By KAY SATTERFIELD, Commentary | Published August 19, 2021
This year marks the 500th anniversary of a powerful moment in the life of a saint–a grave injury that caused St. Ignatius of Loyola to re-examine his life and his trajectory. Severely wounded in the Battle of Pamplona against the French, the soldier (then known as Igñacio of Loyola) began to contemplate—and ultimately record for all of us—a series of meditations about choosing to become a deeper follower and friend of Jesus.
The Society of Jesus, or Jesuits, are celebrating around the world this important anniversary as “An Ignatian Year: To See All Things New in Christ.” What does this mean? What does it offer each of us?
The hope and focus of the Ignatian Year is a renewed commitment to discern what God has given us and how we return that love by helping others in their spiritual growth, walking with the excluded, and caring for our common home. Each of these Jesuit apostolic preferences are invitations to give back from what has been generously given to us by God. They are beautiful invitations to share our gifts in ways the world needs more than ever.
About 12 years ago, I began discerning where God was inviting me to serve. I was in the midst of completing “The Spiritual Exercises” of St. Ignatius retreat in daily life and considering a call to work more formally in pastoral ministry. I asked myself, “Are you really calling me God? A quiet, sometimes anxious, middle-aged, mother of four? Are you really inviting me to serve the People of God in a deeper way?” As I prayed and pondered with these questions, I came across this adaptation of a poem by Emily Dickinson:
“They might not need me—yet they might—
I’ll let my heart remain in sight—
A skill so small as mine might be
Precisely their necessity.”
This poem was for me an affirmation to answer God with a wholehearted YES!
With the support of my pastor, family, friends, and my spiritual director at the time, I decided to enter a Spiritual Direction Formation Program and obtain a Masters in Pastoral Care from Fordham University. These credentials helped to develop and cultivate my natural gifts so I could help others see how God was working in their lives too.
Although this process of “Ignatian discernment” led me deeper into ministry work, what St. Ignatius asks of us is quite simple: to reflect on and discern how we are called to share God’s light and love with the world around us. How are we called to generously share our gifts? St. Ignatius echoes St. Francis of Assisi in teaching that love expresses itself more in deeds than words. Actions speak louder than words, as the saying still goes. In sharing our gifts, in sharing our heart, we co-labor with God in the work of grace so we become, as Jesuit motto goes, “Men and Women for Others.”
After his spiritual conversion, St. Ignatius was a layperson with a simple desire to help souls. During his lifetime, that desire became the Society of Jesus, then a network of schools, and ultimately manifested into what today is also a network of parishes, missions, and spiritual directors across the world. Spiritual conversation/direction is one way to help souls progress in their spiritual growth. I am very blessed to walk with persons of faith as a spiritual director at Ignatius House Retreat Center and witness God working in people’s hearts. It is a graced ministry.
How might you be invited to build on and share your gifts in loving service to others? How might that be precisely their necessity?
Kay Satterfield, MA, is a retreat director at Ignatius House Jesuit Retreat Center.