Editor’s note: Throughout July we are celebrating 31 days with St. Ignatius, a month-long celebration of Ignatian spirituality. In addition to the calendar of Ignatian articles available here, this month’s posts will examine dotMagi’s cannonball moments – moments that changed the course of a life, just as a cannonball hit the life of St. Ignatius Loyola has changed. The inspiration for our theme is the Ignatian Year, which marks the 500th anniversary of Ignatius’ injury and conversion.
Five hundred years ago, St. Ignatius was hit by a cannonball while fighting. He suffered a terrible fracture in his right leg and damage to his left. There are so many routes this story could have taken, but as he convalesced, Ignatius’ imagination began to wander and he began to hear God’s voice more clearly. Getting hit by a cannonball changed his life forever.
I’ve had moments like this in my own life. In fact, several. In those moments, my story could have taken a darker path, but instead I was brought into God’s shining light.
I didn’t share one of those cannonball moments. It’s a difficult story to share. It’s the story of my own depression and anxiety that kept me in my apartment and how I wouldn’t go out or see lots of people or do lots of things. The depression ruled my life.
On the other side of town, the same thing happened to my childhood friend Suzanne. We have known each other since kindergarten. She ate lunch with me when no one else wanted it because my tuna sandwich was smelly. (This is the kind of thing that makes best friendships.) We both went to school together from kindergarten to high school. We attended various colleges but kept in touch with letters, phone calls, and visits, and when I returned to Los Angeles to marry my husband, she moved into the same apartment building.
But our friendship had only broken a year earlier. Our grief and depression had separated us. We couldn’t help ourselves when we needed help most.
What I didn’t know was that it had gotten worse for her. She believed the lies in her head until they won and took her own life.
When I found out, I could have fallen deeper into despair. I could have let the lies win with me too.
I look back and wonder how I didn’t. Instead, I picked up the phone. I called a friend, Melissa, who knew us both. I told her the sad news. Knowing that she was cleaning up her parents’ garage that day, I told her I would come over to help.
Although we were too sad to speak of her, it was good to be with someone my friend Suzanne knew. I sorted and stacked and swept and dusted like my own life depended on it. And maybe it did.
I now see how Suzanne’s death was a turning point in my life – in my faith – to move forward to the light. It didn’t happen all at once. It was hard work. I went to therapy and prayed and practiced and learned new ways to get good.
I only know part of Suzanne’s story. I wish I was stronger I wish I could have been a better friend than she needed me most. I wish she were still here. Like I said, it’s a difficult story to share. It’s not tidy and clean. I know God loved Suzanne so much. Your memory is a blessing to me.
Immerse yourself in 31 Days with St. Ignatius by reading Pray with St. Ignatius from Vinita Hampton Wright.
Use the hashtag # 31Days with Ignatius on your favorite social media and share your cannonball moments.
Photo by Ben Blennerhassett on Unsplash.