MY IGNACIO By Sharon Roberto
It was September of 2015. Jescom was on a break from filming Ignacio de Loyola and took a semi-directed retreat with Center for Ignatian Spiritualty (CIS). As a facilitator, I listened to their joys as well as their struggles, and finding God in all they were going though. A year of eager anticipation later, I was sitting in a movie house, beholding an impassioned creation, brought by a team that dared to dream. For a moment though, I was caught between the historical and the fictionalized; but I took a deep breath and ardently embraced the sacred story.
The movie had it all: Drama, Action, Sex, Violence, Damsels in Distress and an incredibly Gorgeous Knight in Sackcloth Armor heading off into the sunset. For me, this was more than just a period film or a bio-pic. Jescom had paved the way for Ignacio, the Movie to become Ignacio, My Retreat. And here is my journal.
I shed my first tear in this scene: Ignacio is offered a prostitute, but instead of succumbing to his old worldly ways, he invites her to sit and talk. He asks her name – Ana. Encouraged, she begins to talk about her hopes and dreams.
Ignacio listens, asks, “Can you imagine Jesus sitting in that chair? Is he looking at you … what is he saying?”
My tears flow with Ana’s as she looks and describes Jesus “… looking at me … understanding me… like he had been looking at me that way all my life .…“
And this makes you happy?” Ignacio asks.
“Yes, it makes me happy.”
At the time of this scene, Ignacio was already removing his armor of pride and vanity and donning new vestments of humility and what would later be called cura personalis. Here, Ignacio’s special gift to the world unfolds – the gift of Ignatian Spiritual Direction. Spiritual Direction as we minister it here at the CIS. I remembered retreatants I had accompanied, each with their own unique encounter with Jesus. And I, ever in awe, a witness to the birthing of their love story with God. And now there he was, Ignacio onscreen, seemingly teasing me, “and THIS is how it’s done.”
But more than the memories of retreatants past, I remembered my very first contemplation. Back then, I saw a woman condemned, body bent to the ground, head bowed, waiting for my just punishment. Then Jesus told me that no one had condemned me. I answered, “I know.” And straight from the Gospel story came his words, “neither do I condemn you.” Smugly, I repeated, “I know.” And firmly, gently, he said, “THEN STOP CONDEMNING YOURSELF.” I gasped. His words flew like an arrow and pierced the core of my soul. With eyes wide open, heart wide open, I yearned to know this Jesus who knew me so well.
That was 16 years ago. I never imagined where this yearning would take me.
Like Ignacio, I had to face my own Manresa. I had to endure the Refiner’s Fire. Deafening inner voices battered me with bitter regrets, festering scrupulosity and discontent with confession after confession, flagellating myself to receive a more “just” punishment than a “one Our Father” penance. And petrifying fear sucked me into a deep, dark cave of despair.
But my Manresa paled in comparison with Ignacio’s. My mind’s self-flagellation scars did not bleed, his self-lacerated flesh did. Much like him, I had been my own worst enemy.
It was in this intense Manresa episode that I felt a one-ness with my Saint as I had never felt before. I felt as if he had touched my own wound of self-absorption, licked it and told me, “NOW WE ARE ONE” the same words he whispered as he licked the open wound of a sick man’s leg. We are one.
I wait impatiently for Ignacio’s anguish, my anguish, to end. Amidst the turbulence of voices, he finally hears his Master’s still soft voice. He looks up, and at last, chooses Life. The Enemy disintegrates. Ignacio awakens from the darkest night of his soul and basks in the light of the Morning Star. I cheer him on as I cheer the memory of my own liberation. We are free.
I go breathless with the exuberance of consolations in the scene of Ignacio at Cardoner. My heart beats wildly as his eyes and spirit lift up to the sky in divine understanding. And I, in quiet veneration, utter, in all things Lord, You have been there, after all. In my anguish, in my elation, in ALL things, I find you there. ALWAYS. Your love and your grace, O God, these alone are enough for me. Only Your Love and Your Grace.
Ignacio de Loyola. Soldier. Sinner. Saint. The man I had read about and studied all these years had become REAL. This movie did that for me. My Ignacio, who through his Spiritual Exercises published 492 years ago, has made my Jesus so real to me today, and has saved my life.
So I return to, and re-imagine my first encounter with my Lord 16 years ago. A condemned woman becomes a penitent woman, body and head bowed to the ground, not in shame, but in utter gratefulness and reverence. I wash my Master’s feet with my hair and my tears, with my heart and my soul. Jesus’ hand lifts my chin so I may look up to gaze at Him gazing at me with Absolute Love.
And I give Him permission to love me.
I do not know if I shall ever pass through another Manresa on my path to complete wholeness. But what I do know is that I love being Ignacio for others, to help them notice and in their minds’ eyes, see and speak with Jesus sitting on a chair, or perhaps standing close by; to listen to their stories as they accompany Christ to his cross, as Christ accompanies them to theirs; to rejoice with them when they choose Him — choose Life.
I imagine my Ignacio asking me, just as he asked Ana, ”… and this makes you happy?”
“Yes,” I reply, “this makes me very happy.”
About the Author: Sharon is a junior associate at the Center for Ignatian Spirituality, Philippines. She studies, gives and takes the Spiritual Exercises and retreats in the tradition of St Ignatius de Loyola—things that make her very happy.
To know more about Ignacio’s journey, join the Camino Ignaciano. Our Camino begins on September 25, 2017. For more information, click here. Or contact the following:
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