Peace and Justice - Ignatian Spirituality
A Basque, Saint Ignatius of Loyola was born in 1491. He spent his early years at court and as a soldier. A student at the University of Paris, he attracted followers like fellow student St. Francis Xavier and began the Society of Jesus.
From the life of St. Ignatius from his own words by Luis Gonzalez: (Liturgy of the Hours, III, pp. 1565, 66) " Ignatius was passionately fond of reading worldly books of fiction and tales of knight-errantry. When his battle wound was improving, he asked for romantic books to pass the time. Since only a life of Christ and of the saints was available, he read at first reluctantly, then with attraction, and finally with sheer fascination!
At times he would reflect on what he had read. "What if I should do what St. Francis Assisi and St. Dominic did?" Then other more familiar romantic thoughts would flood his imagination.
When St. Ignatius reflected on worldly thoughts, he felt intense pleasure. But when he became weary of them and gave them up, he felt dry and depressed. When he thought of following the saints he not only experienced pleasure when he actually thought about it, but even after he dismissed these thoughts, he still experienced great joy. Ignatius did not pay attention to this until one day, in a moment of insight, he began to marvel at the difference. Worldly thoughts left him sad; thoughts of following the saints left him full of joy. Later on when he began to write his Spiritual Exercises he used this experience to illustrate what he meant by discernment of spirits.
Since this web-site is connected to an integral, universal, and macro peace with justice and care for creation, our common home, the reader may be looking for something like the little way of love in our daily lives of St. Therese and Dorothy Day or the Universal Peace Covenant. Anything that brings us closer to God, our neighbor, God's creation, is to be commended. This section emphasizes spirituality that began with St. Ignatius and has been developed since then. For example Dr. Louis M. Savary has put together The New Spiritual Exercises, In the Spirit of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin which follows the spirituality of St. Ignatius, but is his own adaptation in the light of the writings of Chardin. A personal spiritual director is recommended since St. Ignatius favored freedom and individual adaptation.
A link to Xavier University Mission and Ministry Retreat: http://www.xavier.edu/mission-identity/programs/Integration-Wisdom-SpEx.cfm Follows Fr. Dean Brackley, S.J. The Call to Discernment in Troubled Times and Creighton's Retreat in the Real World, Finding Intimacy with God Wherever You Are
This is the link to the University of Creighton's 19th annotation retreats:
http://www.jesuitPrayer.org A link to prayer requests.
The favorite prayer of St. Ignatius as developed by Fr. David Fleming, S.J. "Soul of Christ"
Jesus, may all that is you flow into me, May your body and blood be my food and drink. May your passion and death be my strength and life. Jesus, with you by my side enough has been given. May the shelter I seek be the shadow of your cross. Let me not run from the love which you offer, But hold me safe from the forces of evil. On each of my dyings shed your light and your love. Keep calling to me until that day comes, when with your saints, I may praise you forever. Amen.
The moment we take our eyes off Jesus in our struggle for disarmament, justice and peace, the instant we let winds of criticism, apathy, or opposition affect us, then our fears overtake us and we begin to sink. We pray always for an increase in Faith. Matthew 14/24 ff
Pope Francis. Joy in the Gospel. No. 164. "On the lips of the catechist the first proclamation must ring out over and over: Jesus Christ loves you, he gave his life for you, and now he is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen and free you."
There is an excellent book on the life of St. Ignatius by Fr. W.W. Meissner, S.J. in which he psychoanalyzes St. Ignatius, St. Ignatius of Loyola, the Psychology of a Saint (1992). Another for scholars by Meissner To the Greater Glory: A Psychological Study of Ignatian Spirituality.(1999) U. of Marquette Press. I also suggest David Lonsdale, Eyes to See, Ears to Hear, An Introduction to Ignatian Spirituality. For philosophers Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness. (Sartre's second chapter is Bad Faith, mauvaise foi, sometimes translated as self-deception.)
I'm not so presumptuous as to say that the matter that follows below is the only interpretation of Ignatian spirituality, still less of the life of Jesus, but I think we can agree that love that endures is at the heart of all spirituality.
Your heart is restless. You want to get closer to God. Psalm 42 "Like the deer that yearns for running streams, so my soul is yearning for you my God. My soul is thirsting for God, the God of my life; when can I enter and see the face of God?" Psalm 63 2-9 "O God, you are my God, for you I long, for you my soul is thirsting. My body pines for you like a dry, weary land without water. .your love is better than life..my soul shall be filled as with a banquet."
Your spirit is uneasy. You want a more peaceful and just world. Your soul is aching. You want a safe and healthy environment for yourself and your children. This web page is a primer to help you in your desire to be in harmony with God, your neighbor, and the earth. Thanks for all that has been. Hope for all that can be. Ps 42 "Why are you cast down, my soul, why groan within me? Hope in God, I will praise him still, my savior and my God."
A primer can be a small introductory book. A primer can ignite an explosive charge. Hopefully this web-page will be both a primer and a primer, leading us to closer union with God, igniting a radical change in our world.
St. Ignatius of Loyola developed a way of staying in spiritual condition. As walking, jogging, swimming are physical exercises; meditating, praying are spiritual exercises. Ignatian spirituality follows in the tradition of St. Ignatius and develops ways of staying in spiritual condition.
Although spiritual discernment is an important separate step, it is closely related to its helpmate, theological reflection. I suggest, therefore that you read this sub-section on "Ignatian Spirituality" in conjunction with the sub-section "Theological Reflection."
Spiritual Consolation, Inner Peace, Love of God and our Neighbor
An integral part of Ignatian spirituality is what St. Ignatius called spiritual consolation. "By consolation I mean what occurs when some interior motion is caused within the soul through which it comes to be inflamed with love of its Creator and Lord. As a result it can love no created thing on the face of the earth in itself, but only in the Creator of them all."
To love a creature "in the Lord" is to love it as God would love it, not in a disordered, selfish, addictive, or compulsive way; ready to give up even an ordered attachment if it is to God's greater glory. Water is necessary for life, an ordered attachment. But I can't waste water and not share it with all. The greater good is the common good. As Vandana Sheva, an internationally recognized environmentalist says, potable water is scarce on a world-wide basis. We need structures that will facilitate sharing of water, not hoarding it, much less fighting over it. The structures I propose on this web-site are a common ethic; waging peace; getting basic human rights into constitutional and legal structures; economic democracy; a democratic world federation. The coordination and refinement of these structures is I suggest an on-going challenge to which I invite young and old. Individual and communal Spiritual discernment of loving creatures "in the Lord" I discuss more fully later on in this section.
Fr. Dean Brackley, S.J. in The Call to Discernment in Troubled Times p.12-14 "To serve Yahweh alone means having an undivided heart. . neither death, nor life ..nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom 8.35-39.) "Detachment from things means being like a good shortstop, ready to move in any direction at the crack of the bat."
Discerning a time and degree of spiritual consolation is important in the work for peace and justice because a period of consolation is the time when decisions are made in the Spirit. If our relationship with God is out of kilter, we will not make good decisions regarding our neighbor, animals or the earth. Are we taking our values from God, the churches, human decency? Or are we taking our values and ideology from the "world," what Scripture calls all that is opposed to the message of Jesus?
I think Ignatian spirituality should always stress the light graced story in our lives, in the world, in the Church. See Isaiah 65.17 ff "The New Jerusalem I will make will be filled with joy, and her people will be happy. . People will plant vineyards and enjoy the wine"
14th Sunday in Ordinary Time prays "fill your faithful with holy joy" The first reading from the prophet Zechariah: "Thus says the Lord: Rejoice heartily O daughter Zion, Shout for joy. . . your king. . . shall banish the chariot . and the horse" a reference that joy will bring peace and peace will bring joy. . "my yoke is easy and my burden light" A confirmation to put joy and peace into our lives, work against the negative, but emphasize the positive.
Margaret Silf Inner Compass (52,53) has a clear description of desolation: "turns us in on ourselves; drives us down the spiral ever deeper into our own negative feelings; cuts us off from community; makes us want to give up on things that used to be important to us; takes over our whole consciousness and crowds out our distant vision of structures and sub-structures that we need to make this a world more in accord with God's Word; covers up all our landmarks; drains us of energy.
Consolation directs our focus outside and beyond ourselves; lifts our hearts so that we can see the joys and sorrows of other people; bonds us more closely to our human community; generates new inspiration and ideas; restores balance and refreshes our inner and outer vision; helps us to refine our inner and outer structures and sub-structures; shows us where God is active in our lives and where God is leading us; releases new energy in us. I think spiritual consolation helps our courage to be stronger than our fear. "Do not be afraid" appears 365 times in the Bible. Our courage is founded in our trust in God and in God's plan for us.
I make acts of love to Father, Son, Holy Spirit; Mary, the saints, family, in this life and the next, friends, enemies, the human family, the common good, the earth, animals. It helps to put my relationships in order. Let our love go out to all the world!
St. Ignatius himself acted as mediator between Pope Paul III and the King of Portugal. He was also able to mediate a mortal feud between the citizens of St. Angelo and those of Tivoli. We know that he was able to reconcile an estranged married couple, The Duke Asconcio Colonna and Jane of Aragon.
Those who follow the spirituality of St. Ignatius pursue a ministry of reconciliation, healing divisions. Jesus prayed that we be one as He and the Father are one. "This is how all will know you are my disciples: your love for one another." Jesus went beyond ordinary notions of love by enjoining us to love even our enemies. Scripture preaches solidarity. Great wealth existing side by side with poverty indicates a lack of solidarity in the community. "If your enemy is hungry, feed him." Romans 12.20 "The community of believers were of one heart and one mind. None of them ever claimed anything as his own; rather, everything was held in common. Acts 4. 32 ff Acts 2.44 "All this has been done by God who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation." 2 Corinthians 5.18
A ministry of reconciliation calls for humility and forgiveness. The arrogant are not easily reconciled. Those not willing to forgive find stable relationships difficult to sustain. But forgiveness does not mean tolerating injustice. If you steal my watch, I may forgive you. I also expect my watch back. Integral justice is at the heart of our relationship to our neighbor.
Religion is the creed, code, cult of a particular denomination. Whatever one's religion, I understand faith as my relationship with God and justice as my relationship with my neighbor. The fifty persons I interviewed for my doctoral dissertation on Ignatian spirituality and justice would agree with that general understanding. In 1975 the thirty-second international congregation of the Society of Jesus placed new emphasis on joining justice to faith. Decree Four explains why the promotion of justice is an absolute requirement for the service of faith. Reconciliation within the human family and reconciliation with God go together. We can't have one without the other.
Thus justice includes reconciliation among all of us. It also involves going beyond social service to social analysis and social justice, Justice really includes all five external structures on this web-site and internal structures of sharing, generosity, kindness, love, compassionate listening.
Conflicts in our world seem to be mounting. Reconciliation on a macro level seems more and more urgent. Envisioning new structures for a workable world can be a new call for us all.
Besides conflicts among ourselves, the human family also needs greater harmony with the earth. Our relationship to our earth needs our urgent attention.
Forgiveness also includes ourselves. It is difficult to learn forgiveness of others if we can't forgive ourselves.
The Sacrament of Penance is now called the Sacrament of Reconciliation, reconciliation with God, our neighbor, and the earth.
