Defenders of the Faith: In the Footsteps of Sts. Ignatius

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The Ignatian, following in the footsteps of both Saints Ignatius, aspires to have a love for the Mystical Body of Christ that impels him to action. His motto Veritas et Caritas Christi Urgent Nos! refers firstly to the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ but also to His Mystical Body.

St. Ignatius of Antioch fought for the truth of Christ by staunchly and unceasingly combating the great heresy of his day, a heresy that threatened to sink the Church, Gnosticism. If it did not it was because the Lion of Antioch, oblivious to his own suffering, roared aloud the truth, exposing its falsehood, warning all and sundry, even as he was being led in chains through the Middle East and across the Mediterranean to his execution.

The living out of their axiom, “my love is crucified” implied for both Saint Ignatius of Antioch and Saint Ignatius of Loyola a filtering of all their theories and projects through obedience to the mystical body of Christ. More precisely still, St. Ignatius of Antioch emphasized the necessity of union with the hierarchical Church for union with the Most Holy Trinity is only possible through union with Christ; union with Christ through adherence to the bishop, (Letters of St. Ignatius of Antioch: Polycarp 6, 1-2; Ephesians 20, 1-2; Philadelphians 7, 1-2).

St. Ignatius of Loyola’s passion for the Truth is no less evident. In his «Formula» of the Society of Jesus, he states that the Compania is “founded chiefly for this purpose: to strive especially for the defence and propagation of the Faith”. St. Ignatius of Loyola, as much as he appreciated the life of solitude, dedicated his life to building up the Church in the tumultuous times marked by the birth of Protestantism. The history of his followers in the centuries that followed shows an unswerving dedication to spread the one true religion to the very ends of the earth. Page after page of history shows the heroism and genius of thousands upon thousands of Europe’s youth who enlisted in the ranks of the Society hoping to pour out their lives on other continents to bring the Truth to those who knew it not: from Jean de Brebeuf, Isaac Jogues and companions in North America to the initiators of the Reducciones in Paraguay, from Matteo Ricci in China to Roberto de Nobili in India.

The implications of  Saint Ignatius’ understanding of love  for the Church are far ranging. All thought, theology, personal and community lifestyle as well as pastoral action must be measured by wholehearted assent to the doctrines and  laws of the Church as defined by the Tradition of the Church. Thus the Ignatian vision of the priest is bonded intimately to love for the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ. It is a love that provokes the Ignatian to loyally “think with the Church”, to “keep our minds ready and eager to give our entire obedience to our holy Mother the hierarchical Church, Christ our Lord’s undoubted Spouse”. Or as he stated further on: “I believe that linking Christ our Lord the Bridegroom and His Bride the Church, there is one and the same Spirit, ruling and guiding us for our souls’ good”. In this Ignatius of Loyola was obeying the law of all those who had built up the Church since Pentecost. As a close predecessor to the Basque soldier, St. Bernardine of Siena, had stated: “Every interior joy; every emotion, however exalted; every vision which does not lead us to a faith-inspired love of the divine mysteries preserved in the visible and Roman Church, is to be looked on with suspicion and leads in the end to error, to Satan.”