St Ignatius Loyola Founder of the Society of Jesus, 1556
Born in 1491, the son of a Basque nobleman, Ignatius served as a soldier and was wounded at the siege of Pamplona in 1521. During his convalescence he read a Life of Christ, was converted and lived a life of prayer and penance, during which he wrote the first draft of his Spiritual Exercises. He gathered six disciples, and together they took vows of poverty and chastity and promised to serve the Church either by preaching in Palestine or in other ways that the Pope thought fit. By 1540, Ignatius had won papal approval for his embryonic order and the Society of Jesus was born. For the next sixteen years he directed the work of the Jesuits as it spread around the world, until his sudden death on this day in 1556.
1 Kings 19. 9–18
At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night there. Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying,
“What are you doing here, Elijah?”
“I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my they are seeking my life, to take it away.”
“Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.”
Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said,
“What are you doing here, Elijah?”
“I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.”
Then the LORD said to him,
“Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram. Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place. Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall kill; and whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall kill. Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”
At the heart of Ignatius’s Spiritual Exercises is the need to spend the time in silence – hence I suspect the choice of this passage.
In this scripture, deep in the book of Kings an exhausted Elijah has just been wonderfully fed by God and restored physically. Now, here he has this next encounter. He is shattered and exhausted. ‘What are you doing here Elijah?’ God asks.
My wise Welsh Granny often said to us as children ‘you have two ears and one mouth – use your ears and listen’. Wise words indeed.
It was in the ‘sound of silence’ that God spoke. There was restoration. ‘Go return on your way’.
Continue the journey in the love and grace of God.
Prayers of St Ignatius
Lord, teach me to be generous
Lord, teach me to be generous. Teach me to serve you as you deserve; to give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labour and not to ask for reward, save that of knowing that I do your will. Amen
And less well known – prayed at the end of the Spiritual Exercises
Give me only your love and your grace:
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding and my entire will, All I have and call my own.
You have given all to me. To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will. Give me only your love and your grace. That is enough for me. Amen
The Rev’d Susan Kirkbride is the Minister of the Peedie Church in Orkney