A practical book that may help with reconciliation on both a micro and macro level is No More Enemies by Deb Reich; also Forgiveness in International Politics, An alternative road to Peace, William Bole, Drew Christiansen, S.J., Robert T. Hennemeyer See also other books in other sections of this web-site, e.g. Transforming the United Nations System, Designs for a Workable World by Dr. Joseph E. Schwartzberg
36th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus, 2016. DECREE 1: COMPANIONS IN A MISSION OF RECONCILIATION AND JUSTICE
Decree 1 Companions in a Mission of Reconciliation and Justice "All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation." (2 Cor 5:18)
1. The Society of Jesus has always sought to know and to follow God's will for us. This Congregation takes up that task again. We do so from the heart of the Church, but gazing upon the world "that has been groaning in labor pains until now."1 On the one hand, we see the vibrancy of youth, yearning to better their lives. We see people enjoying the beauty of creation. We see the many ways in which people use their gifts for the sake of others. And yet, our world faces so many needs today, so many challenges. We have images in our minds of people humiliated, struck by violence, excluded from society, and on the margins. The earth bears the weight of the damage human beings have wrought. Hope itself seems threatened; in place of hope, we find fear and anger.
2. Pope Francis reminds us that "we are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental."2 This one crisis that underlies both the social and environmental crises arises from the way in which human beings use - and abuse - the peoples and goods of the earth.
A third element of Ignatian spirituality is discernment. In the first letter of John Chapter 4 we read "Beloved, do not trust every spirit, but put the spirits to a test to see whether they belong to God, because many false prophets have appeared in the world." As we said above, wounded in battle, St. Ignatius convalesced at the Loyola castle where he alternated between romantic day-dreams and hopes of following St. Francis and St. Dominic in their quest for holiness. After the thoughts of pleasure and romance, Inigo felt tired and dissatisfied. After dreams of following the saints, St. Ignatius felt at peace. This was his first experience of discernment of spirits. Later he was to refine rules of discernment for beginners and for those more proficient in the spiritual life.
Ignatian discernment of spirits rejects the pleasure-pain principle and substitutes God's will for us. God can be with us in pain. Immediate pleasure may be enervating and weakening, destructive of relationships. Discernment helps me to sort out the various moods and voices within me. Discernment helps me to evaluate my moods in light of my primary relationship--my friendship with God. St. Ignatius had a strong devotion to the person of Jesus. Other religious orders were named after their founder. St. Ignatius wanted his followers to be called Companions of Jesus. "Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Trial, or distress, or persecution, or hunger, or nakedness, or danger, or the sword? ...I am certain that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities, neither the present nor the future, nor powers, neither height nor depth nor any other creature, will be able to separate us from the love of God that comes to us in Christ Jesus, our Lord." (Romans 8.35-38)
Jesus calls us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the sick and afflicted and to comfort the victims of injustice. We need to love the individual so much we are willing to examine and re-examine any structure that may be oppressing her or him. If the structures we have today have been set up by fallible and sinful men, they can be changed by all of us discerning together. I think we need a revolution, a spiritual revolution, a peaceful revolution, an inner and outer revolution. But one that will do more than put a Band-Aid on a gaping wound. We need a radical change in the sinful social structures of our world today and indeed in our church.
There is a "civil war" in the Catholic Church. (See New York Times, 5/9/09 A 15; America 5/09.) Discernment can help us sort out the differences.
I feel I need my faith to calm my fears, to energize me for the work ahead, to help me to be honest with myself. Sin can put us in a state of denial. My faith can direct me toward spiritual freedom. St. Ignatius wanted the Society of Jesus to think with the church but also to challenge the church and myself.
The element in the overall process I propose that is perhaps the most important is spiritual discernment. Theological reflection would be enough if all we had to do was to formulate a judgment about a situation and then do it. St. Paul indicates it's a little more complicated than that. "For even though the desire to do good is in me, I am not able to do it. I don't do the good I want to do; instead I do the evil I do not want to do." And not only am I limited in my freedom by the "unfreedoms" which arise within my person, I interact constantly with other persons and groups who also struggle to be authentic. Their needs and options limit my choices since we share life in society.
Psychologists say that to be human is to be thoroughly honest with ourselves. The last person to admit he is an alcoholic is the alcoholic. How honest are we as individuals and as a society? Who tells the full truth about our world? Certainly not the corporate main-line media. Discernment I think is essential if we are to move forward. We need to have a genuine desire to see our shadow side and become friends with it. We need the courage to see the evils in ourselves and in our world. We need to discern the negative drives within us from our positive drives.
Although I see the evil in those around me and in our world rather clearly, the evil in myself is not as easy to admit. I do find my light graced story helps me to face my dark graced story with greater equanimity and honesty.
The French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre discusses at some length the reality of self-deception. Self-deception would seem impossible. How can we deceive ourselves? The fact is that we can and do. We lie to ourselves. A person can live in bad faith and allow self-deception to become a constant way of life. Hopefully I have escaped continual self-deception, but I can't guarantee myself that there aren't blind spots I have never faced up to. For further reading I suggest David Lonsdale, Eyes to See, Ears to Hear, An Introduction to Ignatian Spirituality;, For philosophers Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness. (Sartre's second chapter is Bad Faith, mauvaise foi, sometimes translated as self-deception.)
"We do not always perceive our thoughts as they really are. Having clouded vision, we do not discern our thoughts clearly with our mind's eye. . There are certain imitations of true virtues which play tricks with the heart and bedazzle the mind's vision. The appearance of goodness often seems to be in something which is evil, and equally the appearance of evil seems to be in something good. . St. John gives us these words of advice: 'Test the spirits to see whether they are from God'.. Discernment is the mother of all the virtues; everyone needs it either to guide the lives of others or to direct and reform his own life."
-Bishop Baldwin of Canterbury (Liturgy of the Hours, III p. 312)
Can I discern the movement of the Holy Spirit from the movement of the not so holy spirits? Am I moving toward the Trinity or toward self-centeredness? Am I resisting the pull of self-centeredness and trying to decide with the flow of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? What is my governing grace?
Do I really think I'm doing all of this by myself? What are the transcendent elements in my story? How has more good come from my efforts than anticipated? Has God drawn good out of evil in my life? Am I in spiritual consolation or desolation? (Although God certainly speaks to me through my emotions, spiritual consolation is not the same as psychological consolation.)
Do I let go and let God? Or do I feel I have to do everything and figure out everything by myself?
We can say we believe in moderation in drink, but if we get drunk every week-end obviously our stated values are not our operational values. One of the first steps toward recovery for an alcoholic is to admit he is an alcoholic. His friends may know he is an alcoholic, his wife, his children, his co-workers, everyone but him. The alcoholic rationalizes his condition.
Those dedicated to peace and justice can use displaced anger even in good causes. Instead of dealing with personal frustrations, a social activist can pour out her/his anger on unsuspecting victims who cannot understand the excessive force and emotional violence of the complaints.
The table below shows a summary of what I would consider to be signs of the good spirit and signs of the evil spirit. In the Second Week of the Spiritual Exercises St. Ignatius of Loyola invites someone making a retreat to meditate on the differences between the plan of Jesus and the strategy of "Lucifer, the enemy of our human nature."
Below are some suggested signs of good and evil spirits.
Discernment is best done in a group. If practiced individually, a spiritual companion helps in the discernment. If we are by ourselves, there is too much danger of rationalization and self-deception.
Is the starting point of our reflection our love for God, our neighbor, and the earth? How we can make this a better world?
Or do we begin with a desire for an expensive home, to be well-off financially, etc, and then say to ourselves, "Surely God won't object to my ambition."
Each of our eyes has a blind spot. Since the field of vision of our two eyes overlap, we have a large area of two-eyed vision. The blind spot in one eye is overlapped by a seeing portion of the other eye. If both eyes are open and functioning, there are no gaps in our visual field. We can have blind spots in our conscience also. St. Ignatius dealt with these with detailed procedures for spiritual discernment. We best do spiritual discernment with a companion or with a small discerning group such as a Christian Life Community. What we don't see by ourselves, others can help us with.
Jesuit theologian Fr. Karl Rahner, S.J. believes gnoseological concupiscence can lead to immoral decisions. Theological Investigations, Vol. XIII, "Interdisciplinary Dialogue with Sciences" (1975) "Every scientist is prone to the temptation of failing to listen to others, or being willing to hear only what is confirmed for her/him in her/his own science. Hence the strange attitude of aggression which prevails among scientists even when it is concealed by a mask of conventional politeness." (p. 83) "gnoseological concupiscence is the mortal danger inherent in every science of according itself an absolute value and of supposing that the key which it carries within itself will fit every door." Rahner admits that theology also can fail to listen and not acknowledge its need for the sciences.
In The Challenge of Peace (No. 152) the US Catholic bishops deal with probability and risk in regard to a limited nuclear war. "The chances of keeping use limited seem remote, and the consequences of escalation to mass destruction seem appalling." The danger arises not only from the power of our technology "but in the weakness and sinfulness of human communities." This principle of measuring the degree of risk against the probability of good can be used in spiritual and moral discernment.
As we grow together, we see problems of world-wide magnitude which people even of good will seem unable to solve. When we experience the seeming impossibility of peace, we feel dumped on. We can become paralyzed, bogged down, unable to act or to pray, unable to grow. We go from denial to despair. Yet the call of our Faith grows more insistent.
Discernment helps us to get in touch with the various voices all around us and to sort God's values from the selfishness, sensuality, and violence within us. Often our stated values are not our operational values, and we need to be aware of this.
"Resplendent and unfading is wisdom, and she is readily perceived by those who love her, and found by those who seek her. She hastens to make herself known in anticipation of their desire; Whoever watches for her at dawn shall not be disappointed." Wisdom 6.12ff
"May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, grant you a spirit of wisdom and insight to know him clearly. May he enlighten your innermost vision that you may know the great hope to which he has called you, the wealth of his glorious heritage to be distributed among the members of the church, and the immeasurable scope of his power in us who believe." (Ephesians 1.17-19)
For a thorough treatment of discernment for our own times, read Fr. Dean Brackley, S.J. The Call to Discernment in Troubled Times, New Perspectives on the Transformative Wisdom of Ignatius of Loyola. "In poor communities, visitors are often surprised to find what they least expected: joy, and also hope, gracious acceptance, and generosity.. . the poor communicate joy in spite of everything. This is consolation without prior cause which Ignatius assures us comes only from God.. the Resurrected One is here, consoling the afflicted against the odds. The poor pass on that consolation to visitors (2 Corinthians1.4) who return home renewed in hope." P. 201.
As we continue to make progress in the spiritual life, the movement of the good spirit is very delicate, gentle and often delightful. The good spirit touches us in the way that a drop of water penetrates a sponge. When the evil spirit tries to interrupt our progress, the movement is violent, disturbing, and confusing. The way that the evil spirit touches into our lives is more like water hitting hard upon a rock.
I used to think of God's will as a play already written. My task was to recite the lines. Now I think of God's will as a general plan which God is inviting me to fulfill. With God's help I'm called to write the play. I think there is a sense in which we can freely create, in terms of concrete action in given circumstances, God's will for us now. Ignatian spirituality leaves us the freedom to find, to create if necessary, the images of Jesus and the Trinity which speak to and answer the needs of our own experience and our own times. God has a general plan and values but expects our free and imaginative cooperation. As we search to find God in all things, I think we can create God's will for us by our imagination, vision, and discernment. I used to be mostly passive in regard to God's will, trying to read my lines. Now I actively try to create God's will by always looking for better ways to be more effective.
If we read Christianity and Process Thought, Spirituality for a Changing World, especially Chapter 7, Divine Providence and Human Freedom, through Ignatian discernment our own role in responding to the providence of the three Divine Persons becomes clearer.
See also Theological Studies March, 2010, Vol. 71, No 1 "God's Will or God's Desires for Us: A Change in Worldview?" Fr. Joseph A. Bracken, S.J. "No one should presume to know the mind of God." (Romans 11.33-35) "Which model of the God-human relationship better serves our spiritual needs from day to day? A person who is serenely confident that she or he is executing the will of God for herself or himself has a decided psychological advantage over another person who is struggling with a decision, praying for divine guidance, trying to read the signs of the times, discerning with others about what to do. If the first individual's self-assurance turns out to be a big mistake, then the consequences for both the individual and other people could be quite painful, even disastrous. Which alternative carries the greatest risk?" Is God flexible in ordering the contingent decisions of creatures to a higher purpose and goal? The purpose of the Spiritual Exercises (No. 1) is to rid ourselves of disordered inclinations and affections and then seeking and finding God's Will in the ordering of our lives.
