My morning began with the song “Pierre Latour,” by my very talented friend Erin Ivey, playing in my head. It’s always been one of my favorites of hers because of the melody, the lyrics, and the story. It tells the story of the Jesuit Latour heading into the Rio Grande Valley and eventually dying there having set out to love and serve whomever he met. Could the real Latour’s decision have been stirred by another Jesuit’s words, Ignatius of Loyola ,“Ite inflammate omnia” ? In English, it means “Go set the world on fire!”
Quite the thematic way to start the first day of my 41st year.
Ignatius’s words are held up as slogan and marching orders among the Jesuits. I can’t imagine Ignatius had arson-prone tendencies, like some firebug on the streets of Chicago It doesn't help that images of fire associated with anything Christian, in our current culture, have been shamefully shaped by zealous preachers or stiff-necked conservatives claiming all but the chosen are going to hell. This, too, can’t be what Ignatius had in mind nor what Latour carried into South Texas. (South Texas is already hot and hellish, feeling a bit like fire most of the year).
The first time I heard the phrase “Ite inflammate” was from an old professor of mine. It is how he would end his lectures. As if to say, “You’ve heard all this powerful, inspiring, challenging stuff. Now go out and do something with it!”
When I consider what role fire has in a given landscape, I think of the prairie fires that were used to kill off the weeds and restore the soil with minerals. Anything planted in the soil, after the fire, would thrive in a way that would not be possible before the fire. Seeds that were dormant, come to life on the backside of fire. Fire may bring what appears to be destruction but it would seem its greater role is to bring forth restoration and fuel life.
So where does “Ite inflammate omnia” play out today? Could it be that going into a given day with the notion of setting it on fire is to live in such a way that the world around you is made richer and restored? Maybe living with such a flame can stir what is dormant in someone else to grow and come alive.
This, at some level, had to be the intention behind Ignatius’ words. It’s what Erin hints at when she sings:
“He never stopped lookingfor people whose hearts had caught fire…He spent many nights tending a burning heart, hungry and cold. Pierre Latour road off slow and sure to find heaven in the lower Rio Grande.”