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Saint Ignatius of Loyola

Saint Ignatius of Loyola

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  • ISBN-13: 9781502741363
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
  • Release Date: Oct 08, 2014
  • Pages: 274 pages
  • Dimensions: 0.62 x 9.0 x 6.0 inches


A S a biography is not merely a catalogue of facts and circumstances determining an individual life, but an attempt to make a personality evident in all its characteristic distinctness, we have no reason to compJain that the life of St Ignatius has been written once more. There is room for endless approximation towards perfection in biography without any danger of so attaining it as to leave place for no further endeavour. It were comparatively easy to take the man as he was, the child of his age and country, formed by the society around him, educated in its beliefs and its ignorances, its enthusiasms and its animosities; to record his words and actions, to trace the diverging streams of his influence from his own to after times; and thus to know him as mingling with and embedded in the history of a given place and period; but far more difficult is the subsequent task of getting at his own precise and separate self, of discerning in his life what was due to that passive receptivity which has the most to do with a man's making, from the residue which is to be credited to his own originating activity. It is the latter which reveals that individuality whereby each man is distinct from all others, and is so far a theme of special interest. As a typical sixteenth-century Spaniard, aristocrat, soldier, student, ecclesiastic, Ignatius may offer a valuable study to the historian, but the biographer's interest is in what is individual, not in what is typical. Was he a mystic only because mysticism was in the air all round him, and was the "methodism" which appears in the Exercises the truer manifestation of his personal bias; or contrariwise, was the latter merely a prudent concession to growing or prevailing fashions? Are we to judge him by the violent anti-semitic prejUdices, which to some extent he shared with the society which formed him, or by the recorded instances when he went counter to that tide of bitterness? When does he think and speak and act simply in obedience to the law of imitation, as others round him thought, spoke, and acted; and when, because he has reflected and judged independently? In a word, the biographer's task is to discriminate what is original from what is derived, and thereby to reveal to us the unique essential spirit which is distinctive of the character he desires to portray. I do not think M. Joly has underrated the difficulty of his task, and though there will always be something to attain in the way of clearness and precision, yet his psychological handling of the subject has done more to make St Ignatius stand out as a human reality than has hitherto been done by any mere narrative of the Saint's life and times. For those who have leisure and ability for the investigation, it is doubtless in what remains to us of his writings that "he being dead yet speaketh." There, as we read and ponder, underneath the manifold letter, the unity of spirit betrays itself and takes shape in our minds as something altogether simple and distinct, like a flavour or a fragrance, scarcely to be analysed or even compared to anything else. Those who have known him in the "Acta quaedam" of his own dictation; in his letters; in the Exercises; in some of those rules that came straight from the heart of the man; who have unlearnt and blotted from their minds the harsh-featured Ignatius that unskilful biographers have popularised, will be independent perhaps of M. Joly's labours-except so far as we all owe gratitude to the artist who gives clear utterance to what we ourselves had felt and failed to express. But for many, this biographical essay, slight though it be, will do much to create a true first impression, or to correct a false onc elsewhere derived.

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