Mary, our “Ina”, accompany us during the Ignatian Year to your Son
The Provincial of the Philippine Province, Fr. Primitivo Viray Jr SJ, shares a reflection during this Ignatian Year on the importance of Mary for St. Ignatius and for himself. First published on the JCAP website: link.
In the city of Naga, located 384 kilometres southeast of Manila, one can find the beautiful image of Our Lady of Peñafrancia. For the people of Naga and the entire Bicol region, there is a great devotion to this image of the Blessed Mother. Bicolanos refer to her as “Ina” or Mother with such great love and devotion. Her feast is celebrated on the third Sunday of September. Tens of thousands of pilgrims converge to Naga showing their utmost devotion to Ina.
At the beginning of 2011, I was sent to Ateneo de Naga University and immediately found myself being drawn to Ina. During this time, my mother was diagnosed with advanced cancer and given less than a year of life. I suggested to her that we ask the Lord through the intercession of Ina, that if it be his will, she may be granted healing and a longer life. My mother agreed and we began fervently praying to our Lord through Ina.
To make a long story short, before the end of 2011 my mother had her medical scan to check the spread of the cancer. To our great surprise and joy, our family doctor informed us that there was no trace of the cancer! It was nothing short of a miracle! However, she cautioned us that it could return. Through the Lord’s kindness and the prayers of Ina, my mother lived for another four years.
Through this wonderful event of our Lady’s intercession, my personal devotion grew stronger. When I entered the Society of Jesus, I still had very little devotion to her. Although I prayed the rosary as a child, I never felt that strong connection with her. In the Society, I started to slowly appreciate the important role she played in the life of Ignatius and of the whole body of the Society. From the novitiate, I began to appreciate her key role in leading Ignatius to grow in his friendship with the Lord Jesus. In the Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius invites retreatants to always engage in a dialogue with Mary, begging from her to bring them closer to her Son Jesus.
Ignatius’s deep devotion to our Lady was evident from his youth and well into his pilgrim years towards the formation of the Society of Jesus. In the castle of Loyola, there is the image of the Annunciation found in their chapel where Ignatius as a child had his first experiences of gazing at the image of our Lady. During his period of recovery from a cannonball injury at the battle of Pamplona, Ignatius saw a vision of our Lady with the Holy Child Jesus. In this encounter, he received an extraordinary consolation that “he never again had even the slightest complicity in matters of the flesh”.
Upon recovery from his illness, he journeyed towards Manresa and spent a night at the shrine of Our Lady of Montserrat. On the eve of the Feast of the Annunciation he laid down his sword and dagger as an offering to Our Lady and her Son Jesus. From then on, Ignatius would now be transformed from an earthly soldier to a soldier of Christ.
Later on in his pilgrim journey, Ignatius would continue to rely on our Lady for her prayers and guidance. After being ordained a priest, Ignatius postponed celebrating Mass for an entire year, entrusting himself to our Blessed Mother requesting her to place him with her Son. And not long after, Ignatius was gifted with the experience of seeing clearly God the Father placing him with Jesus as his companion.
Like Ignatius, who began to see all things new in Christ, we are invited to beg for that same grace in this fifth centenary of Ignatius’s conversion. We would do well to follow his example of always drawing near to our Lady, asking her to intercede for us to her Son. As Ignatius’s experiences have shown, her only desire was to bring Ignatius closer to her Son Jesus.
From Sacred Scripture, we are invited to pay attention to what Mary says to the servants at the wedding in Cana when the wine had run out: “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2: 5). As we celebrate the Ignatian Year, may we humbly beg Mary, our Lady, our Ina, to always pray for and accompany us to her beloved Son so that being placed in the company of Jesus, we may begin to see all things new in him. Even amid the present harsh realities of pain and suffering brought by the pandemic and volatile social, economic, and political inequalities, our renewed vision in Christ may grant us much needed hope and courage to face all these challenges. With these graces, we may be moved to share in the sufferings of those most impacted—the sick, dying, hungry, jobless, and oppressed and victims of injustice.
Mary, Our Lady of Peñafrancia, pray for us. Amen. +AMDG+