This spring College officials will unveil a statue of St. Ignatius of Loyola on the Le Moyne campus. The work is being created by Brian Hanlon, a classically trained master sculptor, and will serve as a source of inspiration to members of the Le Moyne community and a constant reminder of the College’s Jesuit heritage. But which Ignatius will it portray: saint, pilgrim, soldier, or another Ignatius entirely? That question was posed by Thomas McCoog, S.J., curator of the Avery Cardinal Dulles Archives at Fordham University, during an address titled “Who People Say I Am? The Many Faces of Ignatius Loyola.”
Because almost all renderings of St. Ignatius were created or commissioned by members of the Society of Jesus, they not only tell viewers something about the 16th century nobleman and founder of the Jesuits, but about the people attempting to understand him. The work includes statues and paintings, many marking pivotal points in the saint’s life: his wounding in the battle for Pamplona, his vigil at Montserrat, his studies in Paris, and his pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The purpose of these pieces, Father McCoog said, is in part to help people gain “a clear image of him.”
The artwork abounds despite the fact that, during his lifetime, Saint Ignatius resisted requests to sit for an official portrait. His death mask is the closest thing that exists, Father McCoog explained. Yet throughout the years, artists have created works helping to define St. Ignatius. Some show him praying before a crucifix. Others depict him working at a desk, writing the Spiritual Exercises. Much of the work emphasizes his virtue, his sanctity and his greatest miracle, the establishment of the Society of Jesus, said Father McCoog.
Perhaps most significant are those images of St. Ignatius that show him as an individual who is adaptable and flexible, ready to serve, McCoog said.
“In freeing Ignatius we may not have made him a man for all seasons, but we have made him a man for others,” he said.