But does the expression "God's Will" today connote the uncaring intellectual plan of a machine with a penalty for lack of compliance? Would it not be better to use a more acceptable term "God's Desires"? Is our relationship with God more an I-thou relationship as described by Martin Buber in which we respond to one another freely and creatively? Is God's will more persuasive than coercive? In Acts. 17.28 St. Paul says, "In God we live and move and have our being."
Jesus' Way of Proceeding
After he was wounded, St. Ignatius was not at peace. During convalescence the reading of the life of Jesus led St. Ignatius toward God and to love of his neighbor. Since then thousands who are restless have found the path of St. Ignatius satisfying for themselves. St. Ignatius began his spiritual journey with Jesus, "the way, the truth, and the life." The way of proceeding of Jesus became the way followed by St. Ignatius and those who later looked to Ignatius as their leader.
My favorite scriptural passage pictures Jesus as a pioneer. "Keep your gaze fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith." (Hebrews 12.2) I like the image of Jesus as a pioneer, blazing new trails, beckoning to me to follow. My only concern is that sometimes Jesus gets too far ahead of me. As a companion of Jesus I try to keep my gaze fixed on Jesus. "Jesus progressed steadily in wisdom and age and grace before God and humankind." (Luke 2.52) When Jesus began his public ministry, he was a mature person who had grown in knowledge and age and grace. Jesus got in touch with himself, his own story, the story of his people in Scripture, the values and goals of God's Word.
Jesus loved his mother and his foster father. He learned how to work with his hands as a craftsman and artisan. Jesus grew in his relationships with his friends, relatives, and followers. Jesus learned to be in harmony with physical creation.
Jesus went into the desert to pray and was tempted by the devil. Jesus discerned the spirits and overcame the deceptions of the devil by the power of God's Word. Jesus teaches us to beware of any one who makes evil look good. Jesus drove out the evil spirits--all that was not God.
In his ministry Jesus heals, forgives, loves, inspires.
Like Jeremiah Jesus was a prophet. He announced the reign of God, that he was sent to preach good news to the poor, the jubilee year of favor from the Lord. Jesus confronted evil, ignorance, prejudice, and arrogance.
Jesus so electrified the crowds that they forgot to eat. Jesus ministered to sinners, the poor, the sick. The faith of Jesus, his relationship with his Father, moved him to love of all.
Jesus analyzed the signs of the times of his day and urges us to do likewise. Though he did not use today's terminology of course, Jesus knew the structures and culture of his own day. Jesus used discernment to understand the world in which he lived.
Jesus chose apostles and started a community. He formed his followers, observed the liturgical rites, and began the Eucharist. The Christian churches emerged from these initial efforts of Jesus. We continue to stay in contact with Jesus in many ways including through the poor. In the judgment scene in Matthew twenty-five Jesus says, "I was hungry and you gave me food; I was ill and you comforted me." Since the poor can be sacraments to us of God's love and grace, the poor can be where we find God. St Ignatius felt that to be a friend of the poor was to be a friend of Jesus.
Jesus was in constant contact with his Father in prayer, and his formal prayer often lasted all night. Jesus went apart to pray, as after the death of John the Baptist whom he knew from the womb. "Rising early the next morning, Jesus went off to a lonely place in the desert; there he was absorbed in prayer." (Mark 1.35) See also Luke 3.21 at his baptism; 6.12 before His choice of the apostles;9.28 before his transfiguration; 22.39ff; 23.40 upon the cross. At each major event in his life Jesus prayed.
Although Jesus worked as a craftsman and artisan, Jesus believed in the Sabbath. He set aside enough time for prayer, friendship, and leisure.
Finally Jesus decided to make the journey to Jerusalem to challenge the Jewish religious leaders when they were oppressing and laying heavy burdens on other's shoulders. "Teacher, we know you are a truthful man and teach God's way sincerely. You court no one's favor and do not act out of human respect." (Matthew 23.16) Besides what we would call today social service Jesus engaged in social action, seeking the causes of poverty and hunger.
On the Feast of Christ the King, I cite Fr. John L. Mckensie Dictionary of the Bible Truth: In Pilate John represents the world as asking "What is Truth?" Jesus can answer this in a unique way because "for this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice." Jesus Himself is the way, the truth and the life. ( Jn 14.6.) In Hebrew scripture the true is not merely an object of intellectual assent, but that which demands a personal commitment. A person who is true is someone who is steadfast, someone you can rely on.
Jesus was human. He wept. He felt sorrow and anguish to the point of sweating blood. Jesus returned good for evil and suffered death loving and forgiving those who crucified Him.
The Father confirmed Jesus' teachings and life by raising him from the dead. The Father said yes to the way in which Jesus made history through his decisions. The God of the Hebrew Covenant is now God of the Resurrection. We have a new way to encounter God.
After the Resurrection, Jesus consoled and encouraged and forgave his disciples. "Were not our hearts burning inside us as he talked to us on the road to Emaus and explained the Scriptures to us?" Luke .13 ff. "Jesus commissioned his disciples to teach, to heal, to announce good news to the poor, to do this--the Eucharist--in memory of Him; to make his redemptive life, death and resurrection present in an evil and sinful world. The risen Jesus gave hope and joy to the apostles, even preparing breakfast for them.
If I keep my gaze fixed on Jesus, I see he got in touch with his own story, and the story of his people. He did social service; analyzed the signs of the times; and discerned the spirits. He was a prophet who confronted the leaders of his day. He suffered and died. But he rose again and encouraged and consoled his followers.
Jesus did not expect the same of all. He followed a foregoer ethic as did St. Paul and the other apostles. But Jesus also called rich tax-collectors like Zacchaeus to at least a stewardship ethic, caring for others and the earth. If we aspire to be an apostolic community, I suggest we keep our gaze fixed on Jesus.
My adaptation of the way of proceeding of Jesus to my own life starts with getting in touch with my own graced story, enlarging my experience by regular contact with the materially poor and powerless, doing research and social analysis, engaging in theological reflection, envisioning structures and sub-structures that are the minimum for a world in accord with God's Word, working at spiritual discernment, making a decision for social action for a definite time, and finally evaluating whether I have been faithful to the process. As we follow the way of Jesus, I suggest we have a way of proceeding that makes God's Word our own and incorporates today's methods and advances. Jesus still lives today, and I think we can stay in touch with the Risen Jesus.
Our Way of Proceeding
In the movie of the same name Alladin is given three wishes. If I had three wishes, what would I ask for? St. Ignatius of Loyola encouraged holy desires. My first temptation would be to wish for an end to poverty, an end to war, and that we reach the starting line as a human race and secure basic human rights for everyone. But God has given us freedom. We can have all of the above, but only if we freely with God's help work for them and establish structures and sub-structures with which we can bring about an end to war and poverty and begin to secure basic human rights for everyone.
We can't love God if we refuse to love our neighbor. But I think the opposite is also true. We can't effectively be involved in our world without faith in God. We'll burn out. When we examine the issues facing us--an end to the war system, stewardship of our earth, full employment, adequate and affordable health care for all, to name a few--we might easily get discouraged. The problems seem too big and so complex. The obstacles to our holy desires seem enormous and overwhelming.
"All serious and upright human conduct is hope in action. This is so first of all in the sense that we thereby strive to realize our lesser and greater hopes, to complete this or that task which is important for our onward journey, or we work towards a brighter and more humane world so as to open doors into the future. Yet our daily efforts in pursuing our own lives and in working for the world's future either tire us or turn into fanaticism, unless we are enlightened by the radiance of the great hope that cannot be destroyed even by small-scale failures or by a breakdown in matters of historic importance. If we cannot hope for more than is effectively attainable at any given time, or more than is promised by political or economic authorities, our lives will soon be without hope. It is important to know that I can always continue to hope, even if in my own life, or the historical period in which I am living, there seems to be nothing left to hope for. Only the great certitude of hope that my own life and history in general, despite all failures, are held firm by the indestructible power of Love, and that this gives them their meaning and importance, only this kind of hope can then give the courage to act and to persevere. Certainly we cannot build the Kingdom of God by our own efforts, what we build will always be the kingdom of man with all the limitations proper to our human nature. The Kingdom of God is a gift, and precisely because of this, it is great and beautiful, and constitutes the response to our hope. And we cannot to use the classical expression "merit" Heaven through our works. Heaven is always more than we could merit, just as being loved is never something "merited", but always a gift. However, even when we are fully aware that Heaven far exceeds what we can merit, it will always be true that our behavior is not indifferent before God and therefore is not indifferent for the unfolding of history. We can open ourselves and the world and allow God to enter: we can open ourselves to truth, to love, to what is good. This is what the saints did, those who, as "God's fellow workers", contributed to the world's salvation (cf. 1 Cor 3:9; 1 Th 3:2). We can free our life and the world from the poisons and contaminations that could destroy the present and the future. We can uncover the sources of creation and keep them unsullied, and in this way we can make a right use of creation, which comes to us as a gift, according to its intrinsic requirements and ultimate purpose. This makes sense even if outwardly we achieve nothing or seem powerless in the face of overwhelming hostile forces. So on the one hand, our actions engender hope for us and for others; but at the same time, it is the great hope based upon God's promises that gives us courage and directs our action in good times and bad."
-Spe Salvi. Saved by Hope. No. 35. Pope Benedict XVI |
I'm not a genie. For me to venture a magic solution to the challenges facing us would be more rash than David running toward Goliath with a sling-shot and five smooth stones. What I do propose is a methodology, a way of responding to God's call to us. The process I submit for your consideration consists of getting in touch with our own graced story, enlarging our experience by regular contact with the materially poor and powerless, doing research and social analysis, engaging in theological reflection, envisioning structures and sub-structures for a world more in accord with God's Word, working at spiritual discernment, making a decision for social action for a definite time, and finally evaluating whether we have been faithful to the process.
This way of responding may seem more complicated than the problems facing us. It would be simpler to plunge pell-mell into the first thing that occurs to us. I think that's like huffing and puffing and trying to blow down the wall of China. We need to use all the resources at our disposal. I don't think we can have effective involvement in our world without faith.
In the judgment scene in Matthew twenty-five Jesus says, "I was hungry and you gave me food; I was ill and you comforted me." Since the poor can be sacraments to us of God's love and grace, the poor can be where we find God. St. Ignatius felt that to be a friend of the poor was to be a friend of Jesus.
As intellectual persons we need research and the gathering of data. There's no substitute for knowing the facts. If I hope to educate others, I need to educate myself. St. Ignatius decided to go back to school and become a non-traditional student because he saw education as a way of helping others and later of influencing society's culture.
I don't think we can read the signs of the times as Jesus enjoined us to do unless we engage at least in some elementary social analysis. Who is making the important decisions in our community and in our world? Who is benefiting most from those decisions? Who is paying most of the cost of those decisions?
Let's take health care as an example. Who is deciding that the per capita cost for health care in the US be decidedly more than in other nations? Who is profiting from others' vulnerability? Why are the results of our health care less, sometimes much less, than in other nations? What are the operating values in our present health care structures? I need to reflect on how I feel about the data I have gathered. In my own case, I remember walking with my mother through her last illness. Granting that her care was uneven, I don't think she deserved the hassle she had.
Who is making the basic decisions about health care? The doctor? the patient? or the insurance company? Some say those uninsured or underinsured are about one-third of US citizens. Polls consistently show that 70% of US citizens want some form of universal health care. Why isn't it happening?
Does scripture or the Judaeo-Christian tradition say anything about the information I have gathered? My research and analysis can't be merely a secular exercise.
