Thursday, February 09, 2006

How Ignatius Loyola Avoided Violence Over a Religious Insult

The furor in the Islamic world evoked by various cartoons deprecating Mohammed brings to mind an event from the life of Saint Ignatius of Loyola recorded in his autobiography.

After Ignatius had set out to become a saint, a Moor insulted the Virgin Mary in his presence and he seriously considered shedding the man's blood in return. Speaking of himself in the third person, he writes:

On the way something happened to him which it will be good to record, so one may understand how Our Lord dealt with his soul, which was still blind, though greatly desirous of serving Him in every way which he knew. [...] He did not dwell on any interior thing, nor did he know what humility was or charity or patience or discretion to regulate and measure these virtues. Without considering any more particular circumstance, his every intention was to do these great external works because the saints had done so for the glory of God.

As he was going on his way, then, a Moor riding on a mule came up to him, and they went on talking together. They began to talk about Our Lady, and the Moor said it seemed to him that the Virgin had indeed conceived without a man, but he could not believe that she remained a virgin after giving birth. In support of this he cited the natural reasons that suggested themselves to him. The pilgrim, in spite of the many reasons he gave him, could not dissuade him from this opinion. The Moor then went on ahead so rapidly that he lost sight of him, and he was left to think about what had transpired with the Moor. Various emotions came over him and caused discontentment in his soul, as it seemed to him that he had not done his duty. This also aroused his indignation against the Moor, for he thought that he had done wrong in allowing the Moor to say such things about Our Lady and that he was obliged to defend her honor. A desire came over him to go in search of the moor and strike him with his dagger for what he had said. He struggled with this conflict of desires for a long time, uncertain to the end what he was obliged to do. The Moor, who had gone on ahead, had told him that he was going to a place a little farther on, very near the highway, though the highway did not pass through the place.

Tired of examining what would be best to do and not finding any guiding principle, he decided as follows, to let the mule go with the reins slack as far as the place where the road separated. If the mule took the village road, he would seek out the Moor and strike him; if the mule did not go toward the village but kept on the highway, he would let him be. He did as proposed. Although the village was little more than thirty or forty paces away, and the road to it was very broad and very good, Our Lord willed that the mule took the highway and not the village road.

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