Companions of Jesus
Saint Ignatius' Autobiography, part 55
As the year went by and they found no passage to Jerusalem, they decided to go to Rome, even the pilgrim, because the two persons about whom he doubted showed themselves very kindly disposed on the other occasion when his companions had gone there.
They went to Rome in three or four groups, the pilgrim with Faber and Laynez, and in this journey he received many special favors from God.
He hade made up his mind after taking orders to wait a year before saying Mass, preparing himself and praying our Lady to place him with her Son. One day, a few miles before they reached Rome, while he was praying in a church, he felt such a change in his soul, and saw so clearly that God the Father placed him with Christ His Son, that he would not dare to doubt that the Father had placed him with His Son.
(I who am writing these things told the pilgrim when he narrated this, that Laynez had recounted this occurrence with some added details. He told me that whatever Laynez said was true, because he did not recall all the particulars in such detail. But he added: “When I told him that, I knew for certain that all I told him was true.” He made the same statement to me about other things.)
In my second year of novitiate much of my prayer and reflection was taken up with the question of whether or not I should take vows and commit myself to life as a Jesuit. Life in the novitiate wasn’t always perfect and sometimes the amount of time I spent with my fellow novices could be stifling. Do I really want to do this for the rest of my life? I found myself asking. And, besides, already several of my friends had left the novitiate. Why should I be the one to stay if they’d left? Then, during my eight-day retreat just a few months before the end of my novitiate I arrived at a key moment. Making use of my imagination in prayer, I envisioned a conversation between Jesus and myself. “What do you want from me?” I asked him. His answer was simple, and reassuring: “I want you to be with me.” As I shared this with my spiritual director, he pointed out to me that this experience had something in common with the experience Ignatius describes above. Now this wasn’t exactly a mystical experience on par with Ignatius, but I did have a sense of being invited to be what all Jesuits strive passionately to be—a companion of Jesus. No matter what the challenges of this life, Jesus had issued an invitation that I could hardly refuse. I felt I knew something of what the first Jesuit felt at this time in his life. And this was no small thing for Ignatius. This is why he would call his community the “companions,” or in English the “society,” of Jesus. Though many would criticize this name as presumptuous, Ignatius insisted on it, because he knew in the depths of his being that God had placed him with his son; that he was in a most intimate way a companion of Jesus.