Category: Ignatius


AMDG

How do we know we are on the right track in life? There are many cues that we get from our friends, work, family,  that we are socially integrating well.  Sometimes this is not enough and we become aware of deeper things and internal experiences. We get an itch that something is missing or conversely we sense that everything is going well.

Human beings are quite brilliant in many ways, with varying levels of mastery in different areas. Howard Gardener famously classified 9 types of intelligence or 9 ways of being smart –

  • Naturalist (nature smart)
  • Musical (sound smart)
  • Logical-mathematical (number/reasoning smart)
  • Existential (life smart)
  • Interpersonal (people smart)
  • Bodily-kinesthetic (body smart)
  • Linguistic (word smart)

St Ignatius teaches us how to be spiritually intelligent.  Maybe that is linked with being ‘life smart’.

Aware of the complexity and richness of our inner life – Ignatius talks about ‘spiritual movements’. He describes spiritual consolation as being an interior movement.  In order to recognise consolation,  one has to be sensitive to the whole fluid and elusive world of one’s feelings and reactions and so we have to be wary of false-consolations. Spiritual consolation is more than just ‘feeling good’,  our feelings vary and sometimes are not trustworthy. So how can we discern than an experience is one of true consolation? Ignatius says it will be marked by an increase of faith, hope, love and interior joy.  It also leads to a sense of peace which has a deeper quality to it – the peace which the world cannot give.

download (2)We shouldn’t be suspicious of consolation especially when we are surrounded by a narrative of decline in society and in the church. It is easy to mistrust it – or not expect it if we have low expectations and our hearts have become hardened.  Pope Francis in an address to his fellow Jesuits at their most recent General Congregation to be insistently seeking consolation. “ It is the task of the Society to console the faithful and to help with discernment so that the enemy of human nature does not rob us of joy: the joy of evangelising, the joy of the family, the joy of the Church, the joy of creation. That it does not rob from us, neither in discouragement when faced with the greatness of the ills of the world and the misunderstandings between those who presume to do good, nor fill us with fatuous joys that are always to hand in any shop. Thisservice of joy and spiritual consolation’ is rooted in prayer. It consists of encouraging us and encouraging all to insistently ask for God’s consolation. … Practising and teaching this prayer of asking and begging for consolation is the principal service to joy. … Joy is not a decorative ‘plus’, but rather a clear indication of grace: it indicates that love is active, operative and present … and it is sought in its existential index which is permanence. In the Exercises, progress in spiritual life is given in consolation. … This service of joy was what led the first companions to decide not to disband but to constitute the society they offered and they shared spontaneously, and whose characteristic was the joy that they received from praying together, going out in mission together and returning to reunite, in imitation of the life the Lord led with His Apostles. This joy of the explicit proclamation of the Gospel – through the preaching of faith and the practice of justice and mercy – is what led the Society to go out towards all the peripheries. The Jesuit is a servant of the joy of the Gospel”.

 

Spiritual Exercises    Rule Three – First week

I call it consolation when some interior movement in the soul is caused, through which the soul comes to be inflamed with love of its Creator and Lord; and when it can in consequence love no created thing on the face of the earth in itself, but in the Creator of them all.

Likewise, when it sheds tears that move to love of its Lord, whether out of sorrow for one’s sins, or for the Passion of Christ our Lord, or because of other things directly connected with His service and praise.

Finally, I call consolation every increase of hope, faith and charity, and all interior joy which calls and attracts to heavenly things and to the salvation of one’s soul, quieting it and giving it peace in its Creator and Lord.

AMDG

We may have met people who have had a powerful ‘conversion’ experience.  They feel as though they have been chosen by God, who has acted in their life in a decisive way.  A classic example is an alcoholic who reaches rock bottom, and then calls out for help and is touched in some way which leads to this conversion of life etc. George W Bush is a classic example – often the person feels like God has touched them especially and their personal theology, as a result, is more exclusive, although in his case Billy Graham gave a  helping hand. Perhaps this explains how language such as his ‘axis of evil’ upset so many liberals in Europe.  In Saint Ignatius’ rules for discernment, he talks about how the Holy Spirit can work in this way – like water hitting a stone – like a ‘spiritual’ intervention.   It all depends on the direction of someone’s life, if you wake up at the age of 40, like ‘Dubya’ after a wild weekend and you see your life slipping away a because you are drinking too much,  and in this reality check you are given a cold sharp clarity that makes you realise you have to stop.  Whereas if your orientation is the other way, i.e. if you are already seeking God and becoming growingly sensitive to the interior life then the spirit works more softly – ‘suavemente’ in the original Spanish – like water hitting a sponge.

