St. Ignatius' Autobiography, Part 4: The Lure of Romance and the Allure of God
By the frequent reading of these books he conceived some affection for what he found there narrated. Pausing in his reading, he gave himself up to thinking over what he had read. At other times he dwelt on the things of the world which formerly had occupied his thoughts. Of the many vain things that presented themselves to him, one took such possession of his heart that without realizing it he could spend two, three, or even four hours on end thinking of it, fancying what he would have to do in the service of a certain lady, of the means he would take to reach the country where she was living, of the verses, the promises he would make her, the deeds of gallantry he would do in her service. He was so enamored with all this that he did not see how impossible it would all be, because the lady was of no ordinary rank; neither countess, nor duchess, but of a nobility much higher than any of these.
Nevertheless, our Lord came to his assistance, for He saw to it that these thoughts were succeeded by others which sprang from the things he was reading.
I must admit that I’m a romantic at heart. I remember having many such dreams myself as a younger man. But when it came to dating I was shy, and my insecurities got the better of me. Even when I was fortunate enough to fall in love, and be loved in return, still my insecurities would cause me to question whether it was possible for me to be loved by such an extraordinary woman. I nearly married once, but other ambitions drew me away for a time, and the opportunity was no longer there when I returned.
Now, eight years a Jesuit, it seems, anyway, that God had other plans. Yet, still, even now when things get a little rough, or I meet someone whom I attracted to, my imagination can get the better of me. What if we were to fall in love? What if I were to marry this or some other woman who fell in love with me, and I with her? My romantic side tells me how wonderful it would be! Yet, soon the Lord brings other thoughts. It is as a Jesuit that I have found peace in God’s will for me, though such moments bring me face to face with what I have given up for it—that deep love with one other, children of my own. I also realize that if someone were to fall in love with me, they would be falling in love with Mark, the Jesuit, the Mark who by means of the commitment I have made is freer to strive to be all that God wishes me to be. To abandon that for someone’s love, even if I also shared that love for her, would to become somebody other than the person she fell in love with. Indeed, at least insofar as I understand my vocation at this point in my life, it would be to ignore God’s will for me and choose to be something other than my best self. Such mysteries are the stuff of all vocations whether to religious life, priesthood or married life. We hold to our commitments so that we might someday be all that God wishes us to be.