We, Sinners and Saints

Sinners yet called to serve. This is what we Jesuits are more commonly known. We are ordinary men who labor for Christ.

St. Iggy: The Cannonball Saint

or How a Skirt-Chasing, Dice-Throwing and Vain Spanish Courtier Who Walked with a Limp Finally Got a Halo

St. Ignatius of Loyola had the rare distinction in the whole Christendom of being the only saint who was "cannonized" first before he was beatified. The story went that when the Spanish army stationed at a fortress in Pamplona, outnumbered by the French, was ready to retreat and accept a humiliating defeat, this swaggering son of a noble family convinced his captain to fight the invaders to death. As Lady Luck (or was it Madame Misfortune?) had had enough of Spanish bravado, she caused a careening cannon ball to crash and crush Iggy's leg.
The poor fellow was knocked out of his senses and he suddenly found himself upon waking up being treated like a lady by French soldiers who carried him home in a hammock instead of imprisoning him or torturing him with bad French jokes.

After a crude and we must say unhygienic "operation" on his leg so he could resume his groovy dance steps in court soirees, Iggy boy was bedbound and he recuperated in his brother's house. He couldn't go out for a drinking and gambling session. He couldn't wear his armor breastplate to engage his friends into a real Ragnarok match. And since this was a time when sending SMS texts and Friendster were not yet in vogue, the dashing and dashed soldier quickly got bored. He asked for copies of earlier versions of The Lord of the Rings and Mills and Boons novels but his sister-in-law kept none of these at home. Instead she handed him two boring books: The Life of Christ and Lives of Saints. He grumbly grabbed the books and started reading. He became feverish with excitement and started dreaming of going to faraway places and imitating the saints and following Christ. And then his desire of pursuing a royal relationship with a hitherto nameless lass and of playing knight to damsels-in-distress left him dry.

Meanwhile, since his leg was restored but did not heal, he requested that it be recast. The doctors told him that he could die in the process but he was determined to have it done. He underwent second operation, even without anesthesia, because he did not want to walk with a limp. Vanity of vanities says Qoheleth! It seemed however, that Sts. Peter and Paul, whose twin anniversary celebration coincided with the day of his operation (June 29), wanted him to join Jesus's army, Iggy's health turned for the better and he was able to walk, albeit, still with a little limp. From then on he bowed to live a life of poverty and purity, become a monk and a missionary to Jerusalem. And the rest is, you know, history...

Ignatius became the founder and the first superior general of the largest male-only congregation in the world. But that is getting ahead already. He suffered many hardships, sufferings and persecution. He even at one point, became suicidal. But there was really no stopping this Basque from pursuing what he put his whole heart and mind into: conquer the world and save souls for the Greater Glory of God!

Since you have read this far, you may want to read a fuller and more accurate account of this cannonball saint's life from this awesome site. You won't be frustrated, promise!

The Tale of the Amputated Incorruptible

St. Francis Xavier (1506-1552)
Patron Saint of all Missions

Imagine this: you are nineteen years of age, studying in the most prestigious university in the whole world. A whole future of bright prospects is in front of you. You can become a lawyer or a bishop or someone dignified and important. Kings and dukes will seek your wise counsel and women will literally salivate as you pass by as they think you are a polite and gentleman version of Collin Farell.

Then: this thirty year old bum who comes from your province and speaks your Basque dialect and dresses up in rags and keeps on talking about the end of the world oppresses you no end. He tries to smooth talk you into surrendering your passion for extreme sports and fashionable clothes and accessories into doing menial tasks and preaching the Gospel. He keeps on telling you, every time you meet at the corridors of the university or when you return to your dormitory at night: "What does it profit a man to be handsome and famous and filthy rich but loses his soul in the end?" You would be annoyed. That's normal. Some people might even consider hiring an assassin to shoot him while he's crossing the Latin Quarter near the Universite de Paris.

But then, suddenly, your dad forgot to send you money thru your ATM and you are without cash to pay for your tuition fee. Then this raggedy man, whom you learn is named Ignatius, offers something you can't resist: loan to pay off your debts. Now will you accept the dirty old man's offer. No way! You will definitely say. But you, the Francisco Javier of this story, relents. You accept the dirty money, you don't even know where it came from, and you welcome the bum/preacher/retreat giver into your life, and you are never the same again. (Have you seen With Honors starring Brendan Fraser and Joe Pesci? They "stole" the plot from this story!)

Francis got converted and started hanging out with other college studes that Iggy recruited for the purpose of bonding together to do charitable works of mercy and penances. First, they raided hospitals all around Paris. In a leprosarium, Francis' resolve was tested. He believed that to experience aversion from the gangrenous wounds of the lepers was offending to God. He therefore, though foolishy, touched the wound of one leper with his fingers and put them inside his mouth! By golly! What would his mother say?

Anyway, when Iggy was able to round up nine equally foolish students from the university, they gathered together at Montmarte (yes the infamous place, remember Moulin Rouge ?, where brothels were located) they vowed for the rest of their lives to live in poverty and go to Jerusalem (like what Orlando Bloom did in Kingdom of Heaven) to conquer the infidels. But God had another plan for them. Church authorities banned pilgrimages to the Holy City and so they decided to go instead to Rome and place themselves at the beck and call of the Pontiff. The Pope was extremely pleased with them. But he had better things in mind than have these fresh grads roaming around like stray cats at La Citta Eternita and throwing coins at the Trevi Fountain ala Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday.

The King of Portugal requested a man of the cloth to evangelize the colony of Goa and the lot fell to Francis because Nicolas Bobadilla fell mysteriously ill (some malicious historians believed he was only acting up but there is no confirmation to this historical rumor). Francis accepted the mission after giving his dear friend Iggy a warm fatherly embrace that was their last for they were not to see each other again until after they both ascended to heaven and were canonized on the same day by Pope Gregory XV on March 12, 1622.

From Goa, Francis travelled to Cape Commorin then to the Fishery Coast, then to India and then to Mollucas and then to Japan and finally Sancian, an island off China, where he died alone facing the mainland dreaming of conquering it for God's greater glory. During his travels he baptized thousands and thousands of children, men and women and catechized them. He would write his travails and triumphs to Ignatius. Ignatius would receive his letters after six months and he would receive Ignatius's response six months after. The whole exhange took exactly a year! There were no text messaging or DHL at that time. But Francis would cut out Ignatius' name and greetings from the letter he received from him and place it in a pocket near his heart so they can be closer, if not in place, then in spirit.

There had never been a friendship quite like this.

Anyway, when Francis died his body was incorruptible, the people of Sancian went ecstatic over this. They didn't want to bury him. But Christian rituals would not allow veneration of dead bodies. Spanish authorities seized his remains but not after a struggle with the natives who managed to cut off one of his hands, as a parting souvenir or relic. If you go to the Church of Gesu, you will see Francis' other hand displayed in a glass case.

So you think I invented this story? Read this article http://www.cin.org/franxav.html written by a lay woman for more information.