On May 20, 1521, Ignatius of Loyola was wounded in battle, a cannonball shattering his leg. During his long period of rehabilitation, Ignatius had very little to distract him and was immobilized for a long stretch of time. With nothing else to do, he read the only literature available to him: books on Jesus and the lives of the saints. Upon reflection, he realized he was fighting for the wrong army and fighting the wrong battles. He eventually laid down his sword and profoundly changed his life—and the world!
We refer to this as St. Ignatius’s “cannonball moment”—an experience that caused him to reassess his entire life and to make a major shift in his priorities. Such is the nature of repentance.
During the season of Lent, we artificially create the circumstances of a cannonball moment through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. We remove distractions from our lives, reflect and pray, and reassess our priorities in order to repent—to change our lives and grow closer to our Lord.
While most of us do not have experiences quite as dramatic as Ignatius’s cannonball moment, we still have our own stories of experiences that served as catalysts for personal reflection leading to change in our lives. In recognizing our own cannonball moments, we see more fully the breadth and depth of our personal story and the values that underpin it. This self-work is the “stuff” of Lent—a time to listen more attentively to our hearts and to the stories of others and to inspire all to act for the common good.
In his new book, Cannonball Moments: Telling Your Story, Deepening Your Faith, Eric Clayton offers guidance on how to notice details in daily life, to develop an attitude of healthy indifference in all matters, and respond to feelings of restlessness with clarity and focus. This book, which is perfect for Lenten reflection, offers encouragement, direction, examples, and practical exercises to help readers discover and reflect on their own cannonball moments. Clayton is the Deputy Director of Communications at the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States.
What was your cannonball moment?