My cheesy ‘helping-others’ picture

The turning point in the life of St.Ignatius was when he encountered God whilst recovering in Loyola and realised that God wants to help us.  These may seem obvious, but I have met many people who feel God is there just to judge them, or catch them out, or disapprove of their sex-life, or stop them from doing what makes them happy.  I think this is Freud’s ‘God’ – who as far as I am concerned, doesn’t really exist, or at  least is a stranger to me.  On the contrary, like Ignatius and many of us, when you have first-hand experience of  the goodness and kindness of God you realise that you are invited to share in and spread this goodness and kindness (easier said than done!).  The ministry of helping others like God helps us is the greatest thing that we can do with our lives! Another way of putting it is to that we can become ambassadors of the goodness and kindness of God.  (Note – Before I get complaints I am not saying it is to be a Jesuit! although for some of us it helps!)

This calling to spread the goodness and kindness of God is why Ignatius and his companions understood their mission to be one of a ‘Ministry of Consolation’.

Or put into his own words and more simply ‘To help Souls’.

But as a wise Jesuit once said (excuse the English) – to be ‘helpers’ we need to be helped!   How can we get help so that we can be helpers?  This is where our way of life comes in (not just lifestyle – but more than that – how we life our lives.  If you believe in an infinite God that there must be different ‘paths’ or ways to God….. some are better than others…. others can be false paths or dead ends.  For Christians – there is a uniqueness about the claim that God became a man – in the figure of Jesus.  But even within Christianity God calls us in different ways –  for most Jesuits – serving others within the Society of Jesus seems to be the best way for us.  So this month has been put aside to study the ‘institute’ of the Society of Jesus. Institute here means our way of living and working, which is most concisely expressed in our Constitutions.

Ignatius dedicated the last 16 years of his life in Rome working on the Constitutions – in fact they weren’t finalised until after his death.

As a former tertian-master said ‘The Spiritual Exercises are what make us Ignatian – the Constitutions are what makes us Jesuit’   So this January – we are encouraged to have a ‘sapiential‘ reading of the Constitutions of the Jesuits.  Sapiential reading,  reading wisely, listening with the heart – as opposed to a purely academic or dry technical reading.I think we are all relieved to just be in the same place for a month! Our feet on the ground and some valuable reading and reflection time.  The experiences have been so rich that is good to do a bit of ‘digesting’.  And we are very priveleged to have this space and time, but also to have the lense of the Constitutions to do so.

Some approach the Constitutions with a bit of trepidation – calling it the ‘Law’ of the Society of Jesus (which of course we all fall short of).  But maybe the approach taken below in the video – of a former US Tertian Master – is more helpful, more ‘sapiential’ .