By Br. Innocent Smith, O.P.
We all take a certain pride when one of our own has achieved greatness: the Home Town Hero, the Local Boy Who Makes Good, the Rascal Who Takes to Drink But Enters Med School in Chapter Sixteen. All men and women naturally want to be for and with others, particularly when they turn out to be Notable.
It is with something of the same sentiment that the Order of Preachers rejoices in the victories of St. Ignatius of Loyola—all for the greater glory of St. Dominic. As everyone knows, the Order of Preachers is responsible (granting, of course, the physical premotion of God’s help) for three essential aspects of St. Ignatius’s life: the discernment of his vocation, the formation of his character, and the enlightenment of his intellect.
First of all, when Ignatius lay wounded in a lonely sickbed, he first asked for books of chivalry with which to while away his time. This being a proper Christian house, they would not admit to having any of that sort of literature, being embarrassed perhaps by the steamy paperback covers on Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came (this being in the era before the Kindle made such reading respectable). Instead, his wholesome hosts offered Ignatius a bestseller written by the Dominican friar James of Voragine: The Golden Legend. As he read the gripping tales of saintly derring-do in this volume, St. Ignatius promptly developed a true devotion to St. Dominic, declaring, “St. Dominic did this, therefore, I have to do it.” (He had a similar notion concerning St. Francis, but that is beside the point.)
But St. Ignatius still needed some solid Dominican formation. He began this process well enough by immersing himself in the rich liturgical life of a Dominican priory, attending Mass and chanting the Office with the friars, an experience which perhaps contributed to his later decision to not bind the members of his Society to the public recitation of the Office. Overexcited by this Dominican experience, however, he prematurely tried to share the fruits of his contemplation with others before he had finished his studies. His Dominican “friends” in Salamanca set him on the right path, however, giving him the chance to undertake a thirty-day retreat in quiet seclusion in one of their cells. (At least here he didn’t have to go to Office!)
Lastly, after completing his “sabbatical” in Salamanca, Ignatius was able to go on to a first-rate university, enrolling at the University of Paris and attending class at the Dominican Priory of Saint-Jacques. It was here, we are told, that he began to study the Summa theologiae of the Dominican St. Thomas Aquinas, developing in the process a preferential option for the Common Doctor that was to go so far in making him recognized as the Common Doctor.
It’s easy to see how this solid Dominican foundation gave St. Ignatius the vocational clarity, personal formation, and intellectual rigor he needed to found an order in the spirit of St. Dominic. How grateful we are to Holy Father Dominic for allowing the graces the Holy Spirit gave him to overflow to the Society of Jesus!