There is a well-known story about Ignatius of Loyola.


He was a soldier and, like Don Quixote, his favorite reading was books of chivalry. After he was wounded and recuperating all that he had to read was lives of the saints, and this reading led to his conversion.


After his conversion he was travelling to Montserrat on a donkey and met a Moor who scoffed at Mary’s perpetual virginity. What I had forgotten was that of course by this time there were no Moors left in Spain; they had all been expelled, so it must have been a morisco, an imperfectly converted Moslem. I just learned that moro also meant a sodomite.


Ignatius was seething, and the Moor went ahead. Ignatius was mulling whether to kill the Moor with his dagger for insulting Mary. Ignatius came to a crossroad and let the donkey choose the way. If the donkey chose the road that the Moor had taken, Ignatius would catch up with him and kill him. If they donkey chose the other way, Ignatius would let the matter go.


Fortunately for the Moor, the donkey chose the other path.


What I just learned was the last episode in this story.


When he finally arrived at Montserrat, Ignatius once and all for exchanges the dagger for a pilgrim’s staff at the altar of Our Lady. 

Ulrike Strasser explains the significance of this: 


The contrasting phallic images of dagger and staff are emblematic of a shift in masculine identities. The dagger stands for a life of warfare, aggression, and the defense of women’s honor. The pilgrim’s staff stands for a life of service to God, wandering the earth, forgoing violence. By trading one for the other, Ignatius is changed from a soldier to a soldier of Christ. He will continue to be brave but will now be brave on behalf of God. He will no longer think of “a certain lady” but pledge all his loyalty to the Queen of Heaven. 

(Ulrike Strasser, “’The First Form and Grace’: Ignatius of Loyola and the Reformation of Maculinity” in Scott H. Hendrix and Susan C. Karant-Nunn, eds., Masculinity in the Reformation Era, p. 60)


What Strasser does not mention, but which must have been prominent in Ignatius’s mind, and which I could scarcely miss, having recently walked 500 miles on the Camino Frances, is that Ignatius is exchanging the model of Santiago Matamoros (St. James the Moor-Slayer) for Santiago Peregrino (St. James the Pilgrim). 



No longer Ignacio Matamoros, but now Ignacio Peregrino, taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

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