By Mike Jordan Laskey
July 29, 2022 — As we prepared to celebrate the Feast of Saint Ignatius this year, which also marks the end of the special Ignatian Year celebrating the 500th anniversary of Ignatius’ transformation “cannonball moment,” I found myself wondering what the saint himself might think of all this.
While I’m sure he’d be glad to see the Jesuits continuing to live as “contemplatives in action” around the planet, I imagine he’d be a little embarrassed by all the attention on himself. He wanted to help people grow in their relationship with Christ, not build a cult of personality around himself. And he started the Jesuit community with companions, “friends in the Lord,” certainly not by himself. That community continues on today, comprising thousands of men and even more lay people who collaborate in the mission.
So, with these ideas in mind, we connected with the fantastic iconographer Julius Spradley, who has created a new icon of Ignatius and his first companions. I love what he came up with. It feels contemporary and timeless, a fresh addition to an ancient tradition of iconography. The community of these seven first Jesuits is shown with such warm intimacy; Ignatius and Peter Faber appear to have their arms crossed as they hold the book together, for instance. The icon reflects the Society of Jesus’ hopes to be rooted in its history and always adapting to meet the needs of the modern church and world.
An icon is different from other sorts of art in that it is specifically designed to invite prayer, not to be looked at like a tourist in a museum. We hope you take a moment to pray with it on the Feast of St. Ignatius or any time — perhaps even using the words of Ignatius’ beautiful Suscipe:
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.
You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.
“I have been blessed by many Jesuits — past and present — throughout my spiritual journey, and this work was such a joyful way to engage with them. Having known of many of these men depicted here, I took this opportunity to explore these founders as one community rather than individual members. They are all participating with one another, with God, and with the wider world around them, unique and distinct from one another, but intrinsically linked together.” -Julius Spradley, iconographer
About the artist:
Julius Spradley of Contemplative Iconography began his journey through woodworking. In sketching ideas for an icon woodcarving, he was hooked and began learning everything he could about iconography. After traveling to a monastery to learn the geometry, painting techniques, and gilding, Julius began painting and soon creating digital prints as well. Years on, his greatest passion is to make iconography accessible to all and aid in the devotional lives of any who may inquire. His contact information and work can be found at contemplativeicons.com, on Instagram at @contemplative.icons or on Twitter at @cntmpltvicons.
About the author:
Mike Jordan Laskey is the communications director for the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States.