Answering the call

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated August 21, 2016 –

I watched the movie Ignacio de Loyola a few nights ago. It is a wonderful movie. I was impressed with the script, the acting, direction and the entire production. Needless to say, I loved it. I must confess that it touched me in many ways, both good and disturbing.

As a dyed-in-the-wool Atenista from my first day of school in prep to my college graduation, the Ignatian ethic was always being rubbed on me.

Watching the movie brought back a lot of memories. The letters AMDG (Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam) was something we wrote on top of our test papers. We wrote it on every essay we crafted, every assignment and exam we took. It was written on the blackboard daily. The Loyola crest shown in the movie was painted on the chapel doors, and the Prep School gate. Early on, I memorized St. Ignatius’ prayer for generosity which goes:

Lord, teach me to be generous.

Teach me to serve you as you deserve;

to give and not to count the cost,

to fight and not to heed the wounds,

to toil and not to seek for rest,

to labor and not to ask for reward,

save that of knowing that I do your will.

I find much comfort in this prayer to this day.

What disturbed me in the movie was not anything about its technical or artistic aspects. The elements that a good story told in that medium were well executed. What I found troubling was the story of Iñigo himself. He was a man of high social standing, a true knight in the most traditional sense who was willing to fight for the glory of love, honor, and loyalty to his king and country. And he most certainly did all that, until complications set in.

In a battle to protect the motherland, he suffered a broken leg which left him with a limp — a crooked gait that ended his dreams of knighthood and all its attendant glory and pride. Crippled and recuperating in bed for four months, he had nothing to read but the lives of saints and of Christ. There, in the midst of pain, despair, regrets and boredom, he accepted God’s invitation to leave his old life and walk in His path.

Watching the movie, Iñigo’s response to the call made me feel afraid, for my own sake. It was the path unknown, the one less traveled. I felt that if God called me to a life of service, I would probably find every excuse to refuse Him.

Would I be willing to be a foot soldier who would deny all my worldly connections if God demanded it? The answer is, I do not know. If I said yes, I would probably argue with Him every step of the way.

If we truly listen, God is probably calling us to do something, but we are too distracted or cowardly to hear it. Is it something dramatic or earth-shaking? We do not know. But I am sure it is something that will shake our individual lives if we follow it.

Some are called to live big lives that can affect a lot of people and change a lot of things for good or evil. Smaller callings, though not as dramatic, are as important. Touching one life with an act of kindness could set the wheel turning for a series of events that could lead to something bigger.

When you look back and review your life, you will catch themes and meanings that can give you an idea of how you have spent your time, and what is important to you. Or it may suddenly dawn on you how little you have done that matters to you or to anyone.

We moderns like to think life is about the pursuit of happiness. Ignacio reminds us that more than the worldly pursuit of happiness, however we define it, life is about obeying God’s will for us. It demands sacrifice, obedience, and discernment.

It is so simple yet so radical. Are we ready? Many of us are probably not and never will be. Perhaps that is why great unexpected interventions happen in life, like what happened to Ignacio. Fate brings us great disappointments to break us out of our comfortable lives and pursue a new path. It may not be the path of least resistance, but a more challenging one that will make us happy, not with riches but with meaning and purpose.

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