Thursday, February 12, 2009

St. Ignatius and Contemporary Iconography: Confirmed in Mission at La Storta

Panel 4 of 5: Confirmed in Mission at La Storta
"Ignatius' desire and prayer that he and his companions serve Christ's mission is confirmed when God places him with Jesus carrying his cross"

The following quote is all we get from Ignatius himself about this vision:

"One day, a few miles before reaching Rome, he was at prayer in a church and experienced such a change in his soul and saw so clearly that God the Father placed him with Christ his Son that he would not dare doubt it--that God the Father had placed him with his Son."

However, other Jesuit documentation gives greater detail around this experience. Ignatius is said to have been praying frequently to Mary for this grace to place him with his son, and his prayers were answered at La Storta.  An early companion and future General, Diego Lainez writes that Ignatius told him "that it seemed to him that God the Father had impressed on his heart the following words: 'I shall be propitious to you in Rome'...then at another time it seemed to him that he saw Christ carrying a cross on his shoulder and the Eternal Father nearby who said to Christ: 'I want you to take this man for you servant.' Upon receiving this vision, Ignatius felt inspired to name the new order he would found using the name of Jesus--the Company of Jesus, or the Society of Jesus.  Most religious orders are named after their founder, but Ignatius wanted the emphasis to be squarely placed on Christ.  

Like the 2nd icon, Bittau again obscures the vision in a radiant white light. This is actually a departure from the icons at Seattle U that she made before, in which Ignatius' visions are clearly shown.  In this way, it honors the mystery of Ignatius' vision.  Yet, you can still make out the cross of Christ in the light.  

You can see Rome in the background, showing the close proximity of this experience to his mission.  On the side is the chapel of La Storta.  

What is fascinating in this icon is that Bittau again chooses to fuse modern day images with the experience of Ignatius.  Stark images of torture and naked bodies lie amidst the vision. She wanted to highlight that Jesuits, who are called to be in the world, are necessarily called to be in the midst of suffering.  Indeed, many Jesuits have lost their lives in the Society's long history.  

When I look at this icon, I am reminded about Fr. Pedro Arrupe's witness of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima and his service to the Japanese people who suffered its effects--a true example of a Jesuit in the midst of real suffering.  Trained as a medical doctor, Fr. Arrupe did his best to save as many lives as he could. I have much to say about that topic, but I think I will save my reflection of Arrupe at Hiroshima for another day.  

Ideally, as Jesuits, we do what we do because we are rooted and grounded in Christ--that profound love and affection inspires and sustains our life and our ministry. It is that orientation that orders our thoughts and actions. Some of us even lose our lives because of that love.  

It is that love that brought Ignatius to Rome. 

What/who are you in love with? What sets you on fire?

"Nothing is more practical
than finding God, that is,
than falling in love
in a quite absolute, final way. 
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination,
will affect everything. 
It will decide 
what will get you out of bed
in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read, who you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you
with joy and gratitude. 
Fall in love, stay in love,
and it will decide everything."
~Fr. Pedro Arrupe, S.J.

1 comment:

Rick said...

Good blog please carry on...