Feast of St. Ignatius: What a difference a cannon ball makes!

Dear Jesuit Alumni and Alumnae,

When Ignatius de Loyola’s leg got crushed during the siege of Pamplona on 20 May 1521, one — not even Ignatius himself — could hardly imagine what difference this wound would make in the life of so many people and, let’s put it the way it is, in the spiritual and intellectual life of mankind.

In the course of history, many, too many soldiers were hit by bullets, cannon balls or shrapnells. But why was this cannon ball so decisive? Perhaps because Ignatius was touched not only in his flesh but also and in what made him what he was at the time: a warrior and a court gentleman.

Needless to say that after such an excruciating physical trauma, dancing at the court or waging war would have been quite difficult for him. So, Ignatius shattered leg was more than a physical devastation. It was also an aggression on his pride and on his ‘raison d’être’.

Other people go through such cathartic moments and all of us have to some, albeit less torturing, extent already undergone  painful experiences.

What maybe makes the difference is that Ignatius understood (but he would probably have said that he ‘felt’) that his previous world was definitely gone and he chose to die to himself, not out of a calculated reasoning to bounce back to a new world with greater profit, but by simply abandoning himself to someone more powerful than he was.

It is because he accepted that his body did not represent anything anymore, but at the same time that his own will would not suffice to compensate that his total renunciation allowed him to slowly get access to another reality.

His singular experience has since 1521 allowed countless people to ponder about their life and the meaning of it.

I wish you all a great and meaningful feast of Saint-Ignatius!


Alain Deneef

World Union of Jesuit Alumni



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