“Take Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all that I have and possess. Thou hast given all to me. To Thee, O lord, I return it. All is Thine, dispose of it wholly according to Thy will. Give me Thy love and thy grace, for this is sufficient for me.” – St. Ignatius Loyola
Julie shared a page to me in Facebook; it was called Ignatian Spirituality. I believe that was the second time I chanced upon St. Ignatius – the first probably when we were still in elementary school, reading our books about the Saints.
The third was when I was introduced to the writings of Fr. Jett Villarin, the current President of Ateneo de Manila University, because of a blogger I followed on Tumblr before who posted excerpts from Fr. Villarin’s homilies. If I remember correctly, the first ones I’ve ever read of his writings were Startle and Feathers.
Because I was moved by his writings and reflections, I came upon his book “Startle: Gathering Light from the Word of God” online. When I went to a local bookstore one time, I was glad to have found it, sitting comfortably in between other books.
I’ve underlined, highlighted, wrote on the margins and in between lines of this book, and I’ve written my favorite lessons on my brown journal so I wouldn’t forget. I gave my copy as a Christmas present to my cousin Paffy last 2014. I hope that he has learned from Fr. Villarin’s writings too, as much as I did.
Fr. Villarin, again, if I remember correctly, mentioned of St. Ignatius crying under the stars. I was re-introduced to this image again when I bought a copy of Fr. James Martin’s book entitled “The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything.” I’ve only read up to around 50-70 pages, then stopped for a while, thinking that I may have to read this on a more appropriate time.
Although it has been a long while since I last opened that book and read, I’ve come to understand more of Ignatian Spirituality. I had learned that its core is about finding God in everything, in every aspect of our lives. He isn’t just in Sundays within the Church, because He is a living and active God. He lives and thrives in our daily routines, in our chores, in our work, in our family relationships, in school, in friendships, in marriages – everything.
Because of this book, I got to learn more about St. Ignatius too, about how we was once a soldier of valor and of worldly pursuits, then he was injured in battle. This humbling and painful event in his life led him to read upon the saints like St. Francis of Assisi, how he and other saints gave away what the world branded as important and turned to a life of poverty and self-giving.
St. Ignatius was inspired by the lives and virtues of these saints and hoped to imbibe within him the same values. After much reflection and sharing of God’s revelations to him, St. Ignatius continued on his studies, then later on founded the Society of Jesus, or what we commonly know as the Jesuits.
And that’s what I knew of this Saint whom they call the Saint of Second Chances. I knew little of him still and of the Spiritual Exercises he had shared to others.
Then came the day I saw the trailer of Ignacio de Loyola.
I knew more of him through this film, about the man whose tears reflected the stars above him.
Initially shown in the Vatican, Ignacio de Loyola is a local movie by Jesuit Communications, directed by Paolo Dy. It stars Spanish actors Andreas Muñoz, Javier Godino, and Julio Perillan. A creative and industrious crew of Filipinos worked with the equally brilliant Spanish actors to bring to life the story of St. Ignatius. Ryan Cayabyab was also behind the climactic scores in the movie.
Two of my very good friends since elementary school Julie and Sarika and I watched it one Sunday, and what a joy it was that we watched it too on his feast day, July 31! The three of us have come from our own spiritual battles the time we sat down together and watched it in its opening week.
I wrote the following right after we watched Ignacio de Loyola:
Something was different in the audience we were in. Nobody was talking, everyone was quiet, everything still during the movie. Even tears were silent. A young man next to me, a few seats away from where my good friends Julie and Sarika sat, I could see him sitting at the edge of his seat, his gaze affixed, his heart and mind focusing on what was happening. I wondered, this wasn’t an action film. Yet he was at the edge of his seat. When the movie had ended, not everyone stood up immediately to leave. Maybe, because, we could all relate to this one man’s struggles and this one man’s faith, and this one man’s God. Watching Ignacio de Loyola is a prayer, reflection, and retreat in itself. This was the effect of watching this movie for us.
It has been two weeks since we last saw it, and my deep admiration for the beauty and artistry of the film, the performances of the actors, the struggles and hard work that the cast and crew put in to finish and share this movie to the Philippines and to the world, are still lingering.
When one of our bosses at work and my teammate went to an expo in an events place last August 11, my heart leapt to know that one of the exhibitors, RSVP Films, was the studio that the Ignacio de Loyola team worked with! I wanted to say more of my praise for the film to the lady who gave us business cards and talked to us briefly about the equipment they had, but I felt as though I might gush my feelings out into the place.
In their area were the marketing collaterals and some of the props and costumes used in the film, which were probably the same ones that Julie, Sarika, and I saw in Gateway the day before we saw the movie!
Maybe if you have loved something a lot, it will really come to you in ways you can’t imagine to be logical.
