The Ignatian Year Invites Us To Reach Out To Trauma Victims — Rob McChesney, SJ, Tells Us How
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The Ignatian Year Invites Us To Reach Out To Trauma Victims — Rob McChesney, SJ, Tells Us How

During this Ignatian Year—this 500th anniversary of the conversion of St. Ignatius—a lot has been said about “cannonball moments.” The phrase comes from Ignatius’ own life story: he’s struck in the leg by a cannonball at the Battle of Pamplona. It’s that injury and its subsequent, painful recovery that confines Ignatius to bed and ultimately presents him with the opportunity to read and reflect on the life of Christ and the saints.

We talk about this cannonball moment because it’s so jarring; it literally knocks Ignatius off his feet, off the trajectory he’d set for his life, and forces him to look anew at what God is inviting him to do with his life. From that cannonball moment, we get the Society of Jesus, the Spiritual Exercises and countless other good fruits. And, as a result, we’re invited to consider similar moments in our lives—when have we been struck by cannonballs; when have we had our life turned around by God?

These are all good and worthy questions—and this year provides us with ample opportunity to reflect on our own ongoing conversions. We’re invited to see all things new in Christ.

And yet, there’s a temptation to sanitize the cannonball moment, to forget that Ignatius—then, Inigo de Loyola—was a prideful man who led his soldiers to their deaths; whose cannonball moment was a bloody, gruesome affair, and who suffered from trauma and guilt in the many months and years that followed. This, too, is what it means to experience a cannonball moment—and we must look at the story honestly, fully, lest we risk offending or alienating those among us who have also experienced such trauma.

This is the theme of today’s episode. Fr. Rob McChesney, SJ, joins us again to discuss how Ignatian spirituality and the person of St. Ignatius can help us process trauma, can help us accompany those who have experienced trauma and, ultimately, how a fuller understanding of what a cannonball moment represents might bring us closer to God.

A warning: the subject matter today is heavy; we do dig into trauma and its effects, particularly where veterans and sexual abuse survivors are concerned.

We hear from one combat veteran, Bob Macpherson, who shares his story of trauma and Ignatian spirituality. You can learn more about Bob and read his book at https://www.robertseamusmacpherson.com/.

As a final note, Fr. Rob makes mention of several meditations found within The Spiritual Exercises. We encourage you to visit the Office of Ignatian Spirituality’s page on the Exercises to learn more. Go to https://jesuitseastois.org/spiritualexercises.

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