by James Martin, SJ
Did St. Ignatius Loyola, the famously austere founder of the Jesuit Order, really say “Laugh and grow strong?” That was a quote I had never heard before, until my friends at Loyola Press told me that he did say that…or he may have said that…or that it’s attributed to him.
Even if he didn’t say it, he was right! And much of Ignatian spirituality is focused on joy. In his famous text, the Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius spends a good deal of time asking us to imagine the appearances of the Risen Christ to his disciples—something that was surely joyful.
Plus, Ignatius himself liked to cheer up downcast Jesuits by dancing a little jig, to get them to smile. He had a dry sense of humor, too.
Soon after he founded the Jesuits, Ignatius heard of one bishop who didn’t like the Jesuits, and refused to have any of them in his diocese.
When asked about this opposition, Ignatius said, “The bishop is old. The Jesuits are young. We can wait!” That probably provoked at least a few smiles.
Laughter is an important part of anyone’s spirituality. It is essential to maintaining a healthy outlook on life. If you can’t laugh at life’s absurdities, you’ll find yourself growing cold and bitter. And if you can’t laugh at yourself, you’ll find yourself incapable of change.
So if Ignatius could point us to joy, why not laugh yourself? As Ignatius said — or didn’t — laugh and grow strong!