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Let’s feast! Honoring St. Ignatius Loyola

By Chris Jenkins

Joe Simmons, S.J., Arts ’04, says the tradition of honoring saints with feast days can be traced back to the early days of Christianity, when martyrs and other holy Christians were honored on the anniversaries of their deaths.

One such martyr’s death was placed in the Roman calendar on February 14 by Pope Gelasius (c. 496 AD), which established the feast of (you guessed it) St. Valentine.

The tradition evolved over time as days were designated to honor a wide range of saints throughout the year.

“It’s a way, and a day, for recognizing people who’ve responded to God’s call,” says Simmons, who is training for the priesthood as a Jesuit and will teach philosophy at Creighton University this fall.

Observers in different countries emphasize certain feast days, although you don’t necessarily have to be from Ireland to be familiar with the feast of St. Patrick on March 17. In Germany, the feast of St. Boniface on June 5 takes precedence.

“It’s sort of like a hometown hero makes it big,” says Simmons, who writes a regular blog for The Jesuit Post.

And in the Jesuit community at Marquette and around the world, perhaps no feast day is bigger than July 31 ó the feast of St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, who died on July 31, 1556.

This year, Marquette will mark the occasion with a Mass and reception. And if that isn’t festive enough, Simmons recommends celebrating with a nice steak and good wine.

July 31 is a reason to party for Jesuits, too ó within reason, of course. Simmons recalls his days as a Jesuit novice, when he and his classmates performed a humorous scene from Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream for 50 Jesuits at a lake house in Waupaca, Wis., to mark the feast of St. Ignatius.

“It’s kind of like Christmas for Jesuits,” he says.


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