Ignem veni mittere in terram — I have come to cast fire on the earth. These words of Our Blessed Lord come spontaneously to the mind when we think of today’s great saint, Ignatius of Loyola. Much more than the root form of the name — Ignis, Ignatius, “aflame” — the comparison comes from the fire that burned in the heart of St Ignatius and that he wanted to light in the hearts of all. Few saints have had a more lasting influence and effect on the mission life of the Church than St Ignatius, and that influence finds its source in his closeness to the burning furnace of love which is the Heart of Jesus.
Is it chauvinism to point out that, like St Thomas Aquinas, St Ignatius owes a lot to the Benedictine order? it was in a Benedictine monastery in Spain that he composed his Spiritual Exercises and at the feast of the Annunciation, 25 March 1522, that he dedicated his life to wielding the spiritual arms of the Holy Name of Jesus, the Sacred Heart, and the sword of the Word of God. It was in a chapel of the Benedictine Abbey of Montmartre that on the Feast of the Assumption 1534 and later on at the altar of the Virgin of the Basilica of St Paul-without-the-Walls, served by Benedictines, that was born the Society of Jesus. Finally, it was the Benedictine Pope Pius VII who in 1814 reestablished the Jesuits in all their rights after their shameful suppression under Clement XIV.
Given all this, is it too much to say that God himself has united at the feet of Our Lady these two orders which so powerfully help the Church? The Benedictine motto UIOGD — ut in omnibus glorificetur Deus, that in all things God may be glorified — and the Ignatian motto AMDG — Ad maiorem Dei gloriam, for the greater glory of God, — bear more than a striking resemblance. They indicate two souls enamoured with the same love of God and passion to extend His reign in the world, albeit in different ways.
The monks of Notre Dame Priory nourish special devotion to St Ignatius because of their apostolate of retreats which take inspiration from the Spiritual Exercises, the “most perfect code of the laws of salvation and perfection, which every good soldier of Christ should use,” to quote Pope Pius XI, who made Ignatius the heavenly patron of all spiritual exercises.
May this great saint inspire us all with greater love for Jesus, and lead us deeper into the spirit of prayer, thanks to which we shall be more focused on the eternal goal of our lives: the praise, reverence and service of the Divine Majesty for the salvation of souls. May that flame be lit in our hearts as well, and may it set the world ablaze with love for God and zeal for His greater glory!