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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : CHAPTER III SCRUPLES--HEAVENLY FAVORS--JOURNEY TO BARCELONA

The Autobiography Of St Ignatius by Saint Ignatius Loyola

CHAPTER III SCRUPLES--HEAVENLY FAVORS--JOURNEY TO BARCELONA

At last his confessor, without any suggestion on the part of the penitent, commanded him to confess nothing of his past life, except what was very clear and evident. But as he regarded everything of the past as evident, the confessor's order did not help him at all. He was in constant anxiety. At that time he lived in the Dominican monastery, in a little cell which the Fathers had allotted to him. He kept up his usual custom of praying on bended knees for seven hours a day, and scourged himself three times a day and during the night. But all this did not remove his scruples, which had been tormenting him for months. One day, when terribly tormented, he began to pray. During his prayer, he cried out to God in a loud voice: |O Lord, help me, for I find no remedy among men, nor in any creature! If I thought I could find one, no labor would seem too great to me. Show me some one! O Lord! where may I find one? I am willing to do anything to find relief.|

While tortured by these thoughts, several times he was violently tempted to cast himself out of the large window of his cell. This window was quite near the place where he was praying. But since he knew that it would be a sin to take his own life, he began to pray, |O Lord, I will not do anything to offend Thee.| He repeated these words frequently with his former prayer, when there came to his mind the story of a certain holy man, who, to obtain of God some favor which he ardently desired, spent many days without food, until he obtained the favor he asked. He determined to do the same. He resolved in his heart neither to eat nor drink until God should look upon him in mercy, or until he should find himself at the point of death; then only should he eat.

This resolution was taken on a Sunday after communion, and for a whole week he neither ate nor drank anything; in the meantime he practised his usual penances, recited the Divine Office, prayed on bended knees at the appointed times, and rose at midnight. On the following Sunday, when about to make his usual confession, as he had been in the habit of making known to his confessor everything he had done, even the smallest detail, he told him that he had not eaten anything during the past week. Hereupon his confessor bade him break his fast. Although he felt that he still had sufficient strength to continue without food, nevertheless he obeyed his confessor, and on that day and the next he was free from scruples. On the third day, however, which was Tuesday, while standing in prayer, the remembrance of his sins came back to him. One suggested another, until he passed in review, one after another, all his past sins. He then thought he ought to repeat his general confession. After these thoughts a sort of disgust seized him, so that he felt an inclination to give up the life he was leading. While in this state, God was pleased to arouse him as it were from sleep, and to relieve him of his trouble. As he had acquired some experience in the discernment of spirits, he profited by the lessons he had learned of God, and began to examine how that spirit had entered into possession of his soul; then he resolved never again to speak of his past sins in confession. From that day he was free from scruples, and felt certain that it was the will of our merciful Lord to deliver him from his trouble of soul.

Besides the seven hours devoted to prayer, he spent a portion of his time in assisting souls who came to him for advice. During the rest of the day he gave his thoughts to God, pondering on what he had read or meditated that day. When he retired, it often happened that wonderful illuminations and great spiritual consolations came to him, so that he abridged the short time he had already allotted to sleep. Once while thinking over this matter he concluded that he had given sufficient time for conversation with God, and that moreover the whole day was also given to Him. Then he began to doubt whether these illuminations were from the Good Spirit. Finally he came to the conclusion that it would be better to give up a portion and to give sufficient time to sleep. This he did.

While he persevered in his resolution to abstain from meat, it happened on a certain morning after rising, that a dish of cooked meat seemed to be set before him. He appeared to see it with his eyes, although he had felt no previous craving for it. At the same time he afterward experienced within himself a certain movement of the will, urging him to eat meat. Although the remembrance of his former resolution came to mind, he had no doubt about determining to eat meat. When he made this known to his confessor, the latter advised him to consider whether it was a temptation or not. Pondering over it, he felt certain that he was right. At that period God dealt with him as a teacher instructing a pupil. Was this on account of his ignorance or dulness, or because he had no one else to teach him? Or on account of the fixed resolve he had of serving God, with which God Himself had inspired him, for the light given him could not possibly be greater? He was firmly convinced, both then and afterward, that God had treated him thus because it was the better spiritual training for him. The five following points will prove what he says: --

