Ignatian Year Opening Mass: Cannonballs and Conversions



Ateneo de Manila University joined the global Jesuit community in prayer and celebration, as the milestone ‘Ignatian Year’ commenced with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at the Church of the Gesù, last Thursday morning, May 20.

Streamed live via the Radyo Katipunan 87.9 FM and Jesuit Communications (JesCom) Facebook pages, Fr. Primitivo Viray Jr., SJ, Provincial Superior of the Philippine Jesuits, presided over the Eucharistic Celebration commemorating the 500th anniversary of St. Ignatius of Loyola’s inspiring conversion.

In his homily entitled “Cannonballs and Conversions”, Ateneo de Manila President, Fr. Roberto C. Yap, SJ, recounted how an “unexpected shift” in the life of a then worldly and ambitious soldier named Íñigo, “affected him psychologically, socially, ethically, and spiritually” that his life was forever changed.

“500 years ago on this day, May 20th, St. Ignatius was wounded by a cannonball shattering his leg and his life. For him, it was a major failure and a change of plans in what he envisioned for his future, full of riches and worldly exploits,” narrated Fr. Yap.

“However, this failure turned out to be only apparent. It started a process of conversion, which led Ignatius to have bigger dreams, no longer centered on himself, but rather on God. It helped St. Ignatius to see all things new in Christ.”

Noting the landmark year’s significance to all Jesuits, their institutions and mission partners, Fr. Yap invited the faithful to learn from life’s most poignant moments that ultimately lead to renewed faith and personal conversion.

“Today, the Society of Jesus and the Ignatian Family begin our celebration of the Ignatian Year, a yearlong commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the conversion of St. Ignatius Loyola. For this Ignatian Year, we ask: How might we commit to ongoing conversion? How might we learn to recognize and embrace those ‘cannonball moments’ in our own lives?

Sharing how a 21-year-old Jorge Mario Bergoglio encountered his own ‘cannonball moment’ when he fell deathly ill with a lung infection during his second year in the seminary at Buenos Aires, Fr. Yap described how Pope Francis views these ‘stoppages’ or ‘personal Covid’ as “moments in life that can be ripe for change and conversion.”

“The coronavirus pandemic, in a way, is like a cannonball, shattering our society and our lives, destroying our old ways of living. Reflecting on the pandemic, Pope Francis has said, ‘We never emerge from a crisis just as we were. We come out either better or worse, never the same. This is why, at this critical juncture, it is our duty to rethink the future of our common home and our common project.’

“How might the cannonballs in our lives be shattering obstacles that stand between us and true freedom? And how might these cannonballs be showing us and our university the way of Jesus, that way that embraces humility, service, and self-sacrificing love,” reflected Fr. Yap.

Concluding his sermon, Fr. Yap then underscored how the Ignatian Year serves as a great reminder of the “daily opportunity to experience a new conversion and to live a transforming experience.”

“It is a call to allow the Lord to reveal to us a new enthusiasm, a new life, new ways of following Jesus who continues to call us, especially through the poorest and most marginalized, through the cry of the earth, through all that is vulnerable. For this Ignatian Year, we ask for the grace to see all things new in Christ,” he emphasized.
“In remembering St. Ignatius, his cannonball moment, and his conversion, we find encouragement. We realize that ‘Yes, change is possible. Yes, our hearts can be softened. Yes, our world can find new ways forward’”.