How we see the world, our inclinations and orientations in life, our approach and viewpoints on it Iimportant issues, all of which form our basic attitude towards life.
There is always a risk that the Church or one of its religious organizations such as the Jesuits will focus on celebrating a particular “year” such as the current Ignatian year.
We run out of breath imagining new ways to celebrate it, and this reminder of Ignatius Loyola’s famous cannonball experience in Pamplona in May 1521 extends through the end of July 2022!
I can remember that one of my 8th grade religious students once wrote an essay for me with the inspiring line: “St. Ignatius is my hero because he was canonized in the leg. ”Such an insight deserves good grades, of course, and the essayist has deservedly earned a chocolate bar for his creative thinking.
Recently, however, I have been drawn to reading and rereading Pope Francis’ message of the Ignatian Year, highlighting the year as an experience of conversion. He reminds us that “Conversion is a daily matter; it’s never once and for all. Ignatius’ conversion began in Pamplona, but it did not end there. All his life he was converted, every day. And what does that mean? That he put Christ at the center all his life. And he did this through insight. The distinction is not always about getting it right from the start, but rather about navigating, having a compass to set out on a path with many twists and turns, and always being guided by the Holy Spirit who leads us to an encounter with the Lord. “
What a helpful call there is in the Pope’s words that “conversion is a daily matter”! Every time we come to the rite of penance at the beginning of the Eucharist and pray for mercy and healing, we seek conversion. Similarly, speaking of judgment as an ongoing process of navigation, and using a compass for travel is an excellent corrective to these impoverished fashions of discrimination as simple decision-making.
More than a decade ago, “New Years” as they say today, I was privileged to work in the Toowong Jesuit Church in Brisbane. I got up early most mornings during the week to swim in the nearby University of Queensland pool, and one particular morning I returned to the parking lot to find a sparkling blue four-wheel drive next to my humble Corolla. It was emblazoned with the words: “Change the color of your underwear – change your life today”. What a wonderful new way of talking about conversion, I thought at the time! Much of our Church language has yet to be reanimated and revived, and as we are heading for a plenary session this year, such a new approach could help!
The word ‘underwear’ is a wonderfully useful word in itself. Small children giggle shyly at the mention that older people prefer to use the term “underwear” or “underwear,” but there is no real substitute for it. Underwear is underwear and that’s it. One of my early Jesuit contemporaries, a lovable Jesuit brother straight from Ireland, referred to them as “little ones”. As Minister of the Jesuit Theological College Community in Melbourne, he always kindly admonished us young students to keep removing our “little ones” from the clothesline. He believed they shouldn’t be displayed in public so that passers-by in the local suburbs would admire or criticize them. Lingerie tells stories.
I remember looking up the website of Chris Brazel, the clever person behind the “change the color of your underwear” movement, and found all sorts of interesting information about this motivational speaker and advisor. Colored underwear is about attitude, and attitude is about mind, energy and strength. Underwear, its quality and color, can be a key factor in our spiritual life. Colorful underwear and underwear underwear should be constant companions. Because what could be more fundamental than the way we see the world, our inclinations and orientations in life, our approaches and viewpoints on important things, what gets us out of bed in the morning and drives us to do what we do to do? All of these elements are part of our basic attitude towards life.
Let me close with a wonderful reflection on the attitude of Pedro Arrupe, General of the Society of Jesus 1965-1983, and we hope to be canonized soon without a cannonball experience in the leg:
Nothing is more practical than finding God
that is, to fall in love in a very absolute, final way.
What you are in love with
What inspires your imagination
will affect everything
It will decide what gets you out of bed in the morning
What will you do with your evenings
How do you spend your weekends
What are you reading,
What you know that breaks your heart
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in love, stay in love and it will all decide.
May the Ignatian Year see underwork in progress for all of you!
This article first appeared in Madonna magazine Edition spring 2021.