The film Ignacio de Loyola and St. Ignatius himself and his conversion, his humanity, and life have moved me and my friends’ as well. I am definite and happy too on hearing about the positive and high praises it has received from the Filipino audience. Although I am still hoping that it would be shown more in the theaters and that more people will come see it.
I’d like to share a few lessons I’ve learned from watching the movie:
People can change. How easy it is for us to stamp the words ‘irredeemable’ to those who have hurt us, to those who have sinned greatly than many of us did, especially those we see on the news. How difficult it is for us to forgive those who have hurt us, even when that person is our self.
St. Ignatius. This Saint of Second Chances was once a man of selfish ambition. He had slept with women. He was obsessed with his fantasies of gallantry. He ordered their men to continue fighting even if it would mean that some lives will be lost. But when his leg was shattered by a cannonball in battle with the French, everything came down for him.
Little did he know that through this would be the start of his transformation.
Just as he was at the breach in battle, he too would be at the breach to defend his new life with God.
From a sinner, out came a man who would later become a Saint.
When we think of Saints, we think of their good deeds, their holiness, as something that is difficult to achieve, especially in these modern times. But we forget that they too were human like us. They had families and dreams.
Iñigo had a challenging time too when his father Don Beltran de Loyola was teaching him sword-fighting.
“Remember, son. We are men of Loyola. We do not look down,” said Iñigo’s father.
We appreciate and understand more that their humanity and our humanity is the same.
Saints too had their own battles, their own sins, and from their own shortcomings, that’s when they’ve come to know they needed God.
So they changed. They repented. If the Saints before us could do it, if they could show that it is possible to imitate Jesus’ way, we could too because of the examples they have set while they were still living.
Everyone can change. You and I. We are limited, we are human, but we can always change. We are never truly finished, we are becoming, we are un-becoming.
God loved Iñigo from the very start. And perhaps the lady that Iñigo admired, Princess Catalina, did too. Even if this was the time that Iñigo was still his old self. Deep inside, we all have goodness within already – it just hasn’t awakened yet at the proper time or circumstance. The princess recognized it, however, in young St. Ignatius.
Before the battle that shattered both Iñigo’s knee and dream, he found someone to fight for until death.
Princess Catalina met Iñigo during the late hours of the night when she was trying to find her way to the library. Iñigo was imagining that he was fighting with a masked man, brandishing his sword and swinging it against the weapon of the enemy. He was startled when Princess Catalina asked whom he was speaking to.
Then Iñigo knelt down before her and said that it would be his honor to die for her. Princess Catalina saw that this was a noble man with the purest of intentions. Iñigo saw the same in the princess.
In Princess Catalina’s words: “At times, all it takes to save one’s life is for one person to see what is precious in you.”
That was a night of special significance for the Princess Catalina and Iñigo. God had woven the perfect way for them to meet as the two would inspire life in each other and respect for one another.
Our weakness can lead us to God. There was a line uttered by Iñigo de Loyola that spoke to Julie and me: “I once asked a man to break my leg, so that it would heal and be whole again. For the same reason, I needed God to break my spirit. Fortunately, God is a much better surgeon than man.”
When he was gravely wounded in the war, this brought the young, proud, and ambitious Loyola to pity himself and to see himself as worthless of knighthood. He couldn’t defend his country, his family, or the woman he had admired with a limp. While recovering, there were bouts of confusion and of frustration, with Iñigo weeping onto his bed and thrashing in his room.
We could relate to this, this frustration, this passion of wanting to be something more but because of a tragedy or unexpected change in our lives, we are rendered helpless. We think we are nothing but used up goods or garbage or broken beyond repair. However, these are the times when we are most vulnerable that we come to realize our need of a Savior.
When we realize our own weaknesses and sins, we recognize that we could never go on without God’s forgiveness and grace. Sometimes too, we will only learn of our own faults when the damage has already been done. Because God doesn’t want us to hurt no longer due to our own wrong choices, He has to be the one to break our spirit from the sins that bond us, to save us from the harm we could have potentially put ourselves into if we continued our hard-headedness. Then He heals us and brings us back to Himself.
Suffering is still a concept that we all grapple with, especially in a time and age like this that we put happiness and comfort on a pedestal. There is unnecessary suffering, yes, but there is also suffering that brings us closer to grace, like having to sacrifice more hours at work because we need to save for our families, the same way a vendor out in the city streets would do to keep his children at school. Personally, I have come to know Jesus more in my suffering than when circumstances were light and blissful. I have come to love Him when another prayer was uttered to Him besides “Thank You,” and that was “I’m sorry…”
What seems to be a weakness is just an awakening for us – a sign to ask God for what we need more of. If Iñigo’s pride and worldly ambition were his downfall, maybe he needed his pride to be dirtied and his humility to be birthed.
