31 July 2008


Memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Priest
Lk 14:25-33

The whole Church honors today the soldier-turned-priest who gave the world one of her greatest gifts: Ignatius of Loyola. Ignatius was born in Loyola, Spain, in the year 1491. He was a soldier before he was converted by God. After conversion, he studied theology in Paris, France. Eventually, he attracted several men by his holiness and wisdom, and founded the Society of Jesus – or fondly called “Jesuits” – in Rome. The members of the Society dedicate themselves in giving greater glory to God through the maximized and proper use of their individual charisms that they place at the service of the Church and in total obedience to the pope. Ignatius returned to our heavenly home in the year 1556, with the mission to the newly discovered Philippine islands in both his mind and heart.

Today, the Society that Ignatius founded serves the Philippine Church in many valuable ways: as missionary priests or brothers, first and foremost, but also as musicians, constitutionalists, professors, physicists, mathematicians, doctors, mass media men, engineers, architects, artists, and many others. The same Society of priests and brothers continue to give the Church in the Philippines outstanding pastors who are either Jesuit themselves or are Jesuit-trained. Among them are clergy from the San Jose Seminary, an interdiocesan seminary run by the Society of Jesus for the formation of Filipino priests. Following are some of the illustrious sons of San Jose: Gaudencio Cardinal B. Rosales (Archbishop of Manila), Bp. Antonio Luis Tagle (Diocese of Imus, Cavite), Bp. Angel Lagdameo (Archdioces of Jaro and currently President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines or CBCP), Bp. Paciano Aniceto (Archdiocese of San Fernando, Pampanga and Head of the CBCP Episcopal Commission on Family and Life), Bp. Pablo David (Auxiliary of the Archdiocese of San Fernando, Pampanga), Bp. Honesto Ongtioko (Diocese of Cubao) and Bp. Teodoro Bacani (Bishop-emeritus of Novaliches and constitutionalist). Among her priests are Fr. Anton Pascual (Minister of Social Services and Development and Director of Caritas Manila), Msgr. Clem Ignacio (President of TV Maria and Rector of the Basilica of the Black Nazarene) Msgr. Jerome Reyes (Rector of the Basilica of San Lorenzo Ruiz where the first Filipino canonized saint, Lorenzo Ruiz, was baptized and worked as a parish secretary), and still hundreds. But two are closest to San Jose Manggagawa Parish where I am presently assigned as Pastor: Msgr. Antero Sarmiento (its first Pastor) and my self. I was ordained to the priesthood in 1995, after formation under the Jesuits of San Jose Seminary.

But the Society of Jesus is a tremendous gift not only to the Philippine Church but also the Philippine nation in general. Through its schools and universities – foremost of which is the Ateneo de Manila University – the Jesuits develop present and future leaders in and for Philippine society. Many of those who curve the destiny of the Philippines are alumni and alumnae of any of the Jesuit schools.

Indeed, St. Ignatius of Loyola was God’s gift to the world in general and to the Philippines in particular. While he died with the mission to the Philippines in his mind and heart, without actually setting foot on its shores, he had somehow reached the Philippines through the priceless contribution of the religious order he founded.

As the gospel prescribed for his memorial today is proclaimed, we are reminded of three essences of Ignatian spirituality: radical discipleship, regular discernment, and complete generosity.
Radical discipleship means leaving everything behind for Jesus Christ. This is a requisite to carrying our cross and following the Lord Jesus. How can we really carry the cross we are supposed to carry when we are already carrying too much because we refuse to let go and leave everything behind? How can we follow Jesus when our hearts are not free because of inordinate attachments? The spiritual exercises, which St. Ignatius authored and popularized (just when recollections and retreats were not common yet), reaches its climax in the “Prayer of Oblation” which begins with the words “Take and receive, O Lord, my liberty, my memory, my entire will” and ends with the words “Only Thy grace, Thy love on me bestow. These may me rich; all else will I forego.” Radical discipleship flows from radical oblation that flows from radical obedience.

Regular discernment means reading the signs of the times and responding – not reacting – to what they tell us. Just as the tower-builder in the gospel today, Christian disciples must be men and women who are trained in the art of discernment which involves sitting down and, as the gospel today puts it, “counting the cost”. St. Ignatius of Loyola showed that discernment is not only for the wise and the learned. Discernment is for every authentic follower of Jesus, requiring the heart even as it needs the mind. Daily discernment may take the form of examination of conscience, which Jesuits now call “examination of consciousness”. The whole Ignatian spirituality may be said to rest greatly on its understanding, teaching, and practice of discernment.

Complete generosity – as a response to God’s unconditional love – is one of the great themes of Ignatian spirituality. The spiritual exercises mention earlier ends with the Prayer for Generosity: “Dearest Lord, teach me to be generous. Teach me to serve You as I should, to give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to head the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labor and ask not for reward, save that of knowing that I do Your most holy will.” Jesus from us nothing less than all of us. “…none of you,” Jesus concludes the gospel today, “can be my disciple unless he gives up all his possessions.” Ignatian spirituality, however, looks at these possessions as not exclusively financial possessions but anything and everything that one owns. For nothing should be our aspiration and life-long project except the greater glory of God. Thus, the Jesuits emphasize striving for the magis, with their motto Ad majorem Dei gloriam (“For the greater glory of God”).

Radical discipleship, regular discernment, and complete generosity – these among others, all anchored on authentic prayer life, characterized the spirituality that St. Ignatius exemplified and taught the world. They continue to give both the Church and the world men and women – priests and lay people – outstanding in their fields. They likewise raise to the altar countless disciples of Jesus: St. Francis Xavier (Patron of the Missions), St. Robert Belarmine (renowned cardinal during the Reformation years), and our very own Pedro Calungsod (a young Cebuano teenager who worked and was martyred in the Jesuit mission in Guam).

Recently, another Filipino Jesuit seminarian, Richie Fernando, assigned in an Asian missionary territory, offered the supreme sacrifice of Christian charity. While he was teaching a group of children, a man ran amuck and threw a grenade to their direction. One handicapped child could not run for cover. Richie did the seemingly impossible but made possible by Christlike charity: he ran toward the child and embraced him to shield him from the sharpnels. Richie died instantly, literally giving his life for others. He is a modern martyr. He is a Jesuit, a son of Ignatius of Loyola. Richie and those like him are the best commentary on Ignatius’ gift to the world.

We thank God for the giving us Ignatius of Loyola. We pray to have a great share of his spirituality. We resolve to do all things ad majorem Dei gloriam.


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