How many of you still celebrate feast days? They’re not unlike birthdays; they come around once a year, always on the same date and help us to remember who we’re named for. I can’t imagine a “surprise feast-day party” or singing “Happy Feast Day to you . . .” but they do mark major milestones and can be the occasion of a good party. Today we celebrate the 447th anniversary of the day Ignatius Loyola died. When one is declared a saint, the Church generally chooses the date of death to remember so holy a life.

While this is a big day for Jesuits, millions of people celebrate it throughout the world. So many lives have been touched by the legacy of Saint Ignatius and they take comfort in remembering him this day. This July 31 marks yet another milestone; today Jesuits in Rome will celebrate Mass with the first Jesuit Pope at the Church of the Gesu beside the tomb of Saint Ignatius. I doubt that Saint Ignatius ever imagined such a scene in his lifetime, but with God all things are possible.

This year I take great comfort in the words of Pope Francis who shares his Jesuit vocation with the universal Church. This past week on the famed Copacabana beach in Brazil, Pope Francis encouraged young people “to get in shape.” But he wasn’t talking about their bodies, he was talking about their prayer life. He said, “By talking to Jesus in prayer, we can face every situation in life undaunted.” Saint Ignatius Loyola loved the world, and he never wanted us to be afraid of it. Let’s use this day to embrace this world that Ignatius loved so much, and may our own prayer with Jesus replace our fear with hope.

Fr. Timothy Kesicki, SJ, Provincial of the Chicago-Detroit Province