While healing, Iñigo started reading the lives of the Saints and was inspired by their own selflessness. They lost what they had in the world and gained what was deemed to be a treasure in heaven. Truly, to a soldier who saw victory and the fall of his enemies a success, his heart was drawn to this other kind of success.
This was Iñigo’s new dream.
If my memory serves me correctly, in the film, when he was with a wise older woman under the stars, he was told that he could still find a new dream.
He was at the brink of death in the battlefield, but he was given a chance because God had a mission for Iñigo.
And his transformation begins gradually, and this death to the old self gives birth to a new man.
Imagine Jesus. When Iñigo was brought to a tavern by his fellow soldiers to seek pleasure and had met Anna, one of the prostitutes, one would think that he may be tempted again by lust. When he and Anna went inside a private room, Iñigo politely asked Anna if they could just sit down and talk.
I was relieved to see Iñigo being able to turn down the temptation, as he was now doing his best to imitate the lives of the Saints before him. I was also happy for Anna, because as she had said, this was the first time that somebody actually saw her and talked to her, not as a slave for pleasures of the flesh but as a woman, as a dignified and beloved child of God.
As they sat there, Iñigo asked Anna to imagine Jesus sitting on the chair in front of them. He asked her what she saw and how she thought Jesus would react, would say, would see.
In the silence, I could see Anna’s imagination working. I could see her heart pleading. I could see in her eyes the acceptance she longed for. She said to Iñigo that Jesus was looking at her, seeing her, and He was saying that He loves her.
What went on inside that room was something holy. I cried for Anna. My friends cried for Anna. In the theaters, there was an impenetrable silence, and only Anna’s sobs were heard.
Again, we could relate to her. We could relate to the woman who was only seen as an object to use for pleasure but was truly a young, beautiful woman who had a dream of becoming a renowned seamstress. (To think that there are many more people enslaved in this industry today, I pray that we can save all the Anna’s in our world. Imagine their dreams and their families and Jesus’ purpose for them – they are so much more.)
We could relate to Iñigo who was not safe from temptation but was able to say no to it. How painful it is for us to be in this war of wills and mind and heart when we are faced with temptation.
I was so happy for her. For Anna. And for Iñigo.
From that simple ‘let’s sit and talk’ gesture and imagining Jesus in the room, we see more of the first glimpses of grace working within this man and this woman.
One of the things I’ve learned from reading the first few chapters of Fr. Martin’s The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything is his sharing of St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises. I remember using imagination in praying.
St. Ignatius encouraged imagining one’s self with Jesus or with the apostles when reading the Bible or when praying. This was the same with what he had first asked Anna.
Since then, I’ve tried to do it too, and like Anna, there was a time, even before I first learned of this part in the Spiritual Exercises, that I imagined Jesus sitting next to me when I got home from a tiring night of walking and running an errand.
I too wept.
There He was, our Lord, who came down for us. He saw our sins, but He was not afraid to come nearer.
Give without cost. It was difficult for Iñigo to say goodbye to his family, but he knew he had to go. He knew that God was calling him on a pilgrimage he had to take.
Before Our Lady of Monsterrat at the altar, he put away his sword and began his new life in Christ. Barefoot and crippled, he starts the journey of his conversion.
He gave to those who needed. He even gave what he had received to those who needed it more. In his journey, he meets Doña Ines Pascual who also recognized the virtue in this man and so helps him take care of the poor and the sick.
Iñigo’s life was of great sacrifice. He gave up pleasure, comfort, worldly ambition, and his family’s respectable name and history.
Face your darkness. In the trailer, we hear Iñigo asking, “If you could hear the voice of God, would you want to keep it a secret?”
I wonder too. If we feel as if God is trying to tell us something, would we be silent? If God has saved us from our own sins too before, how could be be silent and not speak of the forgiveness and love we received from Him?
In the movie, he said this to his friend, Father Sanchez, who later on defends him in front of the Inquisition.
When Iñigo was incarcerated along with his fellows whom he often met with to talk about God to people (could this be the first few gatherings of the Jesuits and the sharing of the Spiritual Exercises?), he was questioned because of his unauthorized preaching. He and his fellows could be sentenced to death. But later on, we see Iñigo’s persevering attitude: he was not afraid of death for he had faced it before in battle.
The Inquisitors were doubtful of where Iñigo gets his inspiration from: were they from the divine or from something else? Was he truly leading people to God? Was he truly hearing God’s voice?
It is scary to be thought of as someone who had evil intentions when one knows and feels in his heart that God is truly the one speaking.
To save Iñigo and his fellows from death, Iñigo had to tell more of his story, and it could only be found in a journal he wrote in, where he chronicled his experiences with God and when he lived in a cave.
This was one of the heaviest parts of the film and St. Ignatius’ life. The pinnacle of Andreas Muñoz’s acting, for me, was felt here, when the camera focuses on his face dimly lit by warm orange light but contrasted with shadows in the cave. His back is exposed, shown to the camera, with many wounds. He hits his back with something hard, continuously, harder and harder, faster and faster.
