Pamplona – Jett Villarin, SJ


Matthew 8:28-34, Wednesday of Week 13 in Ordinary Time

one foot raised

“Living with one foot raised” is the theme of our Ignatian Festival this year. The image suggests movement, mobility, drive, freedom.

There is a statue of Ignatius Loyola on campus, on bended knee, offering his sword to heaven. It is an image of his all-night vigil in Montserrat. That image of Loyola in genuflection, on bended knee, is a bit puzzling because those legs were dashed in battle, one leg more seriously. That was in a battle in Pamplona where Iñigo the proud soldier and his troops were soundly defeated by the French.

Ignatius never forgot Pamplona. He limped all his life because of Pamplona.

This is Pamplona 2.0 for us. Pamplona 1.0 was a disaster, a story of defeat.

Now, like Ignatius Loyola (after Pamplona), we are confined to quarters, we are in pain, humbled by defeat, trying to recover. There are good days, there are bad days. There are days we look out the window, pining for a past that is gone. Other times our eyes glaze over, fearful of a future that might have us limping all our lives because of Pamplona.

We’ve been schooled to be persons of action. We want to move right away, move on, get up; we want to rise from the ruins. With one foot raised, we want to sprint forward. But we cannot. Wounds take time to heal. This is our vulnerability, our humanity. The closing of wounds has a pace and rhythm that is hard to heed.

But for all our impatience, we must heed this rhythm. We must listen to our shared trauma, to what is happening outside, and more to what is turning inside us.

Our lives are under siege these days. Waves of fear, hope, joy, life, death, elation and numbness, all these waves have been relentless.

It was while being pounded by these interior waves that Ignatius Loyola discovered what was important and what was peripheral; the things that were fleeting, ephemeral, and those that stayed, remained.

Even as we are fastened to our homes, unable to move freely, we are learning to walk again, raising one foot at a time, slowly at first, as infants and injured soldiers do. While in quarantine, we hope we can still be nudged when we are disabled by fear or regret or hate or any of those demons that immobilize us.

While we recover, we will discover what it means to be free again. Before Pamplona, we thought that freedom was all about having many choices, keeping our options open, and being carefree. Now we know that freedom only happens when we make choices and commitments. It is about responsibility and the decisiveness that comes with the habit of discernment. Freedom is about holding on to what truly matters and having the courage to let go of those little dreams that only deflect us from who we truly are. We are free only insofar as we sharpen our minds to think critically; only insofar as we train our hearts to choose the more loving option; we are free only insofar as we engage our entire person to act creatively, compassionately, and resolutely.

During his time of recovery, Ignatius’ only distraction came from two books about the saints and the life of Jesus Christ. We know how things turned out with that distraction. Now we have this delightful little device, this cell phone for distraction. Amazingly, this little device can make us laugh or cry, love or hate. It can lead us to darkness or light, to numbness or desire, to separation or connection, to loneliness or solidarity, to death or life. And this is just one of many distractions these days.

Before our Lord who comes to cast fire on the earth, who presents to us this divisive choice of life or death in this time of pandemic, may we choose life, not death; justice over inequity, light over dark; may we choose love, not apathy. May we decide to offer the better love, the greater love over the many good loves possible in our life.

Pamplona was never the end. However tempted we are to believe that this fight has broken our spirit, we will not yield. To live with one foot raised is to keep our lives from coming to a standstill. To live with one foot raised is to keep our faith and hope and love in motion. Even as we are online these days, we will learn to put our lives on the line. Pamplona can never be the end. We know that we will be strong again, strong enough to bend our knee again, supple enough to bend our lives in oblation to the One who summons us to be brave again.

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