This year, the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola has an extra sparkle. Not only is today Ignatius Day for Jesuits around the world, it also comes nestled within the Ignatian Year. Five centuries ago, while fighting willfully a hopeless battle on the ramparts of Pamplona, Ignatius fell seriously wounded. The wound was to save his life. Thanks to his brush with death, and his longer, bed-ridden tenancy with fragility and boredom, the head-strong soldier slowly turned to God. Out of destruction and suffering came a conversion, the impact of which still resounds through the Church and the world.
Wounds as keyholes for grace – such is the lesson of Ignatius’ conversion. A lesson we need most thoroughly these days in Canada. The ongoing exposure of the magnitude of pain accumulated in the residential school system has revealed the depth of wounds suffered in this country. But if these lesions can help initiate conversion in the Church and civil society, the suffering does not remain all together senseless. When they work to increase our love and labour for justice, then the wounds of others can save us.
So too in the frightening realm of climate change and ecological injury. The damage done to Earth, if only we attend to it compassionately and contritely, can call forth our conversion to more peaceable ways of dwelling. Even when the destruction looks irredeemable, our faith in the healing power of wounds well cared for can draws us out of our harm and into our mission of gentle creativity with the rest of Creation.
The following are the lyrics to a song I wrote to commemorate the 500 years of Ignatius’ conversion. You can listen to my rather patchy recording of it here.
He got to know his skin,
got to know it from within
and the more he touched on God
the more God felt like him–
a body beaten full of grace,
a body beaten full of grace.
One, Two, Three
catch the eye of the Trinity
looking down on our broken lives
discerning with a winsome smile
which of them will get to be
the saving earthly refugee
the saving earthly refugee.
He got battered a thousand ways
and each break strengthened his faith
that the God of his deepest dreams
was the God of his clearest days–
a body limping full of grace
a body limping full of grace.
Glory has a sphinx’s smile.
Power is a force fragile
in our hurting, human fists.
Wealth and all the other wiles
in the foe’s big bag of tricks
are no question dangerous,
but a body beaten full of grace
a body beaten full of grace
knows how to convalesce.
Greg Kennedy SJ is a Jesuit priest working as a spiritual director at the Ignatius Jesuit Centre in Guelph, Ontario. His prayer often takes the form of poetry. Care of creation is central to his vocation. His recent publications include Reupholstered Psalms: Ancient Songs Sung New and Amazing Friendships Between Animals and Saints.