Iñigo López de Oñaz y Loyola dreamed of being a knight. Even though he was born into minor nobility in Spain in 1491, he would read romantic novels about swashbuckling knights fighting for beautiful women. He would eventually become a soldier in Spain’s fight against the French.
During one battle, a cannonball shattered him in the legs. Unable to move in his hospital bed, he asked the woman who cared for him to read him some of the adventurous novels of his youth. He wanted to rekindle his passion for being a valiant explorer. However, there were no novels of this kind at the hospital. Instead, the woman read to him books about Christ and the saints.
After many procedures to repair the bones in his legs, his spirit began to change. Rather than daydreaming of being the knight in shining armor, he began imagining what it was like to live during the time of Christ.
His imaginings resulted in his losing interest in material things. He yearned for something deeper. Writing his autobiography in the third person, he describes his shift.
When he thought of worldly things it gave him great pleasure, but afterward he found himself dry and sad. But when he thought of journeying to Jerusalem, and of living only on herbs, and practicing austerities, he found pleasure not only while thinking of them, but also when he had ceased.
He later traveled to Montserrat, where he would leave his horse, sword, and dagger at the foot of the altar of the Virgin Mary. He would give his expensive clothes to a beggar and live on alms himself.
His life in austerity would form a new man—St. Ignatius of Loyola. A single cannonball shattered not only his legs, but also his dreams. A single cannonball propelled his life in a direction he had never imagined.
Has a cannonball immobilized you? Have your own imaginings been crushed, causing you to question if your life’s path is the right one?
Iñigo spent several months in pain, feeling his materialistic dreams implode. He was compelled to reexamine what was at the heart of his dreams. We could do the same, asking ourselves what it is we really want—is it something deeper?
Like Iñigo, eventually we’ll need to lay down our sword at Montserrat. We’ll have to give up the various obstacles and attachments that have held us to dreams that no longer serve us.
Then, we will be able to walk unencumbered towards our new path—one we might never have envisioned, but one that brings life deeper meaning.
This post was previously published on Medium.