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Food for Thought - Musings

The Making of a Saint: St Ignatius of Loyola

While pondering the life of St Ignatius of Loyola (birth name: Inigo). I have been struck anew by the way God used the circumstances of his life, his personal bent and culture, to bring him to God's self. As I meditated on this, I began to think of God as a Master Chef, and the means of Inigo's transformation from sinner to saint in terms of a recipe. So what follows is the recipe I perceived our Master Chef used for the making of one Saint (soup), St Ignatius aka Inigo.

Now, only the Master Chef can know for sure all the exotic ingredients used in making the “soup” that a person is, but from the recorded life of Ignatius we can discern a number of the ingredients. At the conclusion of this recipe I will provide a series of questions designed to help you explore and discover many of the ingredients God has used/ is using to transform you from sinner to saint (holy one, the beloved of God).

Stock: a mix of Catholicism, minor nobility and a large family

Add the following to the stock:

2 cups of working in the King’s court/ chivalry

1 cup education in the Kings court

3 cups of fiery disposition – “perhaps attributable to his ethnicity/culture”--he was born in the Basque Region of what is now known as Spain.

1 cup of prone to fighting

3 heaping tablespoons of gambling

2 1/2 cups of pure stubbornness

1 rounded cup of *womanizing

*The earliest letter we have from the pen of Inigo is from 1518 written to King Ferdinand requesting permission to carry a firearm and retain the services of a bodyguard, as someone has on more than one occasion tried to ambush and kill him. Not in the letter, but the suggested reason was that this was about the honor of a woman.

3 cups of vainglory - this will expand as it simmers, and rise to the surface, and is a key ingredient in this recipe as you will see below.

Let simmer.

Note: most of the above ingredients are anything but wholesome, but our Master Chef is very adept at using such ingredients to bring greater glory and honor to his name. This is true in your life as well. When it comes time to explore the ingredients included in your recipe do not forget those unsavory ingredients. God is powerful --making use of much we would rather disregard or pretend is not there.

After 30 years combine:

One French cannonball

Add additional 2/12 cups of vainglory (vanity)*

*After Ignatius recovered following the aforementioned cannonball that crushed his leg during a battle at Pamplona at age 30, he noticed that his healed leg was shorter and had an unsightly bulge from the bone that would make him look unsightly in his tights, which was the dress of his class/position during this time. So Inigo, filled with vainglory, had them re-break his leg, file down the bone and then stretch the leg to make it longer. This all lengthened his recovery period, and the extended time of recovery provided the opportunity to add the following ingredients that God powerfully used in Inigo’s life, slowing moving him toward becoming St Ignatius.

Fold in, bring to boil and remove from heat.

In a separate cauldron, mix together:

One book on the Lives of the Saints

One book on the Life of Christ*

* Inigo (Ignatius) became bored during the additional time of recovery and asked for books to be brought to him. The above are the two books that were given to Ignatius and that God would use to draw Ignatius to God.

One generous measure of *imagination - (do not skimp on this)

1½ cups of idealism (strong desire to out-saint both St Francis and St Dominic)

2 cups of stargazing (this was a source of great consolation to Inigo)

Slowly stir these ingredients into the stock, bring to a boil and then let simmer for 11 months or until thickened.

*Ignatius spent much of his time reading, taking notes on what he read and imagining what it would be like to live life like St Francis or St Dominic or to be a disciple following Jesus. Ignatius’ use of his imagination and his awareness of his internal movements around the use of his imagination helped him to discover and embrace God’s invitation to follow He left his time of recovery purposing to go to Jerusalem. But there was more God had to add to this recipe before he would be ready to travel to Jerusalem.

Now add one wise mule* (must be a wise mule)

*Inigo, as he made his way to Montserrat, had an encounter with a Moor (Muslim) who Inigo felt had offended Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Inigo felt the need to defend her honor by killing this individual, but was unsure what to do. The Moor had gone on ahead after the exchange and was headed to another city to spend the night. Inigo, knowing this, decided to let the mule decide what he would do. Once the mule was near the crossroad, one road leading to Montserrat, the other to the town the Moor would be staying in, he dropped the reins and let the mule choose. If to Montserrat, [insert comma] he would continue as planned; if the other city, he would kill the Moor. The mule wisely chooses to go to Montserrat.

Slowly add:

1 written confession

1 sackcloth

1 wooden staff

1 small gourd

1 set of beggar clothes from a beggar

Let stand for 3 days.*

*During this time Ignatius spent 3 days writing out his confession and sharing it with a confessor, laying aside his sword and pledging his allegiance to God and discarding his clothes (actually gave them away) and donning the clothes of a beggar.

After 3 days place entire mixture in a damp dark cave (preferably in Manresa) and chill for 11 months.