Decisions can be good decisions in themselves but not timely. "There is an appointed time for everything. . a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant." Reading the current signs of the times can become part of spiritual discernment. To read the signs of the times I think we need at least a basic understanding of social analysis. The Thirty-second General Congregation of the Society of Jesus included social analysis as part of the joining of faith and justice. Jesus spoke of reading the signs of the times. The Second Vatican Council repeated this injunction of Jesus. "The Church has always had the duty of scrutinizing the signs of the times and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel... The people of God. . labor to decipher authentic signs of God's presence and purpose in the happenings, needs, and desires in which this people has a part along with other women and men of our age. For faith throws a new light on everything, manifests God's design for our total vocation, and thus directs the mind to solutions which are fully human."
Social analysis is the modern way of reading the signs of the times. My life is not an isolated one. My graced story, my community's graced story happens in the context of the larger story of my country and of the world. Social analysis outlines the context in which a decision for action can be made. Social analysis is a diagnosis, not the treatment. We need social analysis to organize our experience and research. After we analyze the data, we synthesize it. We try to formulate a statement the group can agree on. Our synthesis might be: "It is neither tolerable nor necessary that we live in a world with poverty and war. We need effective global law and order; regional and global courts, to settle disputes in a non-violent way; but freely chosen and with decentralized decision-making to avoid domination by a few." (See this web-site under "Social Analysis" and World Order.)
Besides experience and social analysis, a third element in the process is theological reflection. This does not mean searching Scripture for proof texts to support a decision we've already made. Theological reflection means continually going to the riches of Scripture and the values of the churches and allowing God's values to interact with the real world in which we find ourselves. We need to put our Faith into the middle of our world. We need to reflect with the Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other. If religion is only an escape, or a private matter-- if religion does not play an essential role in our everyday lives, what is the purpose of God's special intervention through revelation and redemption? A private religion is irrelevant, trivial, and a contradiction in terms. The reign of God is by its nature social. The Church can help us stay in touch with God and God's values in regard to our embracing of our neighbor, the family, our world, responsible use of our sexual powers, etc. (see this web-site under "Theological Reflection")
A fourth element in the process I propose is perhaps the most important, one we have already discussed, spiritual discernment. Theological reflection would be enough if all we had to do was to formulate a judgment about a situation and then do it. St. Paul indicates it's a little more complicated than that. "For even though the desire to do good is in me, I am not able to do it. I don?t do the good I want to do; instead I do the evil I do not want to do." And not only am I limited in my freedom by the "unfreedoms" which arise within my person, I interact constantly with other persons and groups who also struggle to be authentic. Their needs and options limit my choices since we share life in society. Can I discern the movement of the Holy Spirit from the movement of the not so holy spirits? Am I moving toward the Trinity or toward self-centeredness? Am I resisting the pull of self-centeredness and trying to decide with the flow of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Do I really think I'm doing all of this by myself? What are the transcendent elements in my story? How has more good come from our efforts than anticipated? Has God drawn good out of evil? Am I in spiritual consolation or desolation? (Not the same as psychological consolation.)
As we grow together, we see problems of world-wide magnitude which people even of good will seem unable to solve. When we experience the seeming impossibility of peace, we feel dumped on. We can become paralyzed, bogged down, unable to act or to pray, unable to grow. Yet the call of our Faith grows more insistent.
Discernment helps us to get in touch with the various voices all around us and to sort God's values from the selfishness and sensuality within us. Often our stated values are not our operational values, and we need to be aware of this.
Since there is so much to do, those involved in social action can easily fall into an unthinking immersion in the task to be performed. Defeat in specific projects can be discouraging. We can often feel frustrated, alone, desolate, helpless, uneasy, sometimes angry, bitter, burnt out, ready to give up and drop out. A person may experience guilt feelings for participating even in a small way in the sinful structures of society that seem so stupid and evil--yet so powerful and overwhelming.
Activists need spiritual depth and strength. Let us keep our gaze on Jesus who spent time apart with the Father. Since like Elijah we are on an inner and outer journey toward God, we need spiritual nourishment. "Arise and eat, else the journey will be too great for you."
Decision for Social Action
Finally we need to make a decision for social action with a definite time frame otherwise our efforts will be scattered and haphazard. We can't do everything at once. If we are rooted in the Spirit and fundamentally free, smaller decisions will flow easily. Once we learn how to ride a bicycle, we never forget how to do it. Larger decisions may require more deliberation. Where is the greatest need? Where can we bring about a more universal good? (See 32nd General Congregation of Society of Jesus, No. 39)
One form of decision making opens with reflection on Scripture, clarifies what is to be decided, then puts what is to be decided positively and negatively. For example:
We will spend more time collectively on prayer We will not spend more time
advantages// disadvantages advantages// disadvantages
At first there may seem no point in wording what is to be decided both positively and negatively, but we do get to look at the decision from different angles. It works.
After reflection on the advantages and disadvantages, you write your decision, share your decision with the group and give your reasons. Then the group reflects on the various decisions to see whether there is consensus. Consensus does not mean everyone agrees perfectly with everyone else. But each member of the group needs to be able to accept the decision and live with it.
After we have made a decision, we seek confirmation as we listen to external and internal voices. Sometimes even after much discernment, we can see that we need to modify or make a new decision. We do not change a decision easily. Nor are we stubborn in holding on to a plan that isn't working.
Jesus had confronted the Pharisees and experienced their rejection. They tried to arrest him, but he escaped from them. Jesus then "went away again across the Jordan to the place where John at first baptized, and there he remained." At Jesus' baptism he had been confirmed in his mission by the Father's words, "This is my beloved son in whom I am well-pleased." Jesus sought confirmation of his mission in times of conflict.
We need to go back to our original vision to confirm our plan. Here I find it helpful to have a journal. Groups can also have time lines and reflect together on their light and dark graced stories.
The circle of reflection and discernment is completed by evaluation. Although I always expect limited external success, I think we need to know we're advancing the light graced story if only a little. Our focus, however, should be on our way of proceeding. The process we have been following is as important as any small gains we may be making externally. Do we have spiritual consolation, a sense of helping others, the strength of bonding, a sense of God's peace?
Immediate external success may not be in accord with our process if we have unnecessarily hurt people on the way or done violence to ourselves or to those close to us. Our standard of success has to be how faithful we have been to the process. There is no way to peace. Peace is the way.
Have we been following St. Ignatius' way of proceeding which is Jesus' way of proceeding? I may not see many immediate results. Jesus was and is being crucified. But the death and resurrection of Jesus did radically heal our world, and I can join my efforts to the redemptive act of Jesus.
If I am in a small faith community, the different personalities in the group can bring more balance. Some are naturally planners. Some are actors. Some evaluators. Some want to pray more. Some want to form stronger community. Together the community reaches balance, a sense of proportion.
The English Jesuit poet Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins, S. J. saw God in the world even though modern technology has tended to obscure God's presence. Hopkins had hope that deep down God's presence cannot be suppressed. Sensing that God is active in our lives as individuals and as a community, Hopkins believed the Holy Spirit broods over our world "with ah! bright wings."
The Holy Spirit is very active in the infancy narratives. John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit "even from his mother's womb." Luke 1.15, 35, 41/ Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit when she exclaimed to Mary, "Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb! The Holy Spirit came upon Mary when Jesus was conceived. Zachary the father of John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was upon Simeon, and he came by inspiration of the Spirit into the Temple.
The Holy Spirit is very active throughout the Gospel of the Poor, St. Luke. 2. 25; 3.16, 22; 4.1, 14, 18; 10.21; 11.13 etc.
"Not many of you are wise. .influential.. well-born.. God singled out the weak of this world to shame the strong." Also in the Acts of the Apostles we see the Holy Spirit very much alive and present. At Pentecost the apostles experience the Holy Spirit visibly, palpably. There are tongues of fire, a driving wind, the whole house shakes. Acts is an exciting faith story--the early preaching of the good news, the spread of the church, the conversions, persecution, internal struggle, the closeness of the early community, sharing all things in common.
Jesus was true to his word of sending the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is still with us, and we need to discern the action of the Holy Spirit today. Perhaps the presence of the Holy Spirit is not as subtle as we might think. Ferdinand Marcos was displaced in the Philippines in a non-violent way. The Cold War ended without a nuclear conflagration, without even a skirmish. The Holy Ghost broods over our world with ah! bright wings. There is a way. The process is good news. Let's not say I can't. Let us say we will. Let us never underestimate the will and power of God for good. When the odds are impossible, the Spirit breaks through!
"Consider Jesus who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.. At the time it is administered, all discipline seems a cause for grief and not for joy, but later it brings forth the fruit of peace and justice to those who are trained in its school. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that which is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with all people, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord."
The process is circular. It ends only when we have prepared the world for Christ's redeeming touch and healing. We are called to prepare this world, these relationships for their final transformation and transfiguration.
As we proceed we may begin to doubt that the direction those in power are taking is the right direction. This may make us feel insecure. But we can't afford to paper over reality with happy sentiments. But we also want to plant seeds of hope that in the risen Christ we will be able to overcome the evils around us and within us. When we have appropriated our graced story, we dare to think new thoughts, to be utopian, to have a vision of new directions in which our world could go.
"May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, grant you a spirit of wisdom and insight to know him clearly. May he enlighten your innermost vision that you may know the great hope to which he has called you, the wealth of his glorious heritage to be distributed among the members of the church, and the immeasurable scope of his power in us who believe."
Since we often lack a sense of basic security, I think the greatest obstacle to peace and justice is fear. We fear freedom and the risk and responsibility it implies. I find comfort in finding my security in God. In the gospel of John Jesus equivalently says to us, "Make your home in my love." Disciples of Jesus went to see where he lived, and stayed with him. You will live in my love. Live on in me, as I do in you. No more than a branch can bear fruit of itself apart from the vine, can you bear fruit apart from me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who lives in me and I in him will produce abundantly, for apart from me you can do nothing. A man who does not live in me is like a withered, rejected branch, picked up to be thrown in the fire and burnt. If you live in me and my words stay part of you, you may ask what you will--it will be done for you. Anyone who loves me will be true to my word, and my Father will love him; we will come to him and make our dwelling place with him." John 14.23; 1.35; 15.9; 15.4.
If we dwell in God's love, make our home in the love Jesus has for us, I think we will feel basically secure and less afraid. Because our lives are often filled with ambiguous and complex concrete situations St. Ignatius had no illusions that we can easily discern God's will. God's love can always present new and unexpected challenges. God can be present in the tensions and conflicts in our lives, calling us to resolve them in a responsible way. There can be disagreement with those to whom I report or with those with whom I work. I can have conflict with the members of my family. I can be taking too little recreation or too much. I want to pray, but the demands of work and other pressures make prayer difficult. I feel I'm overextended. I read about time management and take an inventory of how I'm spending my time. I try to decide where the need is the greatest, where I can do the most good. I let go of this or that activity because I'm over-extended and lack focus, concentration, and depth.
Prayer for openness to the light from the Holy Spirit is the first step in discernment. A person should strive for a radical orientation to God, a basic attitude or bent toward God. Gathering of all important data for judgment includes dialogue with those of special competence or experience. It also includes affective intuitive knowledge as well as scholarly intellectual pursuits.
When the President of Physicians for Social Responsibility, Dr. Helen Caldicott, left the White House after a private meeting with President Ronald Reagan, she could hardly walk from shock. The President was not only uninformed about research of responsible peace groups but ignored factual reports even of the Pentagon. Obviously President Reagan was not open to new information or new points of view. I fear the so-called leaders of our world are closed to a more rational and loving approach to the issues facing us. How to break through such walls of studied ignorance is a mystery. To me it simply shows that the art of honesty is crucial to our world's survival and fundamental well-being.
Decisions that we make as groups or as individuals need to well-informed. If we're not just a little open to new ideas, our plans have to be defective. In the case of the United States government and Congress, our stubborn refusal to learn can only eventually be disastrous. It has already caused untold suffering and misery.
