As mentioned several times lately, I have started a graduate certificate program in Spiritual Direction. The program is an Ignatian focused program, and so we are starting with the autobiography of Ignatius and the spiritual exercises. The Spiritual Exercises is not a book you read straight through, so I am not going to post about it. But the autobiography is compelling. Loyola dictated it. And he used two different people, so the original is in two different languages. The version I read has numbered sections. And then a commentary about that section to give context and background. I have not read a book formatted quite like this before, and I think the formatting in the kindle edition could have been more clear, but the actual content of the commentary was beneficial.
As helpful as the commentary was, I still wanted a full modern biography. If anyone has a suggestion of one, I would appreciate the recommendation. This autobiography has very little after the Society of Jesus was formed. And very little contextually about the era. The colonization of the Western Hemisphere was just getting started. The Reformation was also just getting started. Ignatius was caught up in the Inquisition multiple times. There were still implications from the crusades. The slave trade was getting seriously started. All of those and more are relevant to Ignatius’ story.
There are plenty of thoughts of Christianity and seeking after God. One was his thoughts about a reoccurring vision. It was a vision of a beautiful serpent. That serpent vision reoccurred multiple times, but at some point, the image stopped being beautiful. When it was no longer attractive, it was easy to discern that the vision was an evil spirit. That vision was a practical understanding of how sin works. When it is beautiful, it is hard to resist; when we see the wickedness for how it is in reality, it is no longer attractive and is easier to resist.
One frustrating point is that Ignatius frequently received offers for assistance, but turns down many of those offers because he does not think the aid is from God. That does not mean he is wrong, but it is interesting that for a guy that relied on the gifts of others for his entire support there were times when Ignatius felt he should accept them and times he thought he should not. I could not help but think about the old story of the person who says they are relying on God to save them from a flood, and when multiple people attempt to save them, the person resists saying, ‘no I am waiting on God.’ Eventually the person drowns and in heaven they ask God why God did not save them. God says, ‘I sent you three different people to help, why didn’t you let them help you.’ As an outsider, much of his story reads like that.