St. Ignatius’ cannonball moment initially led him to religious fanaticism. It’s his path to moderation that’s important.

We all have “aha” moments—like lightning flashes illuminating dark skies. St. Ignatius famously had his after being wounded in battle. He abandoned his party boy lifestyle and turned toward God.

“It initially led him down a path of religious fanaticism and scrupulosity,” says Tony Cortese, director of Ignatian Spirituality at SCU’s Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education. But what’s wrong with scruples?

Pointing to the experiences of St. Ignatius, Cortese notes: When you obsess over whether or not something was done “right,” you may be scrupulous.


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This undated cincture of wooden beads and a medal featuring the face of St. Ignatius on one side and the Jesuit “IHS” symbol on the other is housed in Santa Clara University Library & Archives. A cincture is a sort of belt worn with a priest’s vestments.
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One need not lead an austere life of constant prayer and rosary recitations to live a good life, says Cortese. The Daily Examen is a simple tool prescribed by St. Ignatius that can easily be adapted for secular audiences, akin to a mindfulness meditation. Review your day with gratitude, pay attention to your emotions, choose a feature of the day and reflect on it, and look forward to tomorrow

Ignatius found a path to moderation, Cortese says. And though none of us are 16th-century saints, we can work to ensure that we, too, are well enough to sustain our moments of clarity.

“We don’t just act,” he says. “We must reflect. We take care of our inner life so that we are more radically available to our world.”

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