Thursday, March 16, 2006

Familiar Stranger

Saint Ignatius’ Autobiography, part 49

This done, he mounted a small horse which his companions had provided, and started off alone for his native land, finding himself greatly improved along the way. Arriving at his own province, Guipuzcoa, he forsook the highway and took a more lonely mountain road. He had covered only a short distance when he came upon two armed men advancing toward him (the road had an ill name for cut-throats) who, after having passed him, returned and followed swiftly after. He felt a moment’s fear. But accosting them, he learned that they were servants of his brother who had sent them out to look for him. It would seem that news about his arrival had come from Bayonne in France, where he was known. The two men set out, therefore, and he took the same road, coming upon them a bit before he entered his own country. They did all they could, but without success, to induce him to come to the home of his brother. He went, therefore, to the hospital, and then at a convenient hour sought alms throughout the town.

In this hospital he began to talk on divine things with many who came there to visit him, and by God’s grace gathered no little fruit. As soon as he arrived, he made up his mind to teach the catechism daily to the children. But his brother made strenuous objection to this, declaring that nobody would come. The pilgrim answered that one would be enough. But after he began, many came faithfully to hear him, even his brother.

Despite the fact that you would think that your family knows you best and would understand your motivations in following God, often it seems quite the opposite. Time after time we see examples of how in the lives of Saints, the members of their families often are among the last to “get it.” Certainly, Ignatius’ brother is an example of this. Even after all this time, we still can sense a certain amount of resistance on his part to the life Ignatius has chosen. Perhaps when he heard the news that Ignatius was returning home, he took that to mean that Ignatius had given up his crazy new life?

Sometimes I think that people in our families have a difficult time understanding our religious vocations precisely because they know us so well. How could the child that got into so much mischief, how can the boy that had so many girlfriends, how can the girl that so wanted to have a child, choose so different a life? Our families might think that we are kidding ourselves, trying to be something more than what we are capable of being. Perhaps they want to save us from our own foolishness. Yet, like Ignatius’ brother, who though he discouraged Ignatius, eventually came to see the good in what he was doing, our families come to see how at peace we are with our decision—and even happy—that, even if they still don’t completely understand it, they come to appreciate it in ways they may have never imagined.

Jesus knew what he was talking about when he said a prophet isn’t accepted in his hometown. He knew, because if what the Gospel tells us is correct, his family (who, of all families, you would think would know better) also thought him a little crazy. But they, too, came around.


Blogger Karen said...

Funny, I had not read this when I sent you my pilot outline. I see that one particular theme will really resonate for you!

8:34 AM  

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