Praying on St. Ignatius Day...

St. Ignatius of Loyola by Meljohn Tatel

I've spent some time today praying with this text from the previous post:
The First Principle and Foundation
St. Ignatius begins his Spiritual Exercises with The First Principle and Foundation.

The Goal of our life is to live with God forever.
God, who loves us, gave us life.
Our own response of love allows God's life
to flow into us without limit.

All the things in this world are gifts from God,
presented to us so that we can know God more easily
and make a return of love more readily.
As a result, we appreciate and use all these gifts of God
insofar as they help us to develop as loving persons.
But if any of these gifts become the center of our lives,
they displace God
and so hinder our growth toward our goal.

In everyday life, then, we must hold ourselves in balance
before all of these created gifts
insofar as we have a choice
and are not bound by some obligation.
We should not fix our desires on health or sickness,
wealth or poverty, success or failure,
a long life or a short one.
For everything has the potential of calling forth in us
a deeper response to our life in God.

Our only desire and our one choice should be this:
I want and I choose what better leads
to God's deepening his life in me.
(Saint Ignatius, paraphrased by David Fleming, S.J.)

This text is aptly titled a "first principle" and a "foundation" of Christian spirituality. What Ignatius writes here calls us to name God as the source, the center, the support, the reason and the goal of our existence. He tells us that while many gifts may help us grow closer to God, the absence of any gifts does not supplant God as the intended center of our being.

What's at work here is a radical acceptance of life including "the things we can change and the things we cannot change." I allude here to the Serenity Prayer because Ignatius' first principle reminds me of it. Let me quote that prayer for you in its more complete form:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as he did, this sinful world as it is
not as I would have it;
trusting that he will make all things right
if I surrender to his will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with him
forever in the next.
(Commonly attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr)
The radical nature of the Serenity Prayer is its acceptance of what cannot be changed in our lives and of hardship as the way to peace.

Taken together, these two texts pose a mighty challenge to our culture and our notion that each of us is entitled to happiness as we understand it, on our own terms. The problem is that what we define as personal happiness is very often fixed on desires which may, although in themselves very good, distract us from what should be our one desire and choice: deepening our relationship with God.

Those of us old enough to remember will recall from the Baltimore Catechism this Q&A whose simplicity resonates with both texts above:
Q: Why did God make me?
God made me to know him, to love him,
and to serve him in this world,
and to be happy with him for ever in heaven.
All of this gives me pause... and reason to reflect on: how we understand God in our lives; how we approach God; what we mean by "happiness;" and what we pray for...

I'd be interested in hearing your response...

Note: In the image at the top of the post, the letters inscribed in the book are the first letters of the Latin phrase, Ad maiorem Dei gloriam, which translates, For the greater glory of God.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Please THINK before you write
and PRAY before you think!