St Ignatius of Santhiá

OFMCap, priest (entered heaven this day in 1770)

Dear Nate,

Now that you’re a senior you’re in the spotlight whether you like it or not.  The younger students, football players, and Compass members will be taking cues from you whether they realize it or not – it’s a sociological thing, not necessarily a conscious decision on their part.  So although I share your pleasure at the outward success of your Fall Faith Fest, I am even more pleased at the spiritual resolutions you mentioned in your last note. In fact, they reminded a bit of today’s saint.

He was one of a long line of Capuchin friars who literally saved Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries.  The Capuchins are a branch of the Franciscans founded at the beginning of the rebellion started by Martin Luther – an observant Franciscan wanted to return to the primitive ideal of poverty and simplicity, so he started a new branch that was kind of a throwback.  Today’s saint became a Capuchin six years after he had already been serving as a diocesan priest in northern Italy. When he abandoned his promising ecclesiastical career to take the Capuchin habit (which was brown with a white hood – we get the name of “cappuccino” coffee from that look), his aristocratic family was indignant, but he found his niche.  He spent most of his 55 years with the Capuchins serving as sacristan (no small task in a convent with 87 priests) and confessor to laypeople.

His humility and obedience were exemplary and refreshing – especially considering the tardiness of his entrance into religious life and his upper class background.  They were the fruit of prayer and sacrifice, and so they in turn began to produce a plentiful harvest. Soon a steady stream of folks from the surrounding countryside and neighboring cities and towns flowed into his monastery in order to receive spiritual guidance from the gifted friar.  

When war broke out in northern Italy (which happened every couple years during those turbulent times), Ignatius was made chief chaplain of the army and the hospitals, at the express request of the King of Piedmont.  He fulfilled the duties of his new task with his same old zeal, determination, and gentle charity. After the war he was made novice instructor, until he was afflicted with an eye ailment, which brought him back to his old convent and his old duties for the last 24 years of his life.

His ministry wasn’t marked by fantastic, miraculous phenomena, unless you consider the conversion of thousands of hearts miraculous (which I, for one, do).  How did he do it? He had two simple rules: 1) hard work (he used to say, “Paradise is not made for slackers. Let’s get to work!”); and 2) he guided all souls under his care by loving them from the inside and teaching them by example.  That’s why your latest spiritual resolution made me think of today’s saint. You have resolved not to give direct orders to people and never to criticize verbally, but to influence by the power of your example and your kindness. I think Saint Ignatius would nod his head in approval.  And if you ask him, he may even lend you a hand.

Your devoted uncle, Eddy

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