Confirmation of a decision can come from deep interior peace as well as official approval of those in authority. But the decision is still open to verification through lived experience and if need be, open to further discernment. Since we never grasp the fullness of our lives, assimilation of our light and dark graced story is a continuing process. The reality is that we can all be blinded by subtle self-seeking, prejudice, or fixations caused by insecurity. Spiritual freedom makes discernment more reliable. Those who have been faithful to Christ's call no matter what the cost can achieve greater freedom.
All of Ignatius' spirituality is filled with discernment, but Ignatius does have different rules for those who are beginners and those who are more proficient. As one advances in the spiritual life the insinuation of evil into good actions can be subtle and gradual. What begins as something quite noble can become infiltrated by delusion, false steps, and the lesser good. Ignatius' rules for discernment are not for the neurotic or emotionally unbalanced nor for those with inordinate affections. Those emotionally or spiritually immature should not rely on Ignatian discernment to lead them out of being a psychological defective. On the other hand, discernment I think is a very healthy exercise and can at least identify areas for improvement and growth.
Although the Holy Spirit is active in our lives, not all our judgments and instincts come from God. Spiritual discernment is an on-going process of sorting out my inner movements, strengthening and reinforcing the movements of the Holy Spirit, counteracting selfish and narrow-minded desires. There are signs to detect whether the finger of God is here. Are faith and hope and love being strengthened? Am I being enervated or growing? Am I blinded by anger or clarified by love?
Genuine consolation enters a person committed to God almost imperceptibly, in silence, as a drop of water enters a sponge. On the contrary, that not of God jars and upsets like a drop of water hitting a rock. Often in discernment there is converging evidence from multiple signs.
We can take our personal frustrations and inadequacies out on the just cause we are supporting. Instead of facing a personal problem that's festering inside, we demonstrate, write an angry letter, overreact in an insensitive way. I think such projection of our own anger onto the cause actually hurts the cause we are supporting.
Jesus' way of proceeding can become our way of proceeding. Since Jesus identifies with the materially poor, contact with the poor can be a way of staying rooted in Christ. Social analysis helps us to organize our experience and research and address the causes of suffering. Then we are ready to interpret the signs of the times in the light of the gospel. Spiritual discernment gives us depth and energizes our social action. Because our efforts can be too scattered and dissipated, we decide on a specific objective with a definite time-line, Finally we reflect on how faithful we have been to Jesus' path to peace.
I feel I have the responsibility under God to help co-create the social order, a responsibility based in our profound unity with all creation. Through Jesus, with Jesus, in Jesus all our efforts can be offered to the Father in the Spirit. With Jesus we have come to light a fire on the earth, the fire of God's power and love.
Ignatian spirituality begins with the graced story of God's action in history as described in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. If we continue and scrutinize some of the main ethical themes in history, we can see God's action in the periods since the common era. The teaching of the Catholic Church was crucial to the thinking of St. Ignatius and integral to the international congregations of the Society of Jesus in 1975, 1983, and 1995 which apply that teaching to today's world. Although there can be sharp differences among those who follow Ignatian spirituality, these differences are more in reading the signs of the times than in disagreeing on principles.
St. Ignatius felt that to be a friend of the poor was to be a friend of Jesus. "God has anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor." (Luke 4.18) (34th International Congregation of the Society of Jesus, Decree 2, No. 8.) If we are friends with the poor, we share with one another as friends do, we learn from one another as friends do. When I was in El Salvador, I certainly became richer through the faith and courage that I saw in the poor.
If we are friends with the poor, we are open to any structure that oppresses. As Cardinal John Henry Newman said, "To live is to change. To live well is to change often." I think we need to be humble and open to entirely new ways and to acquiring completely new attitudes. (34th International Jesuit Congregation, Decree 3, No. 5.)
The three main elements of Ignatian spirituality work together. Reconciliation with God, our neighbor and the earth puts us in a state of spiritual consolation. Discernment examines whether our reconciliation is genuine and whether we are basically in spiritual consolation rather than spiritual desolation. The time of spiritual consolation is the time to make decisions in the Spirit.
Envisioning Structures and sub-structures, Jesuit and Catholic Theology
What I do in this life has eternal significance for the world to come. It is this life, these relationships, these structures, these designs, that will be transformed and transfigured. The next life is the full-flowering of the way we live in this life. I am called to develop my talents, my personality here and now, to be true to my inner self. I am a unique person with a unique mission. When God created me, he decided against billions of other possibilities. There's a true character inside me that should be operating. I feel it's never too late to begin anew. I can't erase the past nor the scars it has left on my character. The past has also enriched me. But it's my attitude toward the future that makes me what I am and what I can become. It's my creativity that will make new structures and new designs.
Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes. (Joy and Hope) The Church in the Modern World. No. 39. "We do not know how all things will be transformed, but with God we are preparing a new dwelling place and a new earth where justice will abide, (2 Cor 5.2; 2 Peter 3.13) The new earth will surpass all our longing for peace. (I Cor. 2.9; Apoc 21.4,5) The expectation of a new earth must not weaken but rather stimulate our concern for cultivating this one. For here grows the body of a new human family, a body which even now is able to give some kind of foreshadowing of the new age. . .After we have mirrored the Trinity and nurtured on earth the values of human dignity, solidarity, and freedom, and all the good fruits of our nature and enterprise, we will find them again, but freed of stain, burnished and Transfigured. When Christ comes again, He will hand over to the Father a kingdom of truth and life, of holiness and grace, of justice, love, and peace. (Preface of the feast of Christ the King).On this earth the reign of God is already present in mystery. When Christ comes again. God's reign will bloom in full flower."
"The divinisation of our endeavors by the value of our right intention infuses a precious soul into all our actions. . .if we love God our work will never be lost. But will not the work itself of our minds, of our hearts and of our hands--our achievements, our products, our work--will not these too be saved?" The Divine Milieu, Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J. p. 23 ff. "I love irresistibly all that your continuous help enables me to bring each day to reality. A thought, a material improvement, a particular expression of love, a smile or a look, in me or around me, I cherish them like children. Our work, our activity, follows us as we enter God's reign. Each one of our works contributes to perfect Christ in His mystical totality. In action I cleave to the creative power of God; I coincide with it; I become not only its instrument but its living prolongation. I merge myself, through my heart, with the very heart of God. God is there waiting for us at every moment in our action, in our work of the moment. God is at the tip of my pen, my spade, my brush, my needle--of my heart and of my thought, at the touch of our computer. Nothing here is profane for those who know how to see. Whatever you do, realize its significance and constructive value in Christ, and pursuing it with all your might. What is sanctity if not to cleave to God with the maximum of our strength?"
The Catholic liturgy for Holy Saturday night has traced how God has acted in history: the creation story in which God begins to share with us, the gradually evolving Covenant with Abraham, Moses, David.
Reading V is from the prophet Isaiah 55.1-11: "Thus says the Lord: All you who are thirsty, come to the water! You who have no money, come, receive grain and eat; come, without paying and without cost, drink wine and milk! Why spend your money for what is not bread, your wages for what fails to satisfy? Heed me, and you shall eat well, you shall delight in rich fare. Come to me heedfully, listen, that you may have life. I will renew with you the everlasting covenant, the benefits assured to David. As I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander of nations, so shall you summon a nation you knew not, and nations that knew you not shall run to you, because of the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, who has glorified you. Seek the Lord while he may be found, call him while he is near. Let the scoundrel forsake his way, and the wicked man his thoughts; let him turn to the Lord for mercy; to our God who is generous in forgiving. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts. For just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to the one who sows and bread to the one who eats, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; my word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it."
On this web-site in the section on Economic Democracy I trace economic initiatives worth reflecting on, but an attitude of greed, ruthlessness, and selfishness doesn't fit with any economic structure that is in harmony with God's values.
God's grace is a gift, we don't have to pay for it. Our parents give us life and raise us freely. We should be ready to give ourselves to one another in service and solidarity. God is near, often in our neighbor.
Since our thoughts are not always God's thoughts, we need spiritual discernment to separate God's thoughts from our rationalizations and self-deceptions.
"I will sprinkle clean water upon you to cleanse you from all your impurities, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts. I will put my spirit within you and make you live by my statutes, careful to observe my decrees. You shall live in the land I gave your fathers; you shall be my people, and I will be your God." The latter was the formula for marriage, e.g. "I, Isaac, shall be your husband. You Rebecca, shall be my wife." (Ezekiel 36.25-28)
Confessions of St. Augustine: In this classic example of light and dark graced story St. Augustine tells his story, bursts into spontaneous prayer, and exclaims "Late have I loved You, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved You! . . You were with me, but I was not with You. . You called, You shouted, and You broke through my deafness. You flashed, You shone, and You dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for You. I have tasted You, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.
Fr. Raymond Helmick, S. J. who teaches peace studies at Boston College and has had extensive experience in peacemaking in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, and the Middle East, believes the Presupposition of the Spiritual Exercises can be useful in making peace at all levels. "It should be presupposed that every good Christian ought to be more eager to put a good interpretation on a neighbor's statement than to condemn it. Further, if one cannot interpret it favorably, one should ask how the other means it. If that meaning is wrong, one should correct the person with love; and if this is not enough, one should search out every appropriate means through which, by understanding the statement in a good way, it may be saved." (Spiritual Exercises, 22)This implies careful listening and good faith dialogue. If we really listen to others' stories, they may be more apt eventually to listen to ours.
Catechism of the Catholic Church No.2478: "To avoid rash judgment, everyone should be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbor's thoughts, words, and deeds in a favorable way."
I include a prayer I composed for Xavier University Ignatian Service Day: "Loving and wise God, help us to respect one another, to respect ourselves, to accept one another, to accept ourselves. I want to be in solidarity with all my sisters and brothers, those who agree with me and those with whom I disagree, those whom I like and those I don't like. May I learn from others, even those who may not seem as though they have something to tell me.
Jesus, you came not to be served, but to serve. May I leave no stone unturned, no path untried, no mountain unscaled until together with you, Jesus, we make this not a perfect world, but a better one, a world more in accord with the Father's will. I pray that we ask why we don't have a more humane world, a fairer world, a more loving world. May we be open to changing any structure that may be oppressive. I pray that in serving others I use my hands and my heart, but also my mind in analyzing changes that may need to be made in present structures."
Christian Life Community
The main line religions are in agreement on the positive nature of peace as union with God, our neighbor, and the earth. One form of reaching out to our neighbor is through covenanted faith communities that integrate Ignatian spirituality and justice such as Christian Life Communities. A process, Christian Life Communities support one another, become part of a national and a world community. The three essentials of CLC are Community, Spirituality, and Mission. See also:You can find several of our CLC documents including the General Principles and General Norms on-line at: http://www.cvx-clc.net/l-en/documents.html
These are more or less up to date. There were a couple of amendments approved in last summer's assembly that have not yet been included, but they are relatively minor. For example, the term limits for members on our World Executive Council were extended to three terms but no more than two terms in any one position. (These paragraphs under revision also seem to be highlighted in yellow.)
Ann Marie Brennan, President CLC USA 2008, 2009
- Christian Life Community USA (National)
- Christian Life Communities (North Central Region)
- Fr. Terry Charlton, S.J.
- Tel-254-20 3870429
- CLC in Kenya: St. Aloysius School Fund, a school for aids orphans in Kibera slums, Nairobi.
- Christian Life Community (Kenya)
- P.O. Box 21399, 00505 Nairobi, Kenya
- Tel: (254-20) 387-1100
The Risen Jesus Today
Jesus remembers and assimilates his own life and the lives of all those throughout history in the light of that which has followed down to our own day. In the human personality of the risen Jesus is all that is true, beautiful and good in each of us and in every culture. If we stay in union with the risen Christ, we can receive the enriched personality of the risen Christ as much as we are able; and the risen Jesus can co-feel, co-insight and co-decide with us. Covenanted faith communities can meditate on the life of Jesus and how God has acted in history, discern the signs of the times today, and fashion a vision of the future.
