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‘Cannonball moment’ on video

The Jesuit Curia Communications Office in Rome has invited Jesuits, friends, and colleagues to make a short ‘cannonball’ video to mark the Ignatius 500 anniversaries taking place during 2021/2022. Gerry Clarke SJ is co-ordinator of the Ignatius 500 anniversaries here in Ireland. He is inviting people who have experienced such a ‘conversion’ moment in their lives to make a short 1-2 minute long videos recounting their story.

Christine O’Halloran is a member of the parish team in Gardiner St Church in Dublin. You can watch her video of an experience that deepened and changed her faith direction, or you can read her account of it below.

According to Gerry, the upcoming Ignatian Year 2021/22 is an invitation to rediscover the life of St Ignatius. His ‘cannonball moment’ came after he was injured in battle.

Ignatius was struck in both legs by a missile – possibly a cannonball but more likely chain-shot (two metal balls, connected by a chain that extended after exiting the cannon).  He was a bored convalescent who could do nothing to entertain himself but read.

He was used to romantic fiction, but the only available books were on the lives of the saints and the life of Jesus. It took a while, but what he was reading gradually transformed him. He went from wondering how he could valiantly serve himself and his romantic dreams to how he could serve Christ by following the example of the saints.

The cannonball experience opened up a new dream for Ignatius; he started seeing the world and all things new with the eyes of Christ. This moment thus had a physical and spiritual impact with great consequences

“It can be a formal conversion story about discovering God in your everyday life,” says Gerry, “or about the discovery of a life vocation. It can also be a story about rediscovering God or discovering Ignatian spirituality and how that might have been life-changing,” he explains; “It might also be a story of going through a difficult experience in life that allowed you to see the world with new eyes and put Christ in the centre and taking a challenging step to follow Christ more closely, thus following a dream that initially seemed impossible.”

The videos like Christine’s, he says, offer a modern take on the experience of a significant event that triggers a form of conversion, a desire to follow Christ more closely and start over.

If you have a ‘cannonball moment’ or story and would like to make a video, please contact Gerry Clarke SJ or Pat Coyle, Director of Irish Jesuit Communications by email: [email protected] or [email protected]

My Cannonball Moment – The Invitation

I want to share with you a very significant moment in my life. I realize now, with the gift of hindsight, that it was a ‘cannonball moment’ like that of St. Ignatius of Loyola.

In February 2014, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. It was a very challenging time for me as I was in a lot of physical pain and experiencing a plethora of related symptoms such as chronic fatigue, digestive issues, sleeping difficulties, and mental confusion, commonly known as brain fog. In April that year, my husband had to go to Cork city on a business trip. I happened to have the day off work, so I decided to go with him and spend the day shopping and sightseeing.

My husband dropped me in the city centre about mid-day and we arranged a pickup point for around 6pm that evening. I was full of excitement and started my adventure in the famous English Market. Within an hour, I felt exhausted and experienced a lot of pain and fatigue in my legs and feet. I struggled on and went into a large department store but had to leave as I needed to find somewhere to rest. I found a little park, went in, sat down, and started to cry.

I was 52 at the time, but in that moment, I felt more like a woman of 80! I was apprehensive; because my symptoms were getting worse and my overall health and wellbeing were deteriorating. To make matters worse, I was told by the consultant that there was no real treatment for the condition. Sitting in that park was a real low point, and like the psalmist who cried “How long Lord”? through my tears I cried, “ Lord, if this is what my future looks like, I really don’t want to go on”. I sat on that park bench for a long time.

It was still early afternoon, and I had a long time to wait before my husband was due back. I spied a book shop across the road from the park and decided to go and buy a book – at least I could sit and read while I waited. I entered the shop and walked straight to a shelf and picked up a book entitled The Invitation based on a poem written by the author Oriah Mountain Dreamer and read it…

It is a powerful poem. The words spoke directly to me. God, I felt, had heard my cry. It contained the words

“It doesn′t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart′s longing.

It doesn′t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive …′’

I recognised myself in the lines of the poem. I was so much more than my illness and the best was yet to come. I was invited on a journey to rediscover the woman I really am. I bought the book and I read it. Over the following months, I read the poem almost every day (I believe now that I was actually praying it) as I intended to recite it at my son’s upcoming wedding that August.

Somehow, someway, what appeared to be a disastrous day-trip to Cork city for some ‘frivolous distractions’ marked the beginning of a journey home to myself, and ultimately that journey led me home to God. The cannonball struck when I was least expecting it, and my life was never the same.

Since then, after studies in the Manresa Jesuit Spirituality Centre, I received my diploma in the Ministry of Spiritual Direction in 2017. On completion of my training, I volunteered to help out in St. Francis Xavier Church in Gardiner Street. I currently provide spiritual direction to parishioners. I am a member of the parish team working with, and supporting the Parish Priest, in initiating and implementing various pastoral projects with the mission of sharing the Good News with others.

Christine Halloran

Dublin, Ireland.

June 2021