Note: This is a transcript of the Youtube video of the same title.
Are you a fan of superheroes? Remember the obvious transformation in their origin stories such as when Spiderman gets bitten by a radioactive spider; or Diana, the warrior princess of the Amazons meets an American pilot, and leaves her home for the first time to fight in the war, eventually discovering her full powers and destiny as Wonder Woman.
Or the turning points in the prime of their careers. Remember when Thor becomes unworthy of the Mjolnir, his hammer in Ragnarok, or Captain America wakes up in the present day, or when Doomsday and Superman kills each other? These plot twists, though fiction, are relatable, and that’s why we love them.
Have you ever experienced a life-changing moment when your life took a different turn for the better, gained a new perspective, found a greater clarity in terms of your dreams, and forging a path of your own?
I had this moment when I entered the Jesuit novitiate on the 30th of May in 1989. While the novices were singing “Ito ang Bagong Araw,” two of them were slowly closing the main doors. The drama, a traditional ritual of the Entrance Day, marked an end and a beginning of my life as a Jesuit.
At the novitiate, we were quarantined from the world, so that when we emerge from there, we would be renewed and prepared for what we were meant to be and to do.
The Chinese calls it a weiji, a turning point in one’s life. And a weiji has two parts. It is usually initiated by an accident, a painful experience or finding yourself at rock bottom. For St. Ignatius of Loyola, his weiji was at the battle of Pamplona on the 20th of May 1521, when his right leg was shattered by a cannonball, fired by the French-Navarrese expedition force.
And then, it is followed by a retreat. It is a time of great reflectiveness, coming to terms with one’s story, including one’s painful past, regrets and resentments; embracing all that was with great humility and acceptance. After the battle of Pamplona, St. Ignatius was then returned to recuperate at his father’s castle in Loyola. In an era without anesthetics, he had several operations to repair his leg because it wouldn’t be nice to walk with a limp.
But it was during his days of recuperating that St. Ignatius had a religious conversion, a spiritual weiji, facilitated by the only books available: the Life of Christ by Ludolph of Saxony and the Lives of the Saints.
Our human experience illumines a specific starting point when, after exhausting our tears and expressing our helplessness, we begin to recover, finding meaning and value once again, emerging with a greater self-possession and self-mastery, to pick up our shattered pieces to rebuild and reshape our future.
This stage of our cannonball experience is usually a religious experience, having found a personal God breaking into our lives once again, like the first rays of sunshine in the morning, as greater desires once again burst and bloom.
The cannonball experience ultimately would lead towards a change in St. Ignatius’ worldview, a shift of loyalties, from being a knight of a human king, to a soldier of Christ the King, and a new set of influencers, the saints. To cut the long story short, he eventually co-founded the Society of Jesus, or the Jesuits, with a clear mission to serve the Pope in regard to the missions. He died on the 31st of July 1556.
How about you? What is your cannonball experience, and how did it change your life?
In many Marvel or DC Comics stories, even superheroes would turn into villains, whether they are influenced by evil, or forced to do so like Superman who was tricked by the Joker into killing Lois Lane and his unborn child. But what I find is a pattern, usually heroes like Angel turning into Archangel, turn from good to evil, and only one, the Scarlet Witch who turned from evil to good, and became one of the greatest force among the Avengers.
Perhaps, we can have a personal weiji, turning from the evil that we do, into the good that we are.