One Christian teacher, thinker and saint who keeps "popping up" (coincidence? I don't think so) in my life is Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, or the Jesuits.
I first "met" Ignatius when I went to university to study International Affairs in 1975. I had chosen that university specifically for their International Affairs degree but because it was a Jesuit university, we were required to study two modules of theology in our first year and two in our second year (university studies are a four-year affair in in the US, for those who don't know)
It's hard to find the words for what that first theology module was like. Ignatius would have said - I think - that I found my "vocation". I fell madly, passionately in love with theology (and if I'm being brutally honest, at that time I was more in love with theology than with God). After my first year at university, I changed my major (changed my course of study) and began to study Theology rather than International Affairs.
It was through the Christian community at university - particularly the Jesuit community - that I learned about Ignatius of Loyola. I learned about his way of meditating from scripture: how to "put" myself inside a biblical story and ask God to speak to me through it. This was not about getting "the correct interpretation of the passage" - as it has been in my inerrantist denomination - Ignatian scriptural meditation was simply about allowing God's word to speak to me, many times in very surprising ways that had nothing to do with "the right interpretation" of the text.
I left university and, as many young people do, I became a sporadic church-goer for a variety of reasons. For a very long time I also considered that I was not a Christian. But I continued to practice the Ignatian way of prayer that I learned in university. With the benefit of hindsight, I think that I can safely say that this prayer-practice may well have saved my faith. So I poodled along for a very long time until one day - after about 2 years of trying to gently nudge me - God made it dramatically clear that he wanted me to commit every fibre of my being to his service.
I responsed to that call, "pushed doors" - as they say - until one day I found myself accepted into the preliminary stages (Foundation Training) for the Methodist ministry (The Methodist Church of Great Britain). Once again, I encountered Ignatius. As prospective Methodist ministers, we were being trained in the Ignatian way of prayer and taken through sections of The Spiritual Exercises!
In theology college, I found myself choosing Ignatius as the subject for my module on Contemporary Spirituality and this past July, I attended a short retreat at Loyola Hall near Liverpool. There I met three other Methodist Ministers on retreat and one of them encouraged me to find a Spiritual Director, so I now find myself with a Jesuit Spiritual Director.
So, St. Ignatius now seems like a permanent feature in my life. I have no idea why this is the case, but I'm certain God is at work; I shall just keep pushing these Ignatian doors to see what happens.
P. S. I didn't set out to write a post like this, but I think there must be a reason for having done it, so I'll take a breath, trust in God and post the story in faith that it touches someone for some reason. God willing, the next post will be on the subject I originally intended to write about.