Stephen Hoyland is a spiritual director and Ignatian Outreach Coordinator.
I was a first year undergraduate at Manchester University studying Chemistry. It was the wrong course and I was deeply unhappy. A friend suggested I spend a couple of days at Loyola Hall Jesuit Spirituality Centre praying about what to do. A wise spiritual director avoided counselling me and instead sent me off to pray with Isaiah 43:1-5: “If you walk through fire you will not be burned . . . you are precious in my eyes, you are honoured and I love you”. At the words “I love you” I became aware of another tangible presence in the room which I believed to be God. I felt an overwhelming sense of being loved and looked after. All my fears subsided. I changed degree course and the direction of my life. Thirty years later I have been based at Loyola Hall and work around the country running retreats for students. Isaiah 43:1-5 is a constant companion and I often give it to other students who are going through a difficult time. I know from my own experience the way in which God can deal directly with people and I want to provide opportunities for that to happen.