“For the Second Week and so on, it is very helpful to read at intervals (…) of lives of Saints.” (Spiritual Exercises 100)
Reading the hundredth point of Saint Ignatius for the Month of the Spiritual Exercises I am skeptical. Not for Ignatius, obviously. I have heard the famous story of his conversion a thousand times, brought about by the subtle difference between the Saints and the chivalry. I am skeptical because I know myself too well: the moment of inspiration that I often encounter reading about the Saints is yet to take me to the point of conversion experienced by Ignatius. So I choose not to read, and to stick to my reality less heroic but more concrete. However, in my concrete reality the Month is long, without much to do: well then, let us begin.
I choose the 20th century, and two men who are not foreign to the scientific climate in which I grew up. A friar with an ardent spirit, a bit simple-looking, but one who planned an actual spaceship fifty years before the conquest of the Moon. And a prodigious student of medicine who chose to live with the marginalized instead of having a splendid career. A Polish Franciscan and a Basque Jesuit. Two missionaries of Hiroshima. A martyr of Auschwitz and a General Superior constrained to a sickbed by a stroke for a decade. Two radical, even idealist priests. Two men who has done enough to be remembered.
Two, who have experienced horrors beyond expression. And yet, they did not give an answer to how God could have permitted all the overwhelming cruelty to happen: the inhumanity of the concentration camps, or the destruction of the atomic bombs. They merely gave testimony that the vocation of a Christian survives, even in a reality that surpasses the worst of nightmares. On the contrary, when all will to go on crumbles in front of the atrocities and the suffering, God approaches through those who let Him act. Saving the life of a father and husband, and aiding to die with dignity those who were ripped of it all. Treating tirelessly and without compensation hundreds of survivors of Hiroshima: children, adults and the elderly; men and women. Giving hope to those who did not have any.
It seems that I just cannot avoid to be inspired by heroism, I am attracted to it. But this is not the fruit that I obtain from my readings during the Month, not the most spectacular acts that take your breath away. Much more the decisions of every single day, a life choice that makes you think. Why should I set out on a road where I see clearly many obstacles? Why encounter my weaknesses, why sacrifice a bit of comfort every now and then? Not for a moment of being a superhero, and not even for a day, a year of it – much rather for letting operate within that Someone who transcends me. This is where the readings of my Month have taken me. To the hope that He operates in me with a love that I do not possess on my own. Now that the Month is over, begins the everyday life: only if the hope would be realized!