In the first place, he had a great devotion to the Blessed Trinity. Every day he prayed to each of the three Persons and to the whole Trinity. While thus praying to the Blessed Trinity, the thought came of how to offer fourfold prayers to the Divinity. This thought, however, caused him little or no trouble. Once, while reciting on the steps of the monastery the little hours in honor of the Blessed Virgin, his vision carried him beyond the earth. He seemed to behold the Blessed Trinity in the form of a lyre or harp; this vision affected him so much that he could not refrain from tears and sighs. On the same day he accompanied the procession from the church, but even up to the time of dinner he could not withhold his tears, and after dinner his joy and consolation were so great that he could speak of no subject except the Blessed Trinity. In these conversations he made use of many different comparisons to illustrate his thoughts. Such an impression was made on him on that occasion that during his after life, whenever he prayed to the Blessed Trinity, he experienced great devotion.

At another time, to his great joy, God permitted him to understand how He had created this world. This vision presented to him a white object, with rays emanating from it. From this object God sent forth light. However, he could not clearly explain this vision, nor could he recall the illuminations given to him by God on that occasion. During his stay of about a year at Manresa, after he had begun to receive from God consolations, and fruitful lights for the direction of others, he gave up his former rigorous penances. At that time he trimmed his nails and hair. During the time of his residence at Manresa, while assisting at Mass, he had another vision in the church of the monastery. At the elevation of the body of Christ Our Lord he beheld, with the eyes of his soul, white rays descending from above. Although he cannot, after so long an interval, explain the details of this vision, still the manner in which Our Lord Jesus Christ is present in the Blessed Sacrament was clearly and vividly stamped upon his mind. Often in prayer, and even during a long space of time, did he see the humanity of Christ with the eyes of the soul. The form under which this vision appeared was that of a white body, neither large nor small; besides, there seemed to be no distinction of members in His body. This vision appeared to him often at Manresa, perhaps twenty or even forty times, once at Jerusalem, and once when he was at Padua. He saw the Blessed Virgin under the same form, without any distinction of members. These visions gave him such strength that he often thought within himself, that even though Scripture did not bear witness to these mysteries of faith, still, from what he had seen, it would be his duty to lay down his life for them.

One day he went to the Church of St. Paul, situated about a mile from Manresa. Near the road is a stream, on the bank of which he sat, and gazed at the deep waters flowing by. While seated there, the eyes of his soul were opened. He did not have any special vision, but his mind was enlightened on many subjects, spiritual and intellectual. So clear was this knowledge that from that day everything appeared to him in a new light. Such was the abundance of this light in his mind that all the divine helps received, and all the knowledge acquired up to his sixty-second year, were not equal to it.

From that day he seemed to be quite another man, and possessed of a new intellect. This illumination lasted a long time. While kneeling in thanksgiving for this grace, there appeared to him that object which he had often seen before, but had never understood. It seemed to be something most beautiful, and, as it were, gleaming with many eyes. This is how it always appeared. There was a cross near which he was praying, and he noticed that near the cross the vision had lost some of its former beautiful color. He understood from this that the apparition was the work of the devil, and whenever the vision appeared to him after that, as it did several times, he dispelled it with his staff.

During a violent fever at Manresa, he thought he was near his death. The thought then came to his mind that he was already justified before God. Calling to mind his sins, he tried to combat the thought, but could not overcome it, and this struggle to overcome the temptation caused him much more suffering than the fever itself. After the fever had somewhat abated, and he was out of danger, he cried out to some noble ladies who had come to visit him, and asked them for the love of God, to cry out aloud the next time they should find him near death, |O sinner!| and |Remember the sins by which you have offended God.|

On another occasion, while sailing from Valencia to Italy, in the midst of a violent storm, the rudder was broken, and he and every one on board were convinced that the ship must founder unless help came from above. Then, as he examined his conscience and prepared for death, he had no dread on account of past sins, nor fear of eternal punishment, but he experienced intense shame and sorrow at the thought of not having made a good use of the favors and graces which God had bestowed upon him. Again, in the year 1550, he was dangerously ill, and in his own judgment and that of others he was about to die. This time, however, whenever he thought of death, such consolation poured into his soul that he wept tears of joy. He continued in this state so long that he often had to divert his mind from the thought of death, lest he should find in the thought too much consolation.

