Saint Spotlight: St. Ignatius of Loyola

Photo courtesy of Natalia Tsoukala/Caritas

Helpless. That’s what I feel as I learn more about the plight of refugees. Men, women and children are being scattered throughout the globe; families are torn apart, devastated by violence. Though I care deeply about this crisis, I sit behind a desk for most of the day, so many miles away from actually doing something.

This is, perhaps, a curious reflection to commemorate the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, renowned founder of the Society of Jesus. There is much to be said about St. Ignatius. After all, the man gave the Church insights into the spiritual life that we continue to unpack to this day. But it’s easy to forget that this beloved saint spent many of his final years essentially behind a desk, serving the order he founded in a role he had actively avoided: Superior General.

How frustrating it must have been for Ignatius—a man who touted the importance of discerning God’s will in our lives—to realize that he was not called to live as he had hoped: a missionary life abroad, at the fringes of the known world. Instead, he had to watch as his friend and fellow Jesuit founder, St. Francis Xavier, departed for Asia to live the missionary life he had wanted. Ignatius would serve God and humanity behind a desk, writing letters, governing the newly formed Society of Jesus and praying.

So, then, what is St. Ignatius’ message to me—to each of us—as we grieve for those families forced from their homes by violence and hate? Certainly, Ignatius would say we should act as we are able, where we are able. Some of us are called to go to those frontlines. But for the vast majority of us, we can serve God by caring for refugees from behind what’s likely a desk. To use a bit of Ignatian language, we are called to see and serve God in all things, and that means recognizing that call to serve even in the seemingly humdrum routines of our daily lives.

When we see the suffering of refugees, we can follow in St. Ignatius’ footsteps: we can write letters, and we can pray.

  • First, we write letters—to our elected representatives. We can call them, too. Maybe even set up a visit and let them know that we as a nation—as people of faith—demand action for refugees who are fleeing conflict. Get started here. (And find more resources to learn about the issues and how to advocate here.)
  • Secondly, we pray for all those refugees who are making a journey. We pray for their needs and that we, too, might journey out of comfort and into encounter.

And as we remember the example of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits and a great, desk saint, we ask for his intercession: St. Ignatius of Loyola, pray for us!