Thursday, July 04, 2013

Ignatius of Loyola 4: Hearing voices

On the 4th of July some years ago I was on retreat at Eastern Point, which is near Gloucester's harbor.  Sitting out on the rocks to pray, I kept hearing voices, names and tantalizing bits of sentences floating on the breeze.  To say I was distracted was an understatement.

The silence at Eastern Point is pretty profound and the waves pounding against the rocks tended to muffle any noise from the surrounding neighborhood, so voices caught my attention.  But I couldn't figure out where they were coming from, though they sounded nearby and vaguely mechanical.

I shared the mystery with my director, she hadn't heard them, but she hadn't been out of the house yet that day.  (To be clear, I was never in doubt that there was a ordinary explanation for the voices!) Out for my walk, the voices were louder, but not quite clear enough to catch more than a word or two.  As my walk took me across the small land bridge toward the harbor, I finally achieved clarity.  There was a Navy ship in the harbor, as part of the celebration of the 4th...and what I was hearing was its PA system.

At La Storta, as he headed to Rome with his companions in 1537, Ignatius heard voices, but unlike me, he heard God sending him to Rome, to be part of Jesus' company. I would guess that mystic is not the first association many people have with St. Ignatius, but Ignatius' early mystical experiences (and experiences that posed as such) are part of the ground from which Ignatius' rules for discernment of spirits grew.  (Read about the rules here and a longer but fascinating piece about Ignatius the mystic here.)


  1. Michelle, thanks for the links, especially the article by Brian O'Leary, SJ on Ignatius' mysticism as it presents an interesting progression in Ignatius' spiritual life.

  2. Like Lynda, I am really grateful for the article by Brian O'Leary. The Jesuit Curia in Rome was highly recommended to us in Manresa. It's a great place for finding great articles. Thank you very much for this one. What a treat :-)

  3. Claire and Lynda, you are both making me so glad that I linked to Brian O'Leary's piece. I almost didn't because it was a long read, but it was wonderfully clear and I enjoyed it so much that I thought why not...