In the beginning of another winter he became very ill, and was placed under the care of the father of a man named Ferrera, who afterward entered the service of Balthasar Faria. Here he was very carefully attended. Several ladies of the highest rank were very devoted to him, and came every night to watch beside him. When he began to recover, he was still extremely weak, and suffered from severe pains in the stomach. These two causes, together with the intense cold and the entreaties of his attendants, induced him to wear shoes, warmer clothing, and a cap. He was obliged to accept two small coats of coarse grayish stuff, and a small cap of the same color. During that illness his constant wish was to speak of spiritual things, and to find some one who could talk upon such subjects. Meanwhile the time which he had determined upon for his journey to Jerusalem was approaching.

In the beginning of the year 1523, therefore, he set out for Barcelona. Many offered to accompany him, but he refused, as he wished to go alone. He expected to derive great advantage from placing his whole trust in God alone. Several were very earnest, and insisted that as he knew neither Latin nor Italian, he should not go alone, but should take with him a certain companion whom they praised very much. Ignatius replied that even were he the son or brother of the Duke of Cordova, he would not take him as a companion, as he wished only three virtues, -- Faith, Hope, and Charity. If he took a companion, when hungry he would look to his companion for food; if exhausted, he would call on his companion for help; and so he would confide in his companion, and have some affection for him: whereas he wished to place all this confidence, hope, and affection in God alone. These words were not a mere expression of the lips, but they were the true sentiments of his heart. For these reasons he wished to embark not only alone, but even without any provision for the voyage. When he arranged about his passage, the captain agreed to take him free, as he had no money; but on condition that he should take with him as much sailors' bread as would suffice for his sustenance. Were it not for this condition imposed by the captain, Ignatius would have refused to take with him any provision at all.

When he thought of procuring bread, he was much troubled with scruples. |Is this your hope and faith in God, who, you were sure, would not fail you?| The force and violence of the temptation were such that he was greatly distressed. Good reasons on both sides presented themselves. Finally, in his perplexity, he determined to leave the matter to his confessor. He told him first of his great desire to go to Jerusalem, and to do everything for the greater glory of God. Then he gave the reasons for not taking provisions for the voyage. His confessor decided that he ought to beg what was necessary and take it with him. He went to a lady of rank to ask for what he needed. When she asked where he was going, he hesitated a little about telling his final destination, and replied that he was going to Italy and Rome. She was somewhat astonished at this, and replied: |To Rome? Why, as to those who go there -- well, I do not like to say what they are when they return.| She meant by this that as most of those who went to Rome did not go through motives of piety and devotion, when they returned they were not much better. The reason of his not openly declaring that he intended to go to the holy city of Jerusalem was his dread of yielding to vain glory. In fact, he was so much troubled by this fear that he was afraid to make known even the place of his birth or the name of his family. When he had secured the bread, before going on board he took care to leave behind him, on a bench on the wharf, five or six Spanish coins, which had been given to him as alms.

[Illustration: OUR LADY OF THE WAYSIDE. Favorite Picture of St. Ignatius.]

He was obliged to remain at Barcelona more than twenty days before the ship was ready to sail. During that time, in accordance with his custom, in order to speak with spiritual men about his soul, he sought them out even though dwelling in hermitages at a long distance from the city. But neither then, nor during the whole time of his stay at Manresa, could he find any one who could help him to advance as he wished. He met one woman, however, who seemed to be thoroughly acquainted with the spiritual life. She promised to pray to Jesus Christ and to ask Him to appear to Ignatius in person. In consequence of this promise, after leaving Barcelona, he gave up all anxiety about finding souls advanced in the spiritual life.

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