Latin America – Nine Moments of the Novena to Saint Ignatius

A novena to St. Ignatius of Loyola was held from July 23 to 31, at the initiative of the Union of Jesuit Alumni of Latin America and the Caribbean (UASIALAC), to pray for the end of the pandemic and the victims it has caused.

During nine days, they invited the whole world to gather at 19:30 (UTC -5), until the Patron Saint’s feast day of our great saint, to pray together for the sufferings of the whole world due to the Coronavirus disease. Each day, a different country (member of UASIALAC), beginning with Colombia – the originator of this initiative – took the novena in hand, following the texts collected by the Jesuit Inteprovincial Theologate “San Pedro Fabro” of Santiago de Chile. Those texts were illustrating the meditations and the biography of St. Ignatius. For example, on the fourth day, Venezuela presented the moment when Ignatius of Loyola was in Manresa and when he developed the spiritual exercises. The Superior General, Arturo Soza, from Venezuela, had joined on that day to bring his philosophical, theological and spiritual experience and to explain how the “Magis” was formed.

More than ever, in these difficult times of pandemic, when no one is spared, this kind of initiative allows us not only to rediscover the one who did not hesitate to go out in front of danger in total trust, but also to give everyone – no matter what their background or sensitivity – the key that allows us to live today in the way of Jesus: loving and serving in everything.

Nine Moments of the Novena to Saint Ignatius
  1. “We are all in the same boat.” Said H.H. Francis in the month of March; but navigating sometimes becomes difficult due to uncertainty, economic and professional difficulties, due to the state of health and the family unit. This gathers us spiritually, and by doing so and “taking refuge” in the electronic resources that we enjoy, we also achieve a cheerful companionship with friends, disciples, teachers, and spiritual guides. In the midst of that magic that brings us together, we now receive, on behalf of our Conciliar Priest, Father Jose Nevado S.J. the text of the Novena of Saint Ignatius, beautifully documented and illustrated, created in the Jesuit Theologate of Santiago de Chile.
  2. The Storm that overturns us. Just as when we are living the Spiritual Exercises and we find that inner SELF that turns us around three times, knocks us down and extends a hand to lift us up, we think, “If we have a guide text, why not live it?”, Thus beginning an adventure against the clock to start reliving the teachings of Saint Ignatius in 9 days.
  3. “As you walk, you make a path, you make a path when you walk”, like the Pilgrim who left Manresa for Jerusalem and returned to Europe, meeting people and assembled his “work team” on the way, a year after its establishment in Panama, the UASIALAC had worked in the diverse functional axes it had drawn; but shyness and lack of maturity did not allow taking action until a common stimulus was found inside the team and each one of us took a leadership role towards a common goal. It was then when, entering the philosophy of the text that Father Nevado shared with us, we designated each day to be led by one country or neighboring countries, just as the military strategist Loyola possibly had planned.
  4. “External aid”. With the mood boosted every day and stimulated by more assistants, priests such as Fathers Rolando from Nicaragua, Ignacio from Guatemala, Eduardo from Panama, Roberto from Colombia, the Superior General Father Arturo from Venezuela and Cardinal Pedro Barreto from Peru, (former Jesuit student) also joined. With their theological, philosophical, and spiritual experience they focused us on ideas and concepts to better “understand” how the Saint was “forged” and how the model, the Magis, was formed.
  5. Latin American Ignatian Family. We are not alone; we live for and by others. We were representatives of 13 countries from the different associations of schools in each nation, also those outside their nations (in North America). It was also pleasant to see the presence and participation of our parents and children, of some teachers who educated us, of “Fe y Alegria” mothers and even former university students.
  6. See all things new in Christ”. It is the motto with which the Ignatian Year begins in May 2021. This Novena serves as a bridge to start reflecting and living this call to be inspired by the Pilgrim, since, as heirs of that charism and those currently responsible for its validity in this time that we live, we are called to be leaders in our communities, as the Father Superior General Arturo Sosa S.J invites us to do.
  7. To the Greater Glory of God. We live an experience with humility, with simplicity. It did not require any kind of economic capital to do so. The only capital required was Will. We arrived this year without being prepared to face a pandemic, a strange enemy, for that reason, there are no agendas to organize either. What is valuable is the desire to do something, thinking of others, of Serving; that we carry inside is what moves us, and we must take advantage of it. It is a beautiful teaching to think of new challenges that unite us and of which we can take advantage, always thinking of others.
  8. “But God provides new friends … He will no longer do it alone but with others: friends in the Lord.” Reflection that we find in the Novena. New friends like the ones we met during these 9 days. The Latin American Union was strengthened with the new faces and those already known.
  9. “Ite Inflammate Omnia”, “Go, and set fire to everything.” It was the message from Saint Ignatius to Saint Francis Xavier. We are fire, we are light, we must illuminate the world. Living this novena should open our minds and our hearts to transform the world. What’s next now? What hearts are we going to enlighten?