(For a review of how God has acted in history I suggest Fr. Thomas Bokenkotter, A Concise History of the Catholic Church. Also Church and Revolution, Catholics in the Struggle for Democracy and Social Justice.)
Reconciling Tensions: Let's assume that prayer opens and punctuates the day. "While that may sound unrealistic we mean an attitude of prayer. Rather than another duty to add to an overly long list, prayer permeates the atmosphere like a gentle rain, misting the sharp corners, softening the hard clods of earth, greening the surfaces. If we meditate on peace disarming our hearts, asking the Spirit to know when to challenge, when to let go, when to voice concern, when to affirm, we are beloved by God. That's all that matters. In the long run a peaceful working environment benefits the employer. Father above me; Son beside me; Spirit within me, The Three all around me. We have come from God and are returning to God. John 13.3 What else does anyone need to know?" God in the Moment p. 156, ff. "Some may harrumph that over-loaded calendars are symptomatic of everything that's wrong with a frenzied lifestyle: driven days and packed moments, too much jammed into the small squares of a week, crises so scheduled that nothing spontaneous could ever erupt. Where can we ever squeeze God in? our family? (See also Economic Democracy on this web-site for ways to reserve enough time to pray, for family and community life, for reading, reflection, envisioning new structures, being good citizens, holding government and corporations accountable.)
From time to time, we need to reflect upon our light and dark graced story, our pocket calendars, our weekly appointment books. "For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future full of hope." (Jeremiah 29.11) Work can be a channel through which God and we are co-creators, develops our gifts, and enables us to serve others. "Simply put, there is no split between faith and everyday life." Vatican II, Church in the Modern World.
Those following Ignatian spirituality usually make the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius either for thirty continuous days or in shorter versions. The Spiritual Exercises are a movement and are divided into four "weeks" or periods. The first week or grace reviews our basic relationship with God and that which breaks that relationship, sin. The second week is the call of Christ to make a decision to follow his values unreservedly. The third and fourth weeks confirm the decision made; the third week through meditation on Christ's passion; the fourth week through meditation on Christ's resurrection.
Fr. Seamus Murphy, S.J. makes an excellent suggestion. Before one enters into the Spiritual Exercises she/he should be exposed to a situation of poverty or structural social injustice several weeks prior to the retreat. If I take the road of action for justice, it leads to God. For me my field experience preceding my long retreat was my time in the army during World War II. I'm sure this made a richer retreat for me. Those entering an Ignatian retreat could have a similar exposure, not of course to war but to contact with the materially poor. One of the purposes of the Spiritual Exercises is to help make a decision in the Spirit and not according to some selfish impulse.
- Presupposition: A Christian will put a good interpretation on what another says or writes. If one cannot interpret a statement favorably, one should ask how the other means it.
- Purpose of Spiritual Exercises: Not to come to a decision through a disordered affection, riches, power, arrogance, pride, sensuality, fear, excessive individualism, violence, greed.
First Grace or Week
The First Week begins with "The Principle and Foundation" which sets a goal, union with God; gives means to the goal, relating to others and to the earth rightly and wisely; and suggests an attitude, freedom in regard to our attachments to others and to the resources of the earth.
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 of 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 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. (Paraphrased by Fr. David L. Fleming, S. J. Jesuit Spirituality)
To know God is to do justice. Justice like faith is a grace. With God's help we can develop good and loving relationships with God, our neighbor, ourselves, and the earth.
One creature central to our lives is food. Obviously we need to eat healthy food and in an enjoyable and relaxed way. Water is essential to life. We must share water with all. (See on this web site Food and Farm Issues under Economic Democracy.)
Is our entertainment non-violent and in accord with God's values? Many feel that our violent culture is reflected and reinforced by TV, movies, the evening news, newspapers, and since we interact with the game, especially video games.
What is our light graced story? How is God loving us? How are we taking that love to others? How are we being co-creators with God, preparing our world for its final transformation and transfiguration?
I think we should always emphasize the positive over the negative.
We don't need a reason to laugh. It's good for our physical and emotional health.
Inspired by my experience at Monte Cucco outside Rome, below are more thoughts about the first week of the of the Spiritual Exercises. In other words, below is how I would adapt the Spiritual Exercises to my life today.
We reflect on our relationship with God, with our neighbor and the earth. We reflect on our light graced story, how we have developed a new and deeper relationship with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, how we have grown as sons and daughters of our parents, as brothers and sisters, as classmates in school, as students with teachers, with teammates in sports, coaches, how we have interacted with our friends and enemies, our fellow Catholics, our fellow members of religious orders, our superiors, our fellow members of the military, officers, with Jesuits, the parish priests, other religious groups, other citizens, elected public officials, government, corporations.
How have I been spiritually free to be kind, loving toward others, studious, prayerful, joyous? Do I choose the magis, the greater good, the universal good, frontiers that are urgent and important, frontiers others are neglecting? Do I have the inner freedom to response to the surprises of the Holy Spirit? Do I do my best with God's help but joyfully with laughter and emphasizing the light graced story? Do I have a way of making decisions in the Spirit?
14th Sunday in Ordinary Time prays "fill your faithful with holy joy" The first reading from the prophet Zechariah: "Thus says the Lord: Rejoice heartily O daughter Zion, Shout for joy. . . your king. . . shall banish the chariot . and the horse" a reference that joy will bring peace and peace will bring joy. . "my yoke is easy and my burden light" A confirmation to put joy and peace into our lives, work against the negative, but emphasize the positive?
What have been the sinful social structures I experience? My dark graced story?
Reflecting on the books I have read, the experiences I have had, the insights I have enjoyed, what new graced structures and sub-structures do I and others from many different disciplines and experiences envision for a more peaceful and just world, a world closer to the heart of Christ?
What are the signs of the time, the cultural, social, economic structures of our world?
A focus of groups in company is a challenge to make decisions in the Spirit, prioritizing in a discerning way. Listening to the call of Christ in the midst of many demands on my time and responding generously.
2 Samuel 12. 1-6: Nathan said to David, "You are the man!" In a group I ask whether I am sensitive to others, taking people where they are? If I feel there is need to confront, do I challenge in a loving way, starting with their light graced story?
I pay attention to my inner movements but also to my body. I share over-flowing love of Father, Son, Holy Spirit from me to others. Acts of love even to enemies. I want to evaluate the world and its structures through the eyes of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
After use of creatures, most of the First Week centers on sin and punishment for sin. St. Ignatius makes an examen of conscience and meditates on original sin and personal sin. I often feel that sin is so massive and pervasive, I am overwhelmed by it. War, genocide, torture, terrorism, unemployment, poverty, violence, greed, selfishness seem to surround and engulf us. To me there is no doubt that the chief obstacle to peace is sin, in myself and in others.
My sense of fairness would demand that those who have inflicted pain on others would be punished adequately in this life and in the world to come. Since those in power seem to suffer little in this life, it would be fitting for them to be punished in the next. Indeed all of us deserve to be punished for our failure to follow God's plan.
As there is individual sin, there is also group sin. In Western culture I don't think we have the same sense of group sin that we see described in the Hebrew Covenant, for example. writers today speak of sinful social structures. For the average person in our culture I think group sin or structural evil is not easy to understand. Christian theology teaches us that in the beginning humankind sinned as a group.
"In addition to personal guilt, the word 'sin' can also be applied to the atmosphere of a community. This is what we call social sin. We can't point out specifically whose fault it is, but somehow it's the result of human decisions taken over a period of time, human decisions whose effect persists long after their perpetrators have disappeared. The fact that some people starve to death each day in our world while others have more than they can possibly use is a sinful situation. The fact that we are compelled to kill each other in order to solve some kinds of disputes is a sinful situation. The fact that our national survival depends on our ability to convince our enemies that we are prepared to destroy all their cities is a sinful situation. The fact that human sexual activity is looked on in our society as simply one more form of casual recreation is a sinful situation. Whose fault is it? We can't always say. What can be done to remedy the situation? We don't always know. But we can say and we do know that the atmosphere in which we live is tainted by sin, that the call to be sinful surrounds us, that certain kinds of wrong are more socially acceptable than certain kinds of right. That's social sin."
-Most Reverend Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Archbishop of Cincinnati, Be Free: Reflections on Redemption
If I pollute the air through unclean auto emissions, the pollution affects others and the environment. Toxic wastes seeping into underground aquifers hurts those who come after us. Soil erosion cannot always be restored easily. We can sin against the earth as a society, a nation, a region, a world. Sins against the earth affect all of us.
I often feel there is something gone wrong, a serious disorder in our world, that there is a great and terrible power which is enslaving us. I am a sinner and often feel helpless in the face of such massive sin. Although I am quite incapable of saving or freeing myself, these experiences of helplessness, even of hopelessness and despair, can be preludes to grace.
Since sin avoids the light, Adam and Eve hid themselves from God. As individuals and as a society I think we need a sense of social sin and a sense of individual sin. Our sinfulness can block us from union with God, put a wall between us and Jesus. Only God can reveal our sinfulness to us. When He does, He also gives us the grace empowering us to change and leading to life.
In our world the war system always involves secrecy and deceit. Is "that's classified" more often abused than not?
We have objectified our dealings with one another into laws of supply and demand, the military-industrial complex, a commercial corporate communications media, as though these structures had an objective reality independent of us. That's the way things are, we say. I was taught that concupiscence, the tendency of our feelings to go against our reason, could be called sin because concupiscence has its origin in sin and leads to further sin. Are there parts of our society and culture--with their processes, structures and institutions, the war system, abuse of the environment, an unjust global economy, that represent the embodiment of our humanity precisely as concupiscent?
Second Week or grace. As Father, Son, and Holy Spirit look down on our world, with the war system, concentration of corporate power and wealth, violations of basic human rights, violence, false gross consciences, but also moments of peace, joy, cooperation, sharing, Father, Son, Holy Spirit decide the Second Person should become a human being and send the angel Gabriel to our Lady.
From the 33rd General Congregation of the Society of Jesus 37;38 "The Spiritual Exercises invite us to contemplate the world of today with the loving gaze of the Three Divine Persons, that we may be drawn to understand the needs as God does and offer ourselves to share in God's work of salvation. . .Our contemplation of the world reveals a situation frequently hostile to the spreading of the Kingdom. (the global common good) The dominant ideologies and systems--political, economic, social and cultural--often prevent an adequate response to the most elementary aspiration of the human family at both national and international levels. A pervasive materialism and the worship of human autonomy obscure or obliterate concern for the things of God, leaving the minds and hearts of many of our contemporaries cold and empty. This both reveals and causes a profound crisis of faith that expresses itself in an atheism at once theoretical, practical and institutional. Lack of respect for a loving Creator leads to a denial of the dignity of the human person and the wanton destruction of the environment. Massive poverty and hunger, brutal oppression and discrimination, a frightening arms race and the nuclear threat: all offer evidence of sin in human hearts and in the core of contemporary society."
Feel the leap of joy in the heart of God when the decision is made to save this world by the coming to us of the Son.
The Grace we ask for: To discover and savor the hidden life of the Lord as a quality of presence in my daily relationships and ministry. If I can't find anyone else to collaborate with on my five pillars, at least I have Three Persons I can count on! Of course, I have many more. Like Mary, I say yes even though I don't know where the remaining years of my life will take me. I hear Father, Son, Holy Spirit saying Let's have a quiet joy these last years! Let God guide us on our journey. "The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. In verdant pastures he gives me repose. Beside restful waters he leads me. He refreshes my soul. He guides in right paths for His name's sake. Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side with your rod and your staff that give my courage. You spread the table before me in the sight of my foes; You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows. Only goodness and kindness follow me all the days of my life; And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for years to come." Psalm 23
Luke 2.39-40; 51-52. Jesus grows every day in every way; through his public life, passion, resurrected life; throughout history, today. Jesus today knows more, feels more deeply, co-feels, co-insights, co-decides with me. The Incarnation happens in me: The Father above, the Son beside me, the Holy Spirit within. The Three all around me.
