Cannonballs and Conversion: Embracing The Ignatian Year

by | Jun 25, 2021

We are here because of a cannonball.

On May 20, 1521, while in a heavily outweighed battle against the French, Basque soldier Iñigo Lopez de Loyola was struck by a cannonball in Pamplona. His leg was shattered, and he was carried home by the defeating army to convalesce. Bedridden, and with little to occupy his time, Iñigo (our present day St. Ignatius) was given two books to read: De Vita Christi (the Life of Christ) and a collection of stories of the saints. Moving from his memories of the literal, physical and romantic escapades he’d known, into an imagined life – one imitating Jesus and the saints, young Loyola experienced spiritual consolations of peace and deep joy. Emerging from these long, home-bound months, Ignatius set out on a pilgrimage and committed time to document his prayer practice. Today, 500 years later, these imaginative prayers of Loyola are at the heart of the Ignatian exercises. It is this year of our namesake’s grave injury — and his journey of recovery and spiritual conversion– that we mark with his followers, as the Ignatian Year of 2021-2022.

Homebound and healing from significant upheaval. Sound familiar? St. Ignatius’ journey in 1521, might not be all that different from ours a half of a millennium later.   

In a phrase borrowed from her Loyola Press colleague, editor and writer Vinita Hampton Wright, invites us to identify our own “cannonball moments.”

Have you experienced a cannonball moment—a difficult or traumatic event that shifted your life’s course? 

  • What accident, tragedy, or hardship has rerouted your life?
  • How did you react to that cannonball moment?
  • In what way did this event require a change?
  • When did you realize that God had used something difficult or painful to set you on a better course?

Cannonball moments do not prove that every bad thing that happens to us is God’s will, but they do prove that God can use anything to reach us and help us.

In this post-pandemic period, emerging from our quarantines and confinement of the last year, we have much to contemplate. This Ignatian lens of physical leveling may offer a helpful context for our reflection and prayer today. In addition to the Covid pandemic, we, as God’s people, are grappling with many individual and socials ills – including the disease of racism. In the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, the trial and conviction of Officer Derek Chauvin, we have not only an individual opportunity, but a societal one, to reflect on the euphemistic explosion in our world from this particular atrocity and its reverberations.

In the weeks and months ahead, I invite you to tune into our blog here as my colleagues and I take on the Ignatian Year and offer thoughts on our own personal cannonball and conversion stories and the gifts of finding God in it all.


The Ignatian Year; Cannonball Moments; Society of Jesus; the Jesuits; IgnatianSpirituality.Org; St. Ignatius of Loyola; Ignatian Exercises; George Floyd; Spiritual Practices; Derek Chauvin; Vinita Hampton Wright; Loyola Press