Light At the End of a Foggy Tunnel
During this part of his stay in Paris he suffered a great deal from his stomach. Every two weeks he had stomach pains which lasted a good hour and brought on a fever. Once the pains lasted some sixteen or seventeen hours. By this time, however, he had finished the course in philosophy, and had studied theology for several years and gathered about him a number of companions. From then on the ailment continued to increase, and all the remedies they tried proved unavailing.
The doctors finally said that there was no help for him than his native air. His companions gave him the same advice, and very earnestly urged him to follow it. By this time they had come to some decision as to what they were going to do. Their plan was to go to Venice and from there to Jerusalem, where they were to spend the rest of their lives for the good of souls. If they were refused permission to remain in Jerusalem they would return to Rome, offer themselves to the Vicar of Christ, asking him to make use of them wherever he thought it would be more to God’s glory and the good of souls. They proposed to wait a year in Venice before sailing, and if during that year there was no chance of taking passage for the East, they would be released from their vow to go to Jerusalem and could go to the Pope.
Finally, the pilgrim yielded to the persuasion of his companions. Those of them who were Spaniards had matters to settle at home which he would be able to manage. They agreed, therefore, that when he fully recovered, he would go to negotiate their business, and then make his way to Venice, there to await his companions.
This was the year 1535, and according to their agreement the companions were to leave Paris in 1537, the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul (January 25th). Bur because of the war, they were forced to anticipate that date, and left in November of 1536. But just as he was about to leave, the pilgrim heard that an accusation had been lodged against him with the Inquisitor, and a process begun. Knowing this, and seeing that he had not been summoned, he went in person to the Inquisitor and told him what he had learned, that he was about to leave for Spain, and that he had associates. For this reason he asked him to pass sentence. The Inquisitor said it was true that there had been an accusation, but that he did not see that there was anything of importance in it. He only wanted to see what he had written in the Exercises. When he saw them, he praised them highly, and asked the pilgrim to leave him a copy. This he did. Nevertheless, the pilgrim insisted that his case be brought to trial and that sentence be passed. But, as the Inquisitor seemed unwilling to do this, the pilgrim brought a public notary and witnesses to the Inquisitor’s house and received formal testimony of the whole affair.
Despite his stomach ailments, this must have been an exciting time for Ignatius. After many years of finding his way, making plans, rethinking things and now, having completed several years of study, things are really starting to come together. He’s gotten the education the Inquisition demanded of him, his current companions look like ones that are going to stick around for a while, he’s got a plan and they look like they’re prepared to help him see it through. You might expect he’d be eager to surmount any obstacles. He agrees to do what he needs to do to get healthy. But, again, there’s a matter with the inquisition. We can see his eagerness to clear the path in how he deals with the Inquisitor. He’s not willing to settle for an assurance that it’s no big deal. He insists that a sentence be passed on his case. And, if the Inquisitor is unwilling to make a judgment, as he seems to be, then Ignatius is going to make sure that someone keep a record of that. It seems clear that Ignatius has a sense that something important is about to happen, though it may not be clear yet precisely what shape it’s going to take.
I feel now something like what I imagine Ignatius felt then. Ordination, the goal I’ve been striving toward for 8+ years now is less than 3 years away. I, too, want to make sure my path is clear. Though I now I don’t have to arrive at that day perfect, there are some things I’d like to smooth out and settle between now and then. As I delve deeply into my theology studies these days, I’m trying my best to go at it prayerfully, even while I’m also concerned with my academic success. I also want to, like Ignatius, give more careful attention to my health. I find myself more confident in my vocation and more comfortable with myself and I take those to be good signs. Yet this vocation which I’m striving toward is in many ways under siege from both sides, both by those who are offended by it for various reasons and by those in authority, desperately trying to regain some credibility and, unfortunately, sometimes knocking down instead of lifting up their priests in the process. Nowhere are these tensions more apparent than here in Boston. And should this rumored document come out—right or wrong—it cannot but cause even greater turmoil. Despite my confidence in God’s call, I’d be lying if I didn’t say these things give me some pause.
Nevertheless, constant communication with God in prayer, I know, will help make this path more clear. And, like Ignatius, I’m lucky to have some fine companions, brothers and friends in the Lord, to see it through with me.