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"Remember, I am with you always to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20)

On Caring for One's Health: To Father Antonio Araoz, Rome, June 1, 1551


Antonio Araoz [1] was the nephew of Ignatius' sister-in-law, Magdalena de Araoz, wife of Martín García, an elder brother of Ignatius. Araoz was the first Spanish Jesuit to work in Spain; he proved to be an indefatigable laborer for the Lord, and as provincial, he established many new houses of the Society. He had been in Rome for the discussions on the Constitutions and had returned to Spain in April 1551. Ignatius received word that Araoz was not eating properly, could not sleep, and that he was suffering from so great a weakness that his physician ordered him to return to his native air to convalesce. In earlier letters Ignatius had paternally recommended that Araoz take better care of his health, but in the present letter he chooses to be more explicit, that is, he commands him under holy obedience to take three months off and do nothing but obey the physician's orders. Ignatius wrote this letter in Spanish [Ep. 3:534-535].

JHS

May the sovereign grace and everlasting love of Christ our Lord ever be our help and support.

I have been informed of the great need you have to look after your health, something I have partially known. I do know that though your health is frail, you allow yourself to be carried away by your charity to undertake tasks and labors that are more than you can conveniently bear. Judging in God our Lord that it would be more acceptable to His Divine Majesty to have you temper your zeal in this respect so that you will be able to labor the longer in his service, I have deemed it proper in our Lord to command you to follow the physician's advice in all that pertains to your meals, the use of your time, what hours and when you are to take for sleep and repose. For the next three months, from now until September, you are to do no preaching, but are to look after your health. An occasional exception may be made, if in the opinion of our lord, the duke, or of Don Juan [2] you can do so once a month without injury to your health. To avoid any contrary interpretation, and that you may know that I really mean this in our Lord, I command you in virtue of holy obedience to do as I here direct.

I beg God our Lord to give us all His bountiful grace ever to know His most holy will and perfectly to fulfill it.

From Rome, June 1, 1551.
1. Araoz was born at Vergara, in the province of Guipúzcoa, Spain, in 1515, and went to Rome to make a way for himself in the world, but there he made the Exercises under Ignatius’ direction and entered the Society in the spring of 1539. After ordination in Rome (December 25, 1541), he was sent to Spain with Pierre Favre to make the Society known in that country. He became an eloquent preacher and for a time served as court preacher at Valladolid. In 1547 he became the first provincial of Spain, and in 1565 was appointed Spanish assistant. He died in Madrid on January 13, 1573.
2. This is a reference to Francisco de Borja and his son Juan. When Borja went to Rome toward the end of 1550, Juan travelled with him, and hence Ignatius got to know the son as well as the father. On their return to Spain, Araoz was in their party, and after a tiring journey the group finally arrived in Oñate on April 7, 1551. At the end of that month Juan wrote to Polanco in Rome, informing him that both his father and Araoz were very tired and that they were eating practically nothing. And in his letter to Ignatius, Juan wrote: "The duke and father provincial are treating themselves most poorly. They are not taking care of their health, nor do they allow others to do so. No one can tell them what to do with regard to food, sleep, prayer, and so on" (Epistolae Borgiae [MHSI] 1:631). The duke and Juan remained at Oñate, since the duke was waiting to hear from his imperial cousin about his request to resign his title. The emperor finally granted his permission and shortly after Borja had renounced his title he was ordained (May 23, 1551). At the time that Ignatius wrote his letter, he was unaware that the imperial permission had been granted and that Borja had been ordained.
I. In July 1521, a 30-year-old Basque knight, named Iñigo was brought home to recuperate after his cannonball experience in the battle of Pamplona—his watershed moment. The wounds on his lower limbs led to the first long lockdown in his life, about nine months, during which he read a life of Christ and a book on the lives of the saints, the only reading matter the Loyola castle afforded. He also killed time by recalling tales of martial valor and by day-dreaming about a great lady who captured his heart. Later when he was out of mortal danger, his attention was centered on the saints. This profoundly moved and attracted him that soon after he had barely recovered he resolved to do something about his many sins. To fulfill this he must embark on a journey towards conversion. He followed the holy austerities of the saints, e.g. Francis of Assisi and Dominic, that God sent as his first spiritual guides in his lifelong task towards holiness.
II. "That mission has its fullest meaning in Christ, and can only be understood through him. At its core, holiness is experiencing in union with Christ, the mysteries of his life… The contemplation of these mysteries, as St Ignatius of Loyola pointed out, leads us to incarnate them in our choices and attitudes" (Gaudete et Exsultate— Rejoice and Be Glad, 20).

St Ignatius of Loyola by Peter Paul Rubens c. 1622
III. "This spiritual poverty is closely linked to what St Ignatius of Loyola calls 'holy indifference', which brings us to a radiant interior freedom: 'We need to train ourselves to be indifferent to our attitude to all created things, in all that is permitted to our free will and not forbidden’ so that on our part, we do not set our hearts on good health rather than bad, riches rather than poverty, honour rather than dishonour, a long life rather than a short one, and so in all the rest" (Gaudete et Exsultate— Rejoice and Be Glad, 69).