During the first 6 months stir in:

7 cups of formal prayer (prayed 7 hours a day)

3 heaping tablespoons of begging (begged for what he needed)

2 ½ cups of poor hygiene, (during this time Inigo “acting against” his vanity by not washing, not combing or washing his hair, letting his fingernails grow)

5 cups of excessive fasting ( he also did physical harm to himself by his excessive fasting – he had stomach problems the rest of his life)

2 gallons of divine insight (God meets him here in a powerful way, opening up his heart and mind to much divine truth. He said of this time that he learned more during it than all the rest of his life combined. It was a time when God dealt with Inigo the “same way a school teacher deals with a child while instructing him.”)

1 dollop of humility (this was a time God broke Inigo)

Fold in a mixture of:

2 cups of confession

1 book “Imitation of Christ”

1 part consolation

2 parts *desolation (this was a very difficult time for Inigo)

A large measure of temptation

*Inigo enters a dark night of the soul (senses). During this period Inigo seriously considered taking his own life.

During the last 3 months begin to skim off some of the vainglory.


1 Trip to Jerusalem

3 cups Commitment to getting education

Sprinkling of arrests and imprisonments by those of the Inquisition

Reduce heat and let simmer.

Now it is your turn. God, the Master Chef, has created the “you” you are today using God's own unique recipe. You are God's special dish; one to be enjoyed and savored by God and others, a dish that points those who choose to partake of it back to Jesus. The following questions are designed to help you begin to discern the dashes, pinches, cups and full measures of the unique recipe God has used to create you into the holy one, the beloved of God that you are. Finally, endeavor to bring a high level of openness and prayerful playfulness to this process.

Before beginning your reflection, pause asking God to guide and direct you through this time, giving you wisdom and insight. Once you have asked for God's help, seek to let go of any internal worries or concerns that might hinder you from being fully present to this time. Then begin to slowly move through the questions, listening for God and to your own heart and mind. Take your time. There is no hurry and you may want to do this more than once.

Once you have slowly and prayerfully considered all the questions, I would encourage you to do it one more time and then write out the recipe the Master Chef used, as you have discerned it, paying special attention to indicate the amounts of each ingredient (dash, pinch, sprinkle, cup, full measure). Also remember that you will not be able to completely uncover all the exotic ingredients the Master Chef used in creating the dish you are.


What are the key ingredients of the stock the Master Chef used as the base for this soup (this often involves family of origin stuff, culture....)? What are the ingredients the Master Chef added to the stock ( it might be helpful to look at your life in stages - ages 1-5, 6-11, 12-18, 19-23, 25-...)? What is the amount of each of those ingredients? When did the Master Chef add these ingredients ( e.g. after/during boiling, after setting, cooling, chilling...). In what order were they added? Which ingredients were added together? How were they added (sprinkled, stirred, mixed, whipped, folded...)?

After you have slowly and prayerfully made your way through the above questions twice and written out your recipe, proceed using the following questions and prompts.

More Questions

As you read the recipe the Master Chef used to make you, what feelings do you notice arise within you? What ingredient(s) in your recipe surprised you? Why was it surprising? How did the Master Chef used ingredients that seem anything but saintly to make the dish you are? One such ingredient for Inigo was vainglory - something he battled his whole life but was also a critical ingredient used by the Master Chef. What ingredient continues to season your life that, if left unchecked, would ruin the dish God continues to cook and add to? Ask God for grace and mercy regarding this ingredient remembering that this acknowledgment is not about shame, guilt or condemnation but about being honest with God in order to be free to be and become all that God has created you to be. As you see how the Master Chef has crafted this recipe that is you, making creative use of the circumstances of your life, your family, culture, your personality...what feelings arise within you? Take some time to share these with God.

Final Reflection

What ingredients do you sense the Master Chef is currently adding and in what measure, or maybe he is skimming off something, or diluting the stock or...? Are you in a time of thickening, simmering, boiling, setting, chilling, aging...? What can you point to in your life that would indicate this? What feelings are associated with this time? Share these feelings with God. Who/What are the people, books, messages that the Master Chef has used? Consider writing an email, note or letter to one or more of the people who have been key ingredients in making you who you are. Also write a letter to the Master Chef expressing gratitude and thanksgiving for the wondrous dish he has created.

Looking Outward

Ask the Master Chef to reveal to you those individuals in whose life you are currently a key ingredient and if you are being invited to be a key ingredient in the recipe he is crafting for someone else. If any name(s) come up begin to pray for those people. Also ask for wisdom and insight for yourself as you discern with God the how, timing and amount of you needed in this recipe. If no one comes to mind then seek to be open to God's leading regarding this. Also ask God how you can share yourself with others each day.

This is a ministry of b. b is a nonprofit ministry that exists to assist pastors, church staffs, seminarians, professors and missionaries by offering contemplative retreats, spiritual direction, staff development and spiritual formation opportunities.

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