Navigating the complexities of our world, Jaeison Monteiro, a Jesuit from India currently studying in Canada, shares his insights on living the Ignatian way. His experiences, marked by openness and resilience, shed light on the essence of Ignatian spirituality. As you read his story, you may find echoes of your own journey, and perhaps, a new perspective on facing life’s challenges
What does it mean to be Ignatian today (see the other articles here and here)? Jaeison believes that Ignatian spirituality is a gift for those who seek to learn from their experience and follow their heart. To be Ignatian, according to him, is to be open to God’s grace: “God is with me always, no matter what challenges or circumstances or problems I face.”
What does it mean for you to be Ignatian?
The first aspect is to be open to graces. I have lived for ten years as a Jesuit in the Society of Jesus and have experienced numerous graces from God, beginning with my novitiate and continuing until now (the last stage of formation before priesthood). I was able to receive these graces only because I was open. I kept my mind and my heart open. So the first thing I would say is that to be Ignatian is to be open to God’s grace.
The second aspect is to be open to opportunity. The Jesuits offer many types of opportunities. During the past ten years, I was able to travel in my home country of India to engage in specific missions and then to go abroad, to Canada, to explore the culture, to learn English, to go deeper in my spirituality, and to help people.
The third aspect is to be open to challenge. I have undergone lots of challenges, first of all, with my English, a language that I learned from scratch. People used to make fun of me. I would feel bad, but I overcame those moments. Then later in my formation, I encountered new cultures, new languages, new people. So lots of challenges. But God gave me the graces to overcome these challenges.
In your experience, which Ignatian value is unique?
The sense of accountability, I think. Freedom with accountability. As a Jesuit, I have a lot of freedom, but at the end of the day, I’m accountable for what I do.
Do you believe that Ignatian spirituality is still important in a secular world?
I think Ignatian spirituality is important. I saw it in Goa, which is more of a Catholic society, where the faith is still alive. I helped out in a retreat centre for about a year, and I remember that many people were seeking to discover Ignatian spirituality, to seek God in all things. Many people who came to us for retreats or seminars asked us to speak about Ignatius. For Ignatius, life experience takes priority over bookish knowledge. So when we gave seminars, we spoke from the heart, not from the mind.
Lastly, can you share about one moment that was really important to you in relation to Ignatian spirituality?
I will always remember one of the experiments from my noviciate—the walking pilgrimage. A companion and I walked from the novitiate to the shrine of Saint Francis Xavier, which is about 145 kilometres. We walked without food, without cellphones, depending completely on God. We had to beg for food. No hitchhiking, nothing. It took us almost three days to reach the shrine.
The first day of the journey, when I went to beg, I was very nervous because I had never had to beg in my life. I was afraid that people would reject me, but that only happened once. After being rejected, I went to another house a few miles down the road to beg for food, and they didn’t reject me. I was blessed. God was helping me to beg.
At the end of the journey, I was the only one who hadn’t gotten any blisters. I really experienced God walking with me and giving me strength when I was tired. In fact, I never got tired. Whenever I started to feel tired, I would simply recite the rosary, and that gave me strength. This is an experience that will always remain with me, one that I will always cherish.
God is with me always, no matter what challenges or circumstances or problems I face. God is with me, walking with me.