bring glory for the Spanish crown, they made their way to the fortress of Pamplona where they witnessed the coming of French troops who obviously outnumbered them. The proud and stubborn heart of Ignatius would not surrender. He fought with valor, and despite the imminent defeat, he never succumbed to the idea of retreating.
On the 20th of May 1521, the citadel of Pamplona had fallen after the six-hour bombardment by the French troops. The destruction of the fortress and the injury of Ignatius' leg by a cannonball sealed the victory of the French soldiers and shattered Ignatius’ dreams for himself forever.
His shown courage impressed the French. They nursed him back to health and allowed him to return to his hometown Loyola to recuperate. For many months of his convalescence, he was hit by boredom and requested some books to read, but books of his interests were unavailable. He was given books about the life of Christ and the saints. Without a choice at hand, he reluctantly opened and read the pages of those books which soon changed him. Losing a battle and injuring a leg, losing self-esteem brought him down but these books became his companions which cheered him up, and brought out the new and better person in him that he desired to follow the life and works of the saints and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Ignatius’ conversion did not happen outright. He was changed by his mere realization that his life was forever changed after his leg injury. He was changed by the moments of his convalescence. He was changed by the books he read. He was changed by his conviction to follow the holy men and women and the Lord Jesus. Conversion is God’s work in us. We are being formed by God in every circumstance of our lives. We are being formed by God through our experiences, our dreams and desires. Conversion too is our response to God; it relies on our openness and willingness to take part in the work of God in us.
From Ignatius’ defeat, injury, and desolation, we can learn that there is a God who heals. Healing takes time and in our brokenness and pain, God is there. God takes part in our struggles. He participates in our inner battles and provides us opportunity to grow beyond our mundane attachments. From Ignatius, we can learn that God makes people, and even objects, to become instruments of His transforming grace.
Let us recall our moments of defeat and struggles. Was God there? Let us remember our moments of healing. Were we changed?
Saint Ignatius of Loyola, pray for us.