My Dear Friends in Christ,
This is the 75th anniversary of our parish. Although COVID has put a damper on many of our celebrations, this weekend we have transferred our patronal feast so that we will celebrate the Feast of St. Ignatius at all the weekend liturgies and will use special readings. The Gospel (Luke 14:25-33) for the Feast calls us to make a clear and decisive choice to be a disciple – to renounce everything for Christ.
Many people, including the saints, after reading the Gospel, have been so struck by the attractiveness of Jesus that they convert to Him, or, seeing Him alive in others, they are inspired to leave everything for Him. Such is the case with our parish patron, Ignatius of Loyola, whose feast day properly falls on July 31. As a soldier and a noble, Ignatius aspired for worldly glory and fame, but 500 years ago, he was injured in battle near Pamplona, and one of his legs was almost entirely shattered. While recovering from his injury, he read the lives of the saints and asked himself, “How would it be if I did this thing that St. Francis did or what St. Dominic did?”
Feeling torn between his worldly aspirations and the deeds of the saints, he realized that in the practice of virtue he found great consolation and joy that lasted. His reading of the Gospels, the lives of the saints, and certain visions of Our Lord and Our Lady led him to discern God’s path for his life. He gave up his worldliness, made a pilgrimage to Montserrat, and undertook severe penances at Manresa, where he composed the Spiritual Exercises, which remain a bedrock of Western spirituality. He became a soldier for Christ, founding the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits.
In a decisive moment, Ignatius discovered the Kingdom of God, and his dreams of worldly glory vanished. Henceforth, he would do all for the greater glory of God. Ignatius is reported to have said that if God left him the choice, he would prefer working for the service of God and neighbor, uncertain of being saved, rather than to die with the assurance of immediate glory; nevertheless, he reminds us, “He who forgets himself in the service of God may be assured that God will not forget Him.”
Ignatius also wrote: “All the things in this world are gifts of God, created for us, to be the means by which we can come to know him better, love him more surely, and serve him more faithfully.” But perhaps, the means par excellence to know Him better is the Gospel itself, which allows us to encounter Christ who speaks frequently to our divided heart. His love has the power to change each of our lives. When captivated by His love, we learn to surrender everything to him. With Ignatius, one can pray, “Suscipe,” that is, “Take, Lord, receive, all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, all that I possess ….”
By God’s grace, a person can effectively change his or her life, but the choice is up to the person. We can continue on our path, unchanged by the encounter with Christ, walking away like the rich young man, or we can follow the example of Ignatius and give ourselves entirely to God’s service.
The Spiritual Exercises contain many meditations on the life of Christ, which are contained in the Gospel. Read the Gospels; there you will find Jesus. Everything, including the experiences of our lives, takes on meaning when one finds one’s treasure and reads those experiences in light of the Gospel. As contemplatives in action, we must let our faith in Christ and His Kingdom shine through our every word and deed.
This weekend we are honoring those couples who are celebrating their 50th and 60th wedding anniversaries. They have let the love of God, the glory of God, shine forth and have given the whole parish a powerful witness to Christ’s love for His Bride, the Church. They offer encouragement to the young that love is real and that love can last. Finally, they are living reminders of the call to holiness. We congratulate and thank them.
This weekend we will also have an outdoor Mass with a Eucharistic Procession. We interrupted the “Bread of Life” discourses for the Patronal feast, but we recall that the Eucharist is the “Source and Summit” of all life in the church. Saint Ignatius spoke of the “santísimo sacrificio de la Eucaristía, como máxima señal de su amor,” that is, the greatest sign of His Love. I want to thank the members of the Parish Staff, Worship Commission, Megan Mears and the choir, the Athletic Association, and all the ministry leaders who helped pull the event together. It is important that we are together as a parish.
As we come together as “St. I’s,” let us pause and thank God not only for the blessings bestowed on this community over these 75 years but also of Saint Ignatius himself. We have a wonderful and powerful patron, who, with a soldier’s heart, was relentless in fighting the good fight of faith. He even fights for us! Therefore, let us turn to the Lord and pray: “O God, who raised up Saint Ignatius of Loyola in your Church to further the greater glory of your name, grant that by his help we may imitate him in fighting the good fight on earth and merit to receive with him a crown in heaven. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever.”
It is a joy for Fr. Christian and I to celebrate the patronal feast of the parish with you. We are grateful for the hospitality and warmth you have shown us and continue to show us. We want to spend ourselves and our time generously in your service and the service of God. Together, let us do all things for the greater glory of God!
I wish you all a Happy Feast and conclude with a phrase that Ignatius often used at the conclusion of his letters to St. Francis Xavier:
I am completely yours in the Lord.
– Fr. Fernandes