BACKED BY ST IGNATIUS AND OTHER GREAT CATHOLIC SAINTS, THIS WAS THE REAL REFORMATION. ONE SHEPHERD, ONE UNITED FLOCK. FOR THE GREATER GLORY OF GOD.
In 1415 there was an Ecumenical Council in Constance (Germany), during which an urgent need for the reformation of the Church was felt. The slogan was that the reformation should be “in capite et in membris”, in the head and the members, i.e. also among the clergy and generally among the people of God. Unfortunately, for quite a while, nothing was done.
Once more in 1500, the issue recurred. The problem [also coinciding with the historical event of the “discovery” of America in 1492, civil unrests like farmers’ uprisings, leading up to the 30-Years-War and a general worldliness among many people] had become grave. “Reformata Ecclesia, Ecclesia semper reformanda”. The Church needed reformation and it needed to be open to reformation.
SELF-STYLED “REFORMERS” APPEARED
And so a devastating cyclone of so-called reformers began to batter the Church with people like: Luther, Calvin and Zwingli. In some ways theirs was a laudable attempt, but many others were disastrous. Luther (1517) was the foremost of the three. A former Augustinian monk, steeped in culture and possessing a complex personality [his father had wanted him to earn his living as a lawyer instead], he was a spiritually and existentially troubled individual. Although re-evaluated in recent decades, one cannot overlook the extent of his errors…The issue that led Luther out of the Church was his subjectivism. He would have a great impact on the history of culture of his time. His strong personality undergirded all that he said. Everything was seen from an individual perspective, asserting his “I” without any reference to objectivity. He was adept in bending the word of God to suit his own needs. Yves Congar defined him as “a restless reformer”.
THE BENEFITS: THE PROPER REFORMATION WITHIN THE CHURCH WAS IMPLEMENTED AND COMPLETED
The reformation (or counter-reformation) prompted by Luther (this was his merit) was implemented by the Council of Trent (1545-1563) and backed by several saints like Ignatius of Loyola, Francis Xavier, Philip Neri, Charles Borromeo, Pius V (of the Battle of Lepanto) and others who frequented Rome during those years.
IGNATIUS: CHARISMA AND COURAGE
Ignatius was one of the great protagonists of real reform in the Church. This reformation was brought about through his charisma and his holiness, his culture and his apostolic courage, his personal action and the zeal of his sons, the Jesuits. This champion of the Church was born at Loyola in the Basque country of Spain in 1491. He possessed a fiery temperament coupled with a very strong will. Eager for military adventure, a lover of fine clothes and beautiful women he fought bravely in the service of the viceroy at the siege of Pamplona, where he was also seriously wounded in the leg.
Shortly after that, clenching his fists and teeth he decided to change his life. His conversion began immediately after his convalescence during which he read the Imitation of Christ, the Jacopo da Varazze’s Golden Legend and the Life of Christ. Besides reading, he reflected on his past life and wondered what lay in the future for him. He examined and analysed himself more profoundly because he wanted to know how to improve himself. In short, he succeeded in subduing his lower inclinations and became a new man, ready to live for God and for his glory.
IGNATIUS: A SOLDIER FOR GOD’S GLORY
At Manresa (1522) he had several mystical experiences that transformed him completely. He learned several things about the spiritual life which he incorporated into his famous ‘Spiritual Exercises’. Through his Holy Spirit, God himself was enlightening him. Ignatius now possessed a “new outlook” on God, man, the world and himself. His approach to life was totally transformed, driven by a new way of approaching God. The entire Church would benefit from his new outlook. Spiritually renewed, he began to study once more.
He was 34 years old! But when he “felt” if he wanted God he would have to remove all obstacles. The important cities that he visited were: Barcelona, Salamanca and Paris (the Sorbonne) where he laid the first foundations of the Society of Jesus (Montmartre 1534). Ignatius was ordained a priest in Venice and he finally arrived in Rome, the seat of the Pope, which was being contested in those years. Ignatius and his companions (called “Friends of God”) did not want to “protest” against the Pope (as was done in France). They simply placed themselves at his service out of total obedience and for the love for God and for the good of the Church.
He was immediately given two “Imprimaturs” to his projects, two major “approvals” that would give him a sense of assurance and an impetus for the future: a vision that he had of the Trinity at La Storta (Rome 1537) and the approval of the Society of Jesus by Pope Paul III in 1540.
Ignatius would always remain in Rome to guide the young Society that wanted to culturally equip itself (in theology, philosophy and the sciences), and be ready for the great challenges that faced it.
He was a hard worker and an indomitable organiser, but he was also a Saint who prayed a lot with a particular devotion to the Most Holy Trinity, Christ in the Eucharist and His Crucifixion. His biographers called him “a contemplative in action” because of the extraordinary way in which he did nothing for himself but always, in his words, “for the greater glory of God. He died on July 31, 1556, whispering the words: “Ay, Dios!”
– This article by Mario Scudu was published in “Don Bosco’s Madonna”, 7/2012. Contact for subscriptions or to support seminarians: Shrine of Don Bosco’s Madonna, Matunga – Mumbai – 400 019 – India; email: email@example.com