I’ve tried twice to write the present article. Neither scribbling quite satisfied me, and so I just decided to ramble and hope for the best. Through the prayers of St. Ignatius of Loyola, whose natalis we celebrate today, may this ramble on the Communion of Saints benefit my dear readers! Speaking of my dear readers, thanks to those who commented on my last article and made me think more deeply about the points I tried to make. Your thoughtful observations rendered the comments section more interesting than the article itself!
At any rate, how are Christians benefited by the Communion of Saints? And who makes up the Communion of Saints? All the Faithful make up this body, whether on Earth, in Heaven, or in Purgatory. (Protestants and Orthodox included, as to be baptized is to be made one with the Body of Christ.) The Communion of Saints forms a bulwark against worldliness. Meditation on the example and desires of the saints insulate us both against worldly desires and the despair which often threatens us during grave trials.
That the Communion of Saints keeps our eyes fixed on the King of the Saints, Our Lord Jesus Christ, may especially be seen in the life of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Those familiar with his life know that chivalric literature influenced St. Ignatius as a youth to seek military glory. His brave career as a soldier ended at the Battle of Pamplona, where a cannonball wounded him in both legs. This led to a long period of recuperation and agonizing surgery, which he endured most manfully. While convalescing, he wished to read more books on chivalry, but was told by his caretakers that they place where he stayed only had the Bible and the Lives of the Saints. He read these and soon found himself fired by the love of God and the desire to imitate the saints. He wrote down the words of Jesus Christ in a red pen and the words of St. Mary in blue in order to make them a constant meditation. Upon recovery, he forsook a life in the world in order to pursue one of prayer, fasting, and poverty. Eventually, St. Ignatius founded the Society of Jesus, whose members, the Jesuits, stand as one of the most prominent religious orders in the Church.
We, like St. Ignatius, are born into the world and find ourselves influenced by it. It is very easy for us to become enmeshed in mere daily living and worldly desires. The end result is losing all taste for religion. After all, does not BIBLE stand for Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth? Heaven can wait. We have decades before we need to meet our Maker! We can put off prayer, fasting, and almsgiving for later. A person with such attitudes has already been enmeshed in the world, and stands the chance of losing eternal life.
After St. Ignatius’ conversion, he never looked back. The reason is because he took up the desires of the saints. The saints’ desire for holiness and eternal life replaced his desire for worldly glory. Though the latter part of his life was spent in society (Ignatius lived as a hermit for a short while), keeping mindful of God and the Saints preserved him from adapting the desires of secular persons. As he writes in his Spiritual Exercises:
Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save his soul.
The other things on the face of the earth are created for man to help him in attaining the end for which he is created.
Hence, man is to make use of them in as far as they help him in the attainment of his end, and he must rid himself of them in as far as they prove a hindrance to him.
Therefore, we must make ourselves indifferent to all created things, as far as we are allowed free choice and are not under any prohibition. Consequently, as far as we are concerned, we should not prefer health to sickness, riches to poverty, honor to dishonor, a long life to a short life. The same holds for all other things.
Our one desire and choice should be what is more conducive to the end for which we are created.
Ignatius always remembered that he was a child of God with an eternal inheritance. In comparison to eternal life, all else is dross.
The whole trick to living in the world but not being of it resides in remembering to which community we belong. Though we love and respect our secular friends and wish for them to gain the same end we hope for, it is necessary for us to avoid falling into the same errors as they do–especially the error that religion holds no relevance to everyday life. The words and deeds of the saints–and indeed the saints themselves–can be brought into our daily lives. In our imitation of the saints, the charity and virtue we show may even be instrumental in drawing secular persons to our society.
May St. Ignatius pray that we all arrive where he and the other saints praise Our Lord through the ages of the ages. Amen.