Iñigo made penitence inside a cave, repented for all the sins he had committed in the past. He wept, his face contorted of suffering, he was screaming, while another Iñigo, a darker Iñigo, was near him, spouting lies and negativity around him. He wasn’t worthy to be saved. He was a sinful man. That was what he was hearing.
What happens next is Iñigo facing his own demons, his own darkness. He had to bear everything out to God. He had to know whose voices he was hearing. There was light, and there was dark. Until the time came that he finally was able to hear, to discern, to listen to the one still voice of the real and true light.
We have to be honest and brave in facing our own darkness just like St. Ignatius did. Repentance, I read from a book, is to change. How can we claim to have followed God already if we are not doing anything to change for the better, for Him, for love? But repentance is not easy; for every sin we make, there is repentance to be made… It is humiliating to admit we were wrong, but here we see our limitations, our sinful nature. It is only when we will ourselves to change that we go against that sinful nature. Real change happens, but only with God’s grace. We cannot do it by ourselves. We need Him and our families and friends who teach us the right way again. Just as we face our own demons, so should we confess our need for help from others.
After these confessions, we rise again and with a lighter and freer heart, as if freshly washed from a raging river of mercy.
Listen to God’s voice. Today, we hear many voices. Voices of the evil one, voices of insecurity, of anger, of revenge, of envy, of hatred… How does one focus his hearing on what is pure?
One of my favorite moments in the film was when Iñigo finally knew that it was God bringing him inspiration. He was bathing in the river after those nights of penitence and pain and passion. The waters were turquoise clear, the sun shining through the leaves. The trees around him and the wind made the ambience peaceful.
I was wondering if Jesus would appear. I don’t know if Jesus really did appear to St. Ignatius that time, but maybe I have to read his Autobiography to know.
And Jesus did appear.
But not in the way that I expected.
Instead of a man who resembled the images of Jesus we see today, I was humbled to see a child, sitting on a rock, looking at Iñigo lovingly.
He was smiling, but Iñigo wasn’t. He still thought and felt he was not worthy.
But the child Jesus assured him.
This was one of the parts that truly touched me and others. We saw Jesus in a child. We forget that our Savior had been a child but a baby first. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit in Mama Mary’s womb. Our Savior was once a helpless baby, fully dependent on his parents’ love and care and discipline and teaching. The humility He displays…
For us to be led again to the light by a child, for us to be graced by the presence of a child as pure as He, truly, we too would feel Iñigo’s unworthiness. But Jesus assures us by facing His own death to save us from our sins.
Fr. Sanchez, upon Iñigo’s sharing of the journal, read of the Saint’s experiences and used it to defend him before Inquisitor Frias. He put all of will in saving Iñigo, as well as the other witnesses to his sharing.
I loved what he had said to the Inquisitors: “The Church has always been broken. But the Church is alive. And to stay alive we must learn to listen. To people like him. People willing to face the front lines and lead the Church where it fears to go.”
The Church is one body of Christ, and all of us make the body of Christ, no matter what order we are follow, what religion we live to, and what worship and prayer we do for God. We are all broken people, but God can do a lot for a broken leg. How much more for His own children?
In the end, Iñigo was let go, and one of the Inquisitors, Inquisitor Figueroa, encouraged Iñigo to study theology in Paris.
“We have enough scholars and poets. Perhaps in this age what the Church needs is the mind of a soldier. We are called the Church Militant, after all,” said Inquisitor Figueroa.
Then began the sinner-soldier turned soldier-saint’s finding of the Society of Jesus and spreading of the Spiritual Exercises, which since then to today have greatly helped in training of Jesuits, and people all over the world in their relationship with Christ.
At the end of the film, as Iñigo started his journey to France, we hear the closing words: “May God grant you safe passage on all your journeys ahead. May you find companions worthy of your dreams. May your plans always be bold, and may your courage rise to meet them. May you live to bring the love of God to all the corners of the earth, to the most distant peripheries of His Church. And may your passion always burn brightly – that in God’s time, you may set the world on fire.”
And set the world on fire he did, this man whose tears reflected the stars above him.
Thank you to the people behind Ignacio de Loyola. Thank you for creating this film to tell the story of St. Ignatius and what we can learn from him. May God bless you all and give you the guidance in doing what He wants you to do to share more of His love to others. You have touched many lives through the gifts you have shared in filmmaking and acting. You have helped many people see Saints and Jesus in a new way, in a more intimate way. You have brought us a retreat and reflection inside a movie theater. There were definitely struggles in making this film, but you carried on with God’s provision and St. Ignatius probably praying for you too! Keep shining His light. Hoping that many more people will be touched by God through you. Maraming salamat po. Gracias a todos. Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam.