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St Ignatius Loyola
Founder of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) (entered heaven this day in 1556)
I do wish you would be careful what you read. I have never understood those parents who become so delighted when their children start preferring weird books to television; “reading” in and of itself is not a morally positive thing, you know. Just because you spend all your free time (and some of your not-free time) reading doesn’t mean you’re spending that time well – it depends on what you’re reading. Cookbooks would be fine – the Revolutionary Handbook wouldn’t (that’s the little volume that was smuggled into the seminary where Joseph Stalin was studying to become a priest; it helped turn them all into the bloody revolutionaries that they became). I vividly remember that you are more than mildly fastidious when it comes to what you put into your stomach (you always sneered at me when I took a second helping of those tasty-but-greasy French fries); do you take as much care about what you put into your mind and your imagination? Take a lesson from today’s saint.
Ignatius (Iñigo in the original Spanish) was a Christian knight from a noble family in the north of Spain. He inherited all the swashbuckling worldliness of the flashiest Spanish gallants, and as a young man, he threw himself into the battles with France that raged in the borderlands surrounding his home. There he was blasted with a cannonball and had to spend months recuperating (he ever after walked with a limp). Bored stiff, he asked for some chivalric romances (like Renaissance Danielle Steele stuff) to read. None were available in the castle (hats off to his parents), but there was a “Life of Christ” and a few volumes of lives of the saints. To pass the time, he began to read them. Soon he began to relish them. By the time he could move freely again he had been firmly convinced of the vanity of earthly glory and vowed to make a pilgrimage to Mary’s shrine at Montserrat. There he began to lead a truly Christian life, laying deep foundations of intense and heartfelt prayer and building up an impressive spiritual edifice of self-denial, charity, and dedication to the Kingdom of Christ. He went on to make another pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and then to take up studies for the priesthood in Europe’s greatest universities (although he was twice as old as most of the students). Through it all, he made “all to the greater glory of God” into his personal motto, and gathered fellow students around him in order to be able to do more for the cause of Christ. Eventually, he formed the religious order now known as the Jesuits, which has had more of an impact on the world, perhaps, than any other institution besides the Church itself. Since its foundation in 1541, there has never been a day in which the earth has not been blessed with the presence of a Jesuit who was later canonized as a saint. And it all started because he read good books instead of bad books.
Remember him the next time you reach over to pick up the latest issue of Cosmopolitan at the grocery store checkout counter. With sincerest prayers, I remain, happily,
Your uncle, Eddy