Do I choose the magis, the greater good, the universal good, frontiers that are urgent and important, frontiers others are neglecting? Do I have the inner freedom to response to the surprises of the Holy Spirit? Do I do my best with God's help but joyfully with laughter and emphasizing the light graced story?
What have been the sinful social structures I experience? My dark graced story? How can I move the dark graced story to the light side of the ledger?
Reflecting on the books I have read, the experiences I have had, the insights I have enjoyed, what new graced structures and sub-structures do I and others from many different disciplines and experiences envision for a more peaceful and just world, a world closer to the heart of Christ?
What are the signs of the time, the cultural, social, economic structures of our world? A focus of groups is a challenge to make decisions in the Spirit, prioritizing in a discerning way. Listening to the call of Christ in the midst of many demands on my time and responding generously.
2 Samuel 12. 1-6: Nathan said to David, "You are the man!" In a group am I sensitive to others, taking people where they are? If I feel there is need to confront, do I challenge in a loving way, starting with their light graced story?
- Ignatian Spirituality for the Corporate Person, John English, George Schmel.
In the Second Week the three divine persons look down on the world with its many and diverse peoples and decide the Second Person should become a human being. Though of the House and Family of David, Jesus is born in poverty and hardship. Jesus invites us to follow him in bringing about the reign of God, the global common good.
Philippians 2.1 ff "I beg you make my joy complete by your unanimity, possessing the one love, united in spirit and ideals. Never act out of rivalry or conceit; rather, let all parties think humbly of others as superior to themselves (at least in some areas) each of you looking to others' interest (as well as) your own. Your attitude must be that of Christ: (Early hymn follows:) Though He was in the form of God, he did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at. Rather, He emptied himself and took the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of men. He was known to be of human estate. and it was thus that he humbled himself, obediently accepting even death, death on a cross! Because of this God highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name above every other name. So that at Jesus' name every knee must bend in the heavens, on the earth, and under the earth, and every tongue proclaim to the glory of God the Father: JESUS CHRIST IS LORD!"
Above I sketch Jesus' way of proceeding and our way of proceeding. Above and below I sketch some of my own thoughts.
The Grace we ask for: To discover and savor the hidden life of the Lord as a quality of presence in my daily relationships and ministry. Jesus today knows more, feels more deeply, co-feels, co-insights, co-decides with me.
Sp Ex 273, 2. Jesus leaves Nazareth and His Blessed Mother. I leave tension, worry, over-seriousness, emphasis on negative, my comfort zone.
I am God's officer. I stand up straight, breathe deeply.
I pay attention to my inner movements but also to my body. I share over-flowing love of Father, Son, Holy Spirit for me with others. Acts of love even to enemies. I want to evaluate the world and its structures through the eyes of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
St. Paul's letter to the Philippians 4.4-7. "Sisters and brothers: Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."
Below is a meditation of St. Ignatius, The Two Standards.
The plan of Jesus contrasts with that of Lucifer, our enemy. Jesus invites us to follow him in bringing about God's reign, the global common good. His plan of action is quite different from that of Lucifer. Lucifer is surrounded by fire and smoke. I ask for insight "into the deceits of the evil leader, and for help to guard myself against them" Lucifer's platform is riches, vain honor, surging pride. These lead to all other vices. I suggest that "all other vices" includes a chasm between the wealthy and the poor, the economic and political power of a few, a war system which protects or acquires wealth.
St. Ignatius sees people tempted to seek riches, and then because they possess some thing or things, they find themselves seeking the honor and esteem of the wealthy, the powerful, and the ruthless. From such honor arises a false sense of identity in which false pride has its roots. So the strategy of the deceitful one is simple: riches-these are mine; honor-look at me; pride-look who I am. By these three steps we are led to arrogance, conceit, a narrow closed mind, and then to all other vices. Upward mobility leads to a flight from the poor. (My standard for the deceitful one is VIOLENCE)
Jesus "takes his place in that great plain near Jerusalem, in an area which is lowly, beautiful, and attractive." Jesus' plan is quite the opposite, spiritual even actual poverty; reproaches and contempt; humility. These lead to all other virtues. The choice between riches and religious poverty; between a comfortable living and religious life was a real one for St. Ignatius. Many making the Spiritual Exercises have joined St. Ignatius in forming or entering the Society of Jesus, a graced structure. Solidarity with the poor may mean enduring misunderstanding even rejection. As Jesus did, many Jesuits have suffered death as a result of Jesus' message of non-violence, justice, love and sharing.. With God's grace we can be led to a peace with justice and an entirely new vision of community, solidarity, and democracy. Followers of Jesus receive their identity and self-worth by experiencing God's love.
My "flag" or "standard" for good is pioneer for Jesus, my scout.
Jesus' plan contrasts with that of Lucifer: Try to help people to grow and make their own decisions. Do not enslave or exploit others. Let go of riches and power or of the desire for them. Be free to be true to yourself and open to receive the love and vision of Jesus. Jesus followed downward mobility, from the second person of the Trinity to become a member of the human family. Jesus calls us to detachment from wealth and power to attachment to people, especially the poor.
The Spiritual Exercises invite us to reflect upon the attitudes and values of Jesus. Through the redemptive act of Jesus we can discern in what ways God calls us in our own times and situation. Jesus had total confidence in the power of God and God's plan for us. Instead of trying to control everything, our efforts to change evil structures need always be in dependence on God. What is right will prevail not because it has more money and personnel but ultimately because it is right.
Each one of us can be converted to walk the path toward a peace with justice. Because God's redemption has begun, every human structure and institution can be reformed. Because history has seen much religious strife, even religious persecution, the enlightenment has tended to incline us to make religion a private matter. But genuine spirituality joins private prayer with social justice. The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius can point us to public issues of peace with justice. The issues of world hunger, the war system, genocide, refugees, the arms trade, unemployment, the chasm between the rich and poor, dwindling natural resources, pollution of the environment, global warming, are not mainly technical problems. If the human family were reasonable and moral, I think we could reach the beginning of human decency.
Do we choose to be selfish and greedy or compassionate and just? Are we ready to sacrifice some self-interest for the common good? Although it disguises itself in many ways, as individuals and groups we have an inordinate desire for wealth, honor, and power. St. Ignatius confronts the above in the second week of the Spiritual Exercises. With God's grace we can be converted to peace and justice and an entirely new vision of possibilities and actualities in public affairs. "I ask you, how can God's love survive in a man who has enough of this world's goods yet closes his heart to his brother when he sees him in need?" 1 John 3.17 "My brothers, what good is it to profess faith without practicing it? Such faith has no power to save one, has it? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and no food for the day, and you say to them, 'Good-bye and good luck! Keep warm and well fed' but do not meet their bodily needs, what good is that? So it is with the faith that does nothing in practice. It is thoroughly lifeless."
Trusting in material things, our culture promotes upward mobility. Jesus calls us to downward mobility! Followers of Jesus receive their identity and self-worth by experiencing God's love. I have worth and value because I was worth dying for. Jesus identifies with those who are the object of contempt, exclusion, and discrimination. Eventually this brings upon Jesus that same kind of contempt and suffering. No servant is greater than his master. If Jesus experienced contempt and suffering, we will experience similar pain. Downward mobility means I assume the cause of the poor. Solidarity with the poor means enduring misunderstanding even rejection by those who oppose the cause of the poor.
St. Ignatius sees people tempted to seek riches, and then because they possess some thing or things, they find themselves seeking and accepting the honor and esteem of this world. From such honor arises a false sense of identity in which false pride has its roots. So the strategy of the evil one is simple: riches--these are mine; honor--look at me; pride--look who I am. By these three steps we are led to arrogance, conceit, a narrow closed mind, and then to all other vices. Upward mobility leads to a flight from the poor.
Can we apply the above to nations who become rich and powerful? Feared by all? Do riches and military power lead to nations who are arrogant, conceited, "better" than the rest of nations?
Jesus adopts a strategy just the opposite. Try to help people to grow themselves and make their own decisions. Do not enslave or exploit others. Let go of the things of this world, be free to be true to yourself and open to be created and redeemed in Christ. Although downward mobility means a detachment from riches and honors, it calls us to attachment to people, especially the poor.
Would the strategy of Jesus also apply to nations? Share the resources of the earth; share decision-making through a world democratic authority? Develop Councils of Conscience on a national and international level?
The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius describe three degrees of commitment to God. The minimum commitment to the cause of Christ is never seriously or knowingly to act against the will of God in grave matters, no matter what profit is to be gained and no matter what disaster is to be averted. Many accept this commitment in their private lives but do not acknowledge that this commitment to Christ extends to the public arena.
The second degree or mode requires indifference to wealth, honor and life itself if there is conflict with God's will. What is the worst thing that could happen to me? That I die? Or that I be separated from God's love and friendship?
The third degree calls the followers of Jesus to deliberately choose poverty with Christ poor, rejection with Christ rejected. Dorothy Day, Steve Biko, Martin Luther King and many others have made such a choice. We are invited to do the same. The issues today of hunger, the war system, global climate change, etc.etc. are so enormous we need to dig deeply into our spiritual resources.
St. Ignatius felt that to be a friend of the poor was to be a friend of Jesus. The Constitutions of the Society of Jesus prescribe that members practice the corporal works of mercy such as helping the sick, the poor, prisoners in jail. The Constitutions also urge us to works of reconciliation. To be in solidarity with the poor may mean misunderstanding, rejection, even by those close to us.
As one meditates on the life of Jesus, she/he may fall in love with Jesus. Love I think can motivate us to change for the better in dramatic ways. Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice is converted from a proud, disagreeable man to graciousness and humility through love.
At the end of the Second Week of the Spiritual Exercises one making a retreat usually would make a decision to enter or stay in religious life; to maintain or increase a commitment to the poor; to follow a simple life-style in the married state. St. Ignatius has detailed instructions on how a choice can be made. Cannot groups, even nations, also make decisions in the Spirit or at least in a rational and spiritually free way?
Third Grace or Week
After the person making the Exercises has made her or his decision, the third and fourth weeks confirm the retreatant in his/her decision. In the third week I ask for what I desire: "sorrow, regret, and confusion, because the Lord is going to his Passion for my sins." In Cincinnati and in many other cities on Good Friday, pilgrims process through the streets on a way of the Cross, Way of Justice. We commemorate Jesus suffering on Calvary. We also commemorate Jesus suffering today in the Sudan, Israel/Palestine, in the Great Lakes Region of Africa, in the poor of the US. Although it is salutary to mourn for Princess Diana and Mother Theresa, we should mourn for each person oppressed, tortured, and killed in Central America, the Philippines, Northern Ireland, China.
God loves those who are suffering. We need to work to alleviate the sufferings of others and of ourselves. I want to be sensitive to those suffering, in solidarity with them but not so obsessed with the negative that I'm overwhelmed.
God does not want us to suffer. Suffering is rooted in finitude and freedom. God wants us to use our freedom to reduce and eliminate suffering. God did not require the death of Jesus as compensation for what we make of our history. God is not a God of ransom and atonement, but a God of compassion, forgiveness, and non-violence, the God of Jesus. (See Fr. Edward Schillebeeckx, O.P., Christ part four and below) We are redeemed by the message and mission of Jesus. Jesus fulfilled his mission and was crucified. Jesus had a message of forgiveness and non-violence. Despite the message of non-violence that Jesus offered, he suffered a violent death. I think the general outlines of this web-page, developing and living a global ethic; promoting a culture of non-violence in all its forms; ensuring basic human rights including economic and solidarity rights; establishing economic democracy and a democratic world authority is part of the message of Jesus today.
