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John O’Malley, S.J.’s emphasis on rhetoric challenges students to reconsider not only the significance of the history of rhetoric in relation to St. Ignatius’ texts, but also the importance of rhetoric in their own discourses. In this essay, I focus on one specific event in Ignatius’ Acts, an event replete with rhetorical, textual, biblical (both the New Testament and Tanakh, the Hebrew scriptures), and historical considerations, but which, surprisingly, does not appear as a major focus in John O’Malley, S.J.’s voluminous books: Ignatius on a mule, encountering “the Moor” (un moro). I outline a method of guiding students through this event that emphasizes important intertextual resonances beyond Acts, Tanakh and the New Testament, to the Talmud, paintings, and even Greek and Western literary and theoretical history. This strategy invites students to bring their own interdisciplinary knowledge to reading this passage, to ask how an ostensibly small scene in Ignatius’ life can inspire us to craft clear intertextual understandings of mules throughout different religious traditions, and to engage with O’Malley’s emphasis on rhetorical and historical analysis, but in ways that encourage them to go beyond the explicit expositions of O’Malley to address their own unique interests and histories from a range of Jesuit pedagogical approaches.

Balaam and the donkey.jpeg (2598 kB)
painting of Balaam and the donkey

Depiction of Ignatius on the Mule -- Peter Paul Rubens.jpeg (139 kB)
illustration of St. Ignatius on a mule

Narcissus gazing at his reflection.jpeg (486 kB)
painting of Narcissus gazing at his reflection



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