This morning I learned something new about acronyms. It’s only if the letters of the acronym can be pronounced and used as a word (like NASA) that it is correct to call what you are using an acronym. Otherwise it’s called an initialism (like FBI or CIA). There is so much shortening of words in both categories these days that hardly any conversation includes all complete words – to the detriment of those not initiated into this way of speaking. I see it most on television (TV) commercials about health care these days and it’s rather frustrating. If you miss the first ten seconds of the commercial you have also missed the fact that they are talking about deep vein thrombosis when they say – throughout the advertisement – “DVT.” And I remember how long it took me to decode “24/7” when it became popular.
Today is the feast of St Ignatius of Loyola, S.J. (Society of Jesus, the religious order he founded, commonly called the Jesuits). The conversion story of this soldier is not dissimilar to that of St. Francis of Assisi and of other great ones whose life was changed by a serious wound or illness during military service. For Ignatius, it was fortuitous that during his recuperation there were no books available to him except stories of the lives of Christ and the saints, which he read and credited with his conversion.
When I was in what used to be called “grammar school” (an interesting descriptive should you be led to research it), we were often directed to write at the top of all papers that we turned in (especially our tests) “JMJ.” All Roman Catholic children knew that initialism to stand for Jesus, Mary, Joseph, likely to remind us to dedicate our work to the Holy Family. As we grew into middle school we were introduced to “AMDG” = Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam (For the greater glory of God) I don’t know when I learned that the Latin phrase was the motto of the Jesuits, but it adorned all my efforts in school and now directs my life.
Whatever the acronym or initialism or word or motto or other phrase that reminds us of God’s place in our life (or even if our devotion is wordless), we might take a moment today to consider what leads us to that mindfulness and be grateful for our teachers, and for the great ones like Ignatius, whose influence remains visible throughout the world today.