This Advent, Ignatian writers from across the Jesuit Conference are sharing twenty-five days of reflections on Ignatian heroes. You can receive these reflections directly in your inbox by signing up here.
Day 2: Doña Magdalena
By Christine Marie Eberle
How is it possible that there were only two books in Loyola castle, I recently found myself wondering. The availability of nothing but “The Life of Christ” and “The Lives of the Saints” is the core of the conversion story we tell, and yet suddenly it seemed so improbable. Ignatius was recuperating in the wealthy home where he had learned to read and, presumably, cultivated his fondness for chivalric tales and courtly romances.
A quick consult with a Jesuit friend confirmed my suspicion: of course, there were other books in Loyola, but Ignatius was bedridden — dependent on the care of his sister-in-law, Doña Magdalena, who had first taken the future saint under her wing after his mother’s death when he was just seven years old.
Having loved “Íñigo” since he was a half-orphaned little boy, Doña Magdalena knew where the nonsense that filled his young head had landed him. Might she have been determined to keep that trash out of his hands as he recuperated? Like a spiritual gatekeeper, did she ensure that only pious books entered the sickroom and the imagination of her convalescing charge? If so, Doña Magdalena is a worthy namesake of Mary Magdalene, who carried the Good News of the risen Lord to men who also had been laid flat by tragedy, their heroic dreams destroyed.
If Doña Magdalena decided to share only worthy stories with the one person in her care, her decision literally changed the world, and we owe her a debt of gratitude. Just imagine the impact our collective, mindful storytelling could make in the world today!
Reflection: In this season when we strive to incarnate Christ anew, what are you sharing with the people in your care? Are you telling stories that are true, necessary and kind, or pouring gasoline on a fire already out of control? Do your words awaken others to the needs of the world and inspire them to do great things for the glory of God, or do they shine a spotlight on your own accomplishments? How might you resolve to take a page from Doña Magdalena’s book?
Christine Marie Eberle passionately connects Scripture, spirituality and everyday life. She is the author of two books of daily meditations in the Ignatian tradition: “Finding God in Ordinary Time” and “Finding God Abiding.” After a 26-year career as a college campus minister, in 2019, Christine ended her tenure as director of Campus Ministry at Gwynedd Mercy University to commit to a full-time ministry of writing, speaking and retreat facilitation. She resides outside Philadelphia, where she serves on the regional advisory council of the Ignatian Volunteer Corps and cantors for her parish, St. Vincent DePaul in Germantown. You can follow her at christine-marie-eberle.com.