Handing in my Knife – a 2nd Interview with St. Ignatius

This interview takes place in the Spring of 1522 in St. Lucy’s Hospice, Manresa.

It’s good to meet again, Inigo, although I have to say that it’s been hard work finding you!

Sorry. Since coming out of lockdown, there’s been no holding me! I’ve been walking, seeing lots of places, meeting new people and going through some things.

Before you tell me about any of this, I have to say that I didn’t expect to find you hidden away in the back room of a small, noisy and, frankly, rather foul-smelling hospice. And whatever’s happened to your long flowing locks? And what’s with the rough tunic?

Yes, well, one thing at a time. The important thing is that I feel free. Yes – hobbling down from Loyola with my mule and then up the steep slopes of Montserrat was sheer pleasure after all that time convalescing on my back at home. I’ve loved listening to the monks singing in the abbey. And the view of Barcelona on a clear day is breath-taking. Quite beautiful. But it was handing in my knife that did it for me. The best of all.

Handing in your knife? Could you say a bit more about that?

I suppose my knife has always represented safety and security for me, power and glory. And with the gang, I’ve certainly loved fighting for honour over the years. I am – sorry, I was – very attached to my knife. Attached to all that stuff.

And now you’re saying that you “feel free”?

Well, free of the knife certainly. I laid it down on one of the altars in the abbey church – just left it there. I was praying, you see, and found myself really wanting to let go of something inside. At Pamplona I was forced to surrender all my old ambitions. That was hard. But now I feel that I actually want to give them up. This is my heart’s desire. So I put my knife on the table to see what would happen. I said to God, ‘Just take it, take it all’. And this is the amazing part – I feel free! Detached, indifferent to everything in a really good way, truly free for the first time in my life!

And all the other things?

Well, the hair had to go! After lockdown it had grown too long anyway! And I cut my polished nails, and gave away my finery to some poor beggar in the street who seemed very grateful. And what is wonderful is this. I feel freer now than I ever have done. Utterly free inside to keep things or to let things go – whatever’s most helpful. And this is far more than just the pleasure of being able to walk again. More than just nice singing and nice views. I’m noticing a strange and deeper joy that’s more important than anything…

There’s that look again that I saw at our last interview. Excuse me for saying this, but how does looking like a tramp and serving as a skivvy add to any kind of freedom or deep joy?

Consolation, I call it. It’s as if the sun’s just come out. I can’t really explain it, but do you know that feeling when everything looks different? Like falling in love! I’m free and happy for the first time in my life. I’m not saying this kind of life here at St. Lucy’s is for everyone. But I am saying that it’s right for me just now. And this seems like an insight – everyone finding what’s most important for themselves. I’m noticing how good it is helping others like Jesus did, humbly, lovingly, joyfully…

I remember asking you last time where you thought this may take you. Have you any plans?

Keep doing the same. Keep going deeper and reflecting on things. I am making some rough notes and I’m calling this kind of thing ‘repetition’.

Repetition… Going deeper… Hmm. And do you think this will last? Is this the new you?

Staying here in Manresa might not be for keeps. I have more notes to write down; maybe something too about what I’m calling ‘desolation’ – ‘bad weather’ days. I’d love to go to the Holy Land where Jesus lived – get closer to him in my prayer and find out more about where all this joy and freedom is coming from. I hope this ‘new me’ will last.

I must say that, as you’ve been talking, your open hands are moving as if you’re weighing something up?

Funny you should say that! The other day I was walking through the market and something caught my eye. A trader was placing things on a pair of scales and trying to find balance. I just stood and watched, for what seemed like a long time. What I love is the point of balance, the poise, equilibrium… where something small makes a difference…

Where do you think this is taking you Inigo?

Well, that’s the thing. I guess right now I feel like that pair of scales! I feel deeply still and free… and at peace… I’m noticing and distinguishing how things are affecting me one way or the other, even small things. Serving people here at St. Lucy’s is moving me in a good way. Following Jesus’ lead is only doing me good, and I’m not losing my balance… So as you can see, I’m happily following a very different sort of king now! And he seems to be taking the lead…

Thanks again.

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