Sunday, January 29, 2006

St. Ignatius' Autobiography Part 3: Sixteenth Century Nip/Tuck

When the bones knit, one below the knee remained astride another, which caused a shortening of the leg. The bones so raised caused a protuberance that was not pleasant to the sight. The sick man was not able to put up with this, because he had made up his mind to seek his fortune in the world. He thought the protuberance was going to be unsightly and asked the surgeons whether it could not be cut away. The told him that it could be cut away, but that the pain would be greater than all he had already suffered, because it was now healed and it would take some time to cut it off. He determined, nevertheless, to undergo this martyrdom to gratify his own inclinations. His elder brother was quite alarmed and declared that he would not have the courage to undergo such pain. But the wounded man put up with it with his usual patience.

After the superfluous flesh and the bone were cut away, means were employed for preventing the one leg from remaining shorter than the other. Many ointments were applied and devices employed for keeping the leg continually stretched which caused him many days of martyrdom. But it was our Lord Who restored his health. In everything else he was quite well, but he was not able to stand upon that leg, and so had to remain in bed.

This is kind of like the sixteenth century version of cosmetic surgery. Got an unsightly protuberance after your cannonball injury healed? Don’t fret! We’ll just cut away that recently healed flesh, saw at the bone a little, and then stretch your leg out as if it were in a torture device, in hopes that this leg won’t end up shorter than the other. Better you should suffer now than you should find your injury getting in the way of seeking your fortune in the world! Saint Ignatius, after the Battle of Pamplona, on the next Nip/Tuck!

Yes, it seems that vanity and pride are “showing through” again, not unlike that pesky bulge in Ignatius’ leg. What is it going to take to cut that pride away? Well, probably a lifetime, because Jesuit Father General Ignatius, the narrator of the story, still seems to be bragging a little bit again: “But the wounded man put up with it with his usual patience.” Yeah, no big deal!

But this isn’t unmitigated vanity. After all, in the midst of this it is also striking that he doesn’t take all the credit, recognizing “it was the Lord Who restored his health.” Given that realization, I have to wonder if he isn’t poking fun at himself in the next line where, loosely translated, he observes: All was well, except for the fact that I couldn’t stand!


Blogger Mark Mossa, SJ said...

David N.,

I'm having a problem accessing the comments on the last post for some reason.

But, in answer to your question, yes, I'm headed to Weston for studies this Fall.

Peace, Mark

2:44 AM  
Blogger Steve Bogner said...

I remember reading that in the autobiography and thinking how vain he must have been at the time. To undergo that surgery - with nothing much at all to kill the pain - so that his leg wouldn't look so bad just astonished me.

But this was also a preview of the determination he had, which he would draw on the rest of his life.

11:22 AM  
Blogger ShadowMayhem said...

in reading some of this... I can almost see Eddie in Ignatius' writtings... that almost twisted sense of humor...

6:35 PM  

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