Five Lessons I’ve Learned from St. Ignatius

By Gretchen Crowder

July 31, 2019 — Earlier this summer, I stood on the platform of a Chicago L train, certain I had been at this exact stop before. Somewhere locked in my memory were these same buildings, the same sign marking the stop on the Brown Line. As I took in my surroundings, I realized that I had in fact been right here, more than a decade earlier.

As I stood there caught up in my memories, I realized that the person who once stood in this same spot was not the person who stood there now. The first time my feet touched this ground, I had just started working for the Jesuits and I knew little about St. Ignatius of Loyola or Ignatian spirituality.

I stood there years ago full of certainty in what I believed and who I was, and at the same time full of uncertainty about why I never quite felt comfortable in my own skin. Now, I am less a person of certitude and more a person immersed in discovery, learning every day a little bit more about who God created me to be.

I owe so much of this transformation to St. Ignatius of Loyola. In the past decade, the legacy of St. Ignatius has taught me some of the most profound lessons of my life. He taught me…

1. That I am a continual creation of God. Life is a long series of discoveries about self and about people through encounter. St. Ignatius, particularly through his First Principle and Foundation, taught me that God is not finished with me yet. I am meant to be continually re-created as I learn more about myself and others.

2. That if I am becoming the person God created me to be, the details will work themselves out. When I stood on that train platform years ago, I thought that I had to have all the answers. I thought that I needed to know all the stops along the way. St. Ignatius showed me how to trust in the Lord through his willingness to lay down his sword and pick up the cross and follow Christ with no sure guideposts.

God equipped St. Ignatius with all he needed to form the Society of Jesus and leave a tremendous impact. All Ignatius had to do was lean into what God was asking of him, and that was all I had to do as well.

3. That God is everywhere. There were many moments in the last decade where I struggled with something. Like the rough twists and turns of the train traveling above the city streets, my journey was far from smooth. But St. Ignatius, through the power of the Daily Examen, taught me that if I look daily for God I will find God, even in the bumps along the way.

4. That God loves me no matter what. This understanding is not something that belongs specifically to the teachings of St. Ignatius, but it became clear to me through the first week of his Spiritual Exercises. The whole point of the first week is to see yourself as loved by God. And to see yourself loved by God not for what you own or what you do or the choices you have made. Instead, to see yourself loved simply as you are. And this gift of love from God is true for every human being that walks this earth. God loves them no matter what, and he asks the same of me.

5. That God expects more of me. I have always been a person who expects tremendous amounts of herself and, consequently, others as well. I expect “more.” Ignatius, however, altered my understanding of what this “more” should be. The word that is commonly used in Ignatian terminology is “magis” or “seeking the more.” This word, however, does not mean seeking more things — more fame, more success, more influence, more projects, more output. Instead, it means seeking to go deeper. Deeper into the person God is calling me to be, deeper into my relationship with God, deeper into love.

As I stood at that L train stop thinking about where I’ve come, my phone buzzed. As I scrolled through the alerts, I came across a picture of my three boys smiling joyfully at the camera while they tackled each other. I was instantly caught in a moment of intense gratitude for these lessons I had learned before I was blessed to be their mom. I hope that I can give them the tools they need to be exactly who God is calling them to be while subsequently knowing that they are profoundly loved no matter what.

On this Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, I invite you to learn more about him and the person God created him to be — and be open to the inspiration that will follow.

Gretchen Crowder is the director of campus ministry at Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas and an adjunct faculty member for the University of Dallas. She has a B.S. in mathematics and a M.Ed. from the University of Notre Dame as well as an M.T.S. from the University of Dallas. After teaching mathematics for almost a decade, she fully embraced her passion for ministry. She resides in Dallas with her husband and three sons.

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