The general orientation of a person’s life is key here because it can work either way, the spirits have the opposite effects depending on your general orientation. A person moving from good to better can suddenly be faced with a not-so-subtle temptation that could knock them of course, MP’s expenses come to mind. However, if a person’s life is disintegrating for whatever reason, and they are in the grip of an addictive vice, such as online gambling – the soft movement is from the ‘bad spirit’.  One more subtle temptation here, one more rationalisation there…. like water hitting a sponge.  Whereas the good spirit will come in clashing – like water hitting a stone in this case – a sudden sting of conscience, or a sober realization that all my credit cards are maxed out. We all have these ‘turning points’ in our lives, and this is where it pays off to have a spiritual director to help understand what their significance is.

Second Week Rules for Discernment – Rule 7 

In those who go on from good to better, the good Angel touches such soul sweetly, lightly and gently, like a drop of water which enters into a sponge; and the evil touches it sharply and with noise and disquiet, as when the drop of water falls on the stone. And the above-said spirits touch in a contrary way those who go on from bad to worse. The reason of this is that the disposition of the soul is contrary or like to the said Angels. Because, when it is contrary, they enter perceptibly with clatter and noise; and when it is like, they enter with silence as into their own home, through the open door.

Conflict

AMDG

When we were Jesuit novices we read the autobiography of St Ignatius together. It was explained to us that Ignatius had been badgered for years to write down about his life.  It was only when he life was coming to an end that he agreed to do so and dictated his memoirs to Luis Gonsalves de Camara, a young Portuguese Jesuit.  In an age of hagiographical writing, were saints lives were often written with an undue reverence, and sometimes it was difficult to get to the history underneath the exaggerations, Ignatius was keen that his autobiography would show young Jesuits how he had learned from his mistakes and how God had patiently accompanied him through times of excessive zeal and superficial outward displays of ‘holiness’ and ‘penance’.

It seems that the first Jesuit Pope wishes to follow in his footsteps.  Whether he is talking about his time of painful ‘inner purification‘ in Cordoba in 1991, or his period of ‘therapy’ after stepping down as Provincial in the 70’s.  In 2013 he sent a letter to a Brazilian priest, Fr Alexandre Awi, who had acted as his interpreter on his first foreign visit as pope, to Rio de Janeiro. Discussing the ‘culture of encounter’ which as Pope he is so eager to promote, he talks about the traumatic experience of his mother’s side of his family where there was a lot of conflicts,  “In my family there was a long history of disagreements: uncles, cousins, fought and separated. As a child, I cried a great deal in secret when these fights were talked about or when we could see a new one coming. Sometimes I offered a sacrifice or a penance to try to prevent them occurring. It hurt me a lot. Thank God that at home Dad, Mom and my five brothers lived in peace…. I think that this marked me a lot as a kid and created in my heart the desire that people stopped fighting, that they stay together. And at least if they fight they are friends…. I am bit embarrassed after rereading what I wrote, but I think that in this story there is a germ of what over the years and in a conceptual way I called “Culture of the encounter”. It’s a craving that I’ve been since I was a boy” You can read excerpts of the letter here on the website Portaluz (in Spanish) – Link.

Understanding conflict and turning it into a creative experience has been a life-long concern of Jorge Bergoglio before he became Pope Francis.  His unpublished PHD is on the Italian- German priest philosopher Romano Guardini and his 1925 work, ‘Der Gegensatz’ (Contrast).  For Guardini contrast did not necessarily mean contradiction. He was interested in the whole range of human life: art, politics, ethics, religion,  science, in particular, the emerging field of psychology. Guardini’s thinking lead him to a deeper type of wisdom about the mystery of Life. He had a vision that gives things space, where opposites are brought together, the same space from where they emanate and where they return – which he called God.  The younger Bergoglio was particularly interested in how individuals related to groups, especially after his difficult experience as provincial and was attracted to Guardini’s thinking.  Understanding conflict, not being threatened by it, wanting to engage creatively with it but also realising how destructive it could be – as he recently said in his meeting with the Schoenstatt movement.