Experience Making a Difference

Experience Making a Difference

Can We Be More Like Doña Magdalena?

by | Mar 12, 2024

How could there have been only two books in all of Loyola castle? The availability of nothing to read but The Life of Christ and The Lives of the Saints is the core of the Ignatian conversion story, yet it seems so improbable. Ignatius was recuperating in the wealthy home where he had learned to read; hadn’t he also cultivated his fondness for chivalric tales and courtly romances there?

I found the answer in a thick biography called Ignatius of Loyola, the Pilgrim Saint. The Loyola bookshelves, alas, held little beyond business ledgers. But when Iñigo was fifteen, his father sent him to live in the household of the Treasurer of the Realm in Castile; there, older boys introduced him to the worldly literature that shaped his aspirations.

This explains why there were no “fun” books at hand after he was bedridden by that French cannon blast, dependent on the care of his sister-in-law, Doña Magdalena. Yet could she not have sent for the books Ignatius wanted?  After all, she was well connected, having once been a lady-in-waiting to Queen Isabella.

Maybe she just didn’t want to.

Doña Magdalena had cared for Iñigo since he was a half-orphaned seven-year-old. She knew where the nonsense that filled his head had landed him.  Might she have been determined to keep that trash out of his hands as he recuperated?  Like a spiritual gatekeeper, did she ensure that only pious books entered the sickroom and the imagination of her convalescing charge? If so, Doña Magdalena is a worthy namesake of Mary Magdalene, who carried the Good News of the risen Lord to other men who had been laid flat by tragedy, their heroic dreams destroyed.

If Doña Magdalena decided to share only worthy stories with the one person in her care, we all owe her a debt of gratitude. Now just imagine the impact our collective, mindful storytelling could make in the world today!

Regional Advisory Council Member Christine Eberle