BY CHRISTOPHER KERR | May 20, 2021
Life definitely throws all of us some curveballs, as they say. But today, we commemorate 500 years since life threw St. Ignatius of Loyola a cannonball.
For those unfamiliar with his story—in 1521, the Spanish soldier’s leg was shattered by a cannonball in the Battle of Pamplona. The injury, the damage it left, and his own vanity (he had the bone in his leg reset after it had initially healed in an unsightly way), caused him to need a lengthy convalescence. As a result of this stationary and solitary time, St. Ignatius read two books—one about Christ and one about the lives of the saints—leading him on a path to conversion.
Fast forward 500 years, and we can all identify cannonballs we have been struck by in our own lives—a sudden death of someone close to us, a near-death experience, an encounter with a fellow human being that changed our sense of the world, etc. This is true for us as a society and our institutions as well. Just in this past year, significant events have collectively jolted our nation and global family into a new way of understanding the world and God’s call to recalibrate our lives and what we seek for our communities. We are, indeed, living in another “cannonball moment” in history.
I have been hit by many cannonballs throughout my life. Many years ago, I was accompanying a student group on an immersive learning experience in a migrant farming town in Southwest Florida. A student’s medical issue brought us to a local clinic where we were introduced to Juan, a Guatemalan migrant who was having a severe reaction to chemical pesticides while working as a day laborer in a tomato vineyard. Juan, a husband and father of five children, had left Guatemala hoping to earn money in the U.S. to send back home. Looking at his beet-red arms, I was struck by the complexity of our world, the inhumanity that so many face, and my own complicity in it all. Cannonball moments are experiences that force us to stop how we are living and invite us to live in a new way. This cannonball moment was one small step in my own journey of trying to living a more Christ-like life through my vocations as an educator, activist, citizen, spouse, and parent.
What is your cannonball moment? Tell us about it here.
Throughout the next year, led by the Jesuits globally, the entire Church is invited to reflect on the pilgrim journey of St. Ignatius of Loyola. The Ignatian Year, led by Jesuit Superior General Father Arturo Sosa, begins today and concludes on July 31, 2022, St. Ignatius’ feast day. Fr. Sosa has invited each of us, members of the Ignatian family, to reflect on the theme, “To see all things new in Christ” as an invitation to “be renewed by the Lord himself.”
This Sunday evening, May 23, at 8 PM ET / 7 PM CT / 6 PM MT / 5 PM PT, you are invited to join the global Ignatian family in a virtual worldwide prayer vigil, entitled Pilgrims with Ignatius, which will be broadcast in both English and Spanish and available for viewing afterward as well.
Below, please find some of our own prayer resources that apply the spirituality of St. Ignatius of Loyola to the realities of our time, including the call to care for creation, our role in civic life, and much more:
- Reconciling God, Creation, and Humanity: An Ignatian Examen
- An Ignatian Examen for Civic Life
- Examen for Life During COVID-19
- An Examen for White Allies
- 21-Day Ignatian Racial Equity Challenge
- Ignatian Advocacy 101 (video)
Chris joined the Ignatian Solidarity Network (ISN) as executive director in 2011. He has over fifteen years of experience in social justice advocacy and leadership in Catholic education and ministry. Prior to ISN he served in multiple roles at John Carroll University, including coordinating international immersion experience and social justice education programming as an inaugural co-director of John Carroll’s Arrupe Scholars Program for Social Action. Prior to his time at John Carroll he served as a teacher and administrator at the elementary and secondary levels in Catholic Diocese of Cleveland. Chris speaks regularly at campuses and parishes about social justice education and advocacy, Jesuit mission, and a broad range of social justice issues. He currently serves on the board of directors for Christians for Peace in El Salvador (CRISPAZ). Chris earned a B.A. and M.A. from John Carroll University in University Heights, Ohio. He and his family reside in Shaker Heights, Ohio.