In May 1521, at the Battle of Pamplona, Ignatius was severely wounded by a cannonball that shattered his legs. Even with two operations to heal the injury, he would walk with a limp for the rest of his life.
During his lengthy recuperation, he wanted something to read. The only books available were A Life of Christ and a book on The Lives of the Saints. As he healed, he began to daydream and pray about what he would do with the rest of his life. Gradually, he began to realize he was more energized and enthused with the choice of giving his life to Christ. The option to return to his former way of life as an important person in the courts of Spain became less appealing.
Out of this experience of discernment, Ignatius began to learn the ways God communicates with us. Often God communicates in and through our holy desires. What we deeply and truly desire is what God wants for us.
From that experience of the cannonball, and Ignatius’s discovery of discernment, eventually the Society of Jesus (aka the Jesuits) was born. Today some 17,000 Jesuit priests and brothers serve all over the world. Thousands and thousands more are Ignatian disciples, following the Spirituality of St. Ignatius. Many of these colleagues work in the schools, retreat centers, parishes and social works of the Society of Jesus, aka the Jesuits.
To commemorate this transformative moment in the life of St. Ignatius, here at Cristo Rey Jesuit in Baltimore we have a real cannonball in our chapel. Fr. Rick Malloy’s friend, retired Army Col. R.J. Muraski, called a friend of his who served in the artillery. Soon an 85 lb. cannonball was on its way to CRJ here in Baltimore.
The cannonball chapel invites us all to reflect on cannonball moments in our own lives. When did we know God was working to make us our deepest, truest selves? Was the moment dramatic and filled with seeming adversity? Maybe your cannonball moment was quiet and took several months or years to manifest.
What’s your cannonball moment?