Fr. Edward Schillebeeckx, O.P. The Schillebeeckx Reader, edited by Robert Schreiter 1984.
Human Experience and Suffering, p. 51 ff. "there are certain forms of suffering which enrich our humanity in a positive sense, which can even mature us so that we become thoroughly good and wise personalities. . . a certain dose of suffering can make us sensitive to others. Suffering can be for a good, righteous or holy cause. Christians can participate in the sufferings of Jesus (2 Cor. 1.5) Having accepted the above, there is a barbarous excess despite all the explanations and interpretations. Evil and suffering are the dark fleck in our history, a fleck which no one can remove by an explanation or interpretation which is able to give it an understandable place in a rational and meaningful whole. . . .
The Christian message does not give an explanation of evil or our history of suffering. Nor will the Christian blasphemously claim that God required the death of Jesus as compensation for what we make of our history. This sadistic mysticism of suffering is certainly alien to the most authentic tendencies of the great Christian tradition. I think that in soteriology or the doctrine of redemption we are on a false trail, despite the deep and correct insight that God is the great fellow-sufferer, who is concerned for our history.
Jesus balances off the mystery of evil with a totally generous and loving life. Christ's life, death, and resurrection shows that life is stronger than death, that goodness is stronger than evil, and that forgiveness is more life-giving than revenge. Christ changed the thrust of our self-centeredness and put His Heart at the center of things. Through redeeming us, Christ has put joy and hope at the center of things. Let us join Jesus in putting joy and hope at the center of our world.
The Cross is a sign of Christianity. We sign ourselves in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. The Cross is a sign of selfless love for all. It has nothing to do with morbid masochism or sadism.
Harold Kushner, When Bad Things Happen to Good People pp. 113-31, esp. 127 "The God I believe in does not send us the problem; He gives us the strength to cope with the problem."
Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World of the Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes nn 37-38. "The way of love is open to all and the effort to restore universal peace is not in vain. Love is not to be sought after only in great things but also, and above all, in the ordinary circumstances of life. Jesus suffered death for us all, sinners as we are, and by his example he teaches us that we also have to carry that cross which the flesh and the world lay on the shoulders of those who strive for peace and justice."
I want to be in solidarity with all those suffering today, but in a way that gives them support, comfort, and hope. Jesus made up for the lack of love in the world by the greatest love. But the love of Jesus was a tough love, a love that could challenge if necessary. We can join with Jesus in loving each person in the Trinity; Mary; the saints; ourselves; our family and friends; living and in the next life; our teachers; our students; our fellow workers; all workers; public officials; those of our religion and those of all religions; our enemies; everyone. I want to love everyone and everything, in word and in deed. But I want a tough love, a love that has the courage to challenge when appropriate.
Fr. Gerald R. Grosh, S.J. discusses what can lead to a sustained commitment to justice. His conclusion is:
Sustained commitment to justice involves: 1) admission that I have sinned personally and through my culture 2) a willingness to let go my own comfort because of the needs and rights of others; and 3) a willingness to accept the criticism of others, who because of their own fears, hurts, and insecurity will not understand my behavior and in fact will judge it as a betrayal of them. Thus behavior that embodies justice calls for a person who is generative (Erikson's seventh stage) and is committed to suffering love (Ignatius's Third Week of the Spiritual Exercises) A key factor in the lack of effective and continued involvement in justice is the fact that we have not grown into the psychological and spiritual freedom that is necessary for this kind of commitment.
-Fr. Gerald R. Grosh, S.J. "Psychological and Spiritual Maturity Necessary for Effecting Justice"
In Quest for Sanctity, Seven Passages to Growth in Faith Fr. Grosh says we are called to listen to the signs of the times in the world, but also to our inner experiences, our thoughts, feelings, hopes, fears, and desires. What is our deepest desire, our "governing grace." Is it union with God? Then our governing grace will lead us to make decisions in the Spirit. We need to get in touch with the governing grace that flows within us like a deep current in a river.
To develop and grow we need to die to our previous stage in order to rise to our new stage. A student has to die to her/his life in high school to rise to new life as a college student. A single person has to die to previous stages to rise to life in the married state or to life in a religious order, etc.
On Sunday, Mar. 23, 1980, Archbishop Oscar Romero's last radio homily stated: "The church, defender of the rights of God, of the law of God, of human dignity, of the person, cannot remain silent before such abomination. We want the government to understand seriously that reforms are worth nothing if they are stained with so much blood. In the name of God and in the name of this suffering people, whose laments rise to heaven each day more tumultuous, I beg you, I beseech you, I order you in the name of God: Stop the repression!"
The next day, Monday, Mar. 24, 1980, at his last Mass Archbishop Romero read 1 Corinthians 15:20-28."Christ is indeed raised from the dead. . Christ must reign until God has put all enemies under his feet, and the last of these is death. . so that God may be all in all." Psalm 23 "The Lord is my shepherd. . I will dwell in the Lord's house for years to come." John 12: 23-26 "Unless the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains only a grain. But if it dies, it bears much fruit." Archbishop Romero's homily: "You just heard in Christ's gospel that one must not love oneself so much as to avoid getting involved in the risks of life that history demands of us, and that those who try to fend off the danger will lose their lives. But whoever out of love for Christ give themselves to the service of others will live, like the grain of wheat that dies, but only apparently. If it did not die, it would remain alone. . Only in undoing itself does it produce the harvest. . He quoted Vatican II: 'The expectation of a new earth must not weaken but rather stimulate our concern for cultivating this one. For here grows the body of a new human family, a body which even now is able to give some kind of foreshadowing of the new age. . That kingdom is already present in mystery. When the Lord returns, it will be brought into full flower' . . May Jesus' body immolated and His blood sacrificed for humankind nourish us, so that we may give our body and blood to suffering and to pain--like Christ, not for self, but to teach justice and peace to our people." At that moment a shot rang out." Fr. James R. Brockman, S.J. Romero, a Life pp. 244, 5.
Taken from America p. 39 Mar. 22, 2010 by Sister Barbara Reid, O.P. "The gospel of Luke emphasizes Jesus' role as prophet and interprets the death of Jesus as rejection of his prophetic teaching and actions. Like all prophets, Jesus is lauded by those lifted up by his good news. but those whose privileged position is threatened by him seek to silence and kill him. . .Jesus can see what will be the consequences if he stays the course. He still has an option to retreat over the Mount of Olives and into the Judean desert. . Jesus feels God's reassuring presence, strengthening him for what lies ahead. Jesus chooses to be obedient to the prophetic mission entrusted to him, even if the cost is his life. .. His "obedience even unto death" is not to a father who wills his son to die--for what parent would ever wish such a fate on a child? Jesus' obedience is to divine love for all humanity and to the prophetic mission to release all who are bound by sin and suffering, bringing jubilee freedom to all (Leviticus 25 where all get a fresh start). His obedience is a costly love that impels him. At the Last Supper Jesus interprets his impending death 'This is my body given for you.'
The gift is not one act but rather a lifelong self-surrender in service to the least, an act manifest in healing and forgiveness right up until Jesus' last moments, when his final words are a prayer for God to forgive his executioners and of entrusting himself peacefully into God's hands (using Psalm 31) . . prophetic obedience turns one's ear to God morning after morning, to hear how to speak a rousing word to the weary . . . servant leaders following Jesus means going like the women to the places of death, keeping watch in solidarity with the crucified peoples of our world and continuing to protest the machinery of death, even as we ourselves risk falling victim to it."
Fourth Grace or Week
In the fourth week I "ask for the grace to be glad and to rejoice intensely because of the great glory and joy of Christ our Lord." As I rejoice in the Resurrection of Jesus, so I also am glad for the light graced story in my own life, in the world, and throughout history. We can become so involved with the dark graced story that we neglect the light graced story and we lose perspective. "Consider the office of consolor which Christ our Lord carries out, and compare it with the way friends console one another." "I will call into my memory and think about things which bring pleasure, happiness, and spiritual joy, such as those about heavenly glory." Nehemiah 8.9 "Today is holy to the Lord your God. Do not be sad, and do not weep; for today is holy to our Lord. Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength."
Where do we find the Risen Jesus today? In the Eucharist, God's Word, in all those who work for peace and justice. How can I further take the Risen Jesus to others?
In the fourth week we can dwell on our personal and group light graced story. We need to savor the light graced story. St. Ignatius concludes the Spiritual Exercises with a contemplation of God's love for us and our return of God's love. "Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and all my will--all that I have and possess. You, Lord, have given all that to me. I now give it back to you, O Lord. All of it is yours. Dispose of it according to your will. Give me love of yourself along with your grace, for that is enough for me." Too often we want material things which will allow us to impress others with our importance. Our greatest sense of self-worth should come from the realization that God loves us and that we have been able in some small way to return that love.
"The Word of God became man and lived in our world. Jesus reveals to us that God is love, that the fundamental law of our perfection and of the transformation of the world, is the new commandment of love. Jesus assures us who have faith in God's love that the way of love is open to all and that the effort to bring about love of all humankind is not in vain."
-Vatican II, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, 37, 38
As I prepared for a commemoration of twenty years of my radio show, Faith and Justice Forum, I reflected on some of the light graced story of my own life and that of others during this twenty-year period. The farm workers had won some recognition and a minimum of economic rights. Ferdinand Marcos had been deposed in the Philippines; East-West tensions eased; the US established normal relations with Vietnam; Nelson Mandela was elected President of South Africa; the European Union has been strengthened. Could we hope that twenty years from now there will be no more war or poverty and that our earth will be safer and more healthy? Or at least that we will be going more in that direction?
St. Paul says, "Where sin increased, grace has abounded all the more." (Romans 5.20) As there is structural or public sin, so I think there is structural grace, for example, marriage, religious life, faith-sharing communities. I think graced structures need spiritual discernment to keep their communities from becoming overpowered by sinful structures which are all around us. But we never want to underestimate the will and power of God for good.
"God gives strength to the fainting; for the weak he makes vigor abound. Though the young faint and grow weary, and youths stagger and fall, they that hope in the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar as with eagles' wings; they will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint."
Those interested in making Creighton University's on-line Ignatian retreat can go to http://www.creighton.edu.
The method of light and dark graced story on this web-site might be useful for individuals and groups as they reflect on their family or community history. I personally have a spiritual diary, an intellectual history, a photo album, and recordings on cassette tapes, all of which I use at times for my prayer.
The May 2002 issue of Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits is "Christian Mindfulness, A Path to Finding God in All things." by William Rehg, S.J. In the article Fr. Rehg starts with Buddhist Mindfulness and includes centering prayer and mindfulness, and mindfulness and Ignatian prayer.
Finding God in all things is the concluding meditation to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, "Contemplation to Attain Love." I look at the beauty around me, hear the sounds, etc, rejoice in God's presence in what I'm looking at or hearing and at times reflect "how God labors and works for me in all the creatures on the face of the earth." It would be my form of centering prayer, reflecting on my breathing, my body, my interior movements and feelings.
Comparing and contrasting centering forms of prayer with Ignatian Spirituality, Fr. Rehg says "In a monastic context, one can afford simply to notice various interior states and movements without evaluating them, especially when the end in view is an insight into the transitory character of mundane reality. As already noted, this attitude is not opposed to engaged action; indeed, it fosters appropriately compassionate engagement. But Ignatius's Spiritual Exercises, because they aim not simply at prayer but at fostering practical Christian commitment, distinctively place in the foreground the orientation toward action.. . .Like the Buddhists, Ignatius provides us with a set of 'spiritual exercises' for arriving at freedom from attachments or, as he puts it, 'indifference'. In contrast to many Buddhists, however, Ignatius also provides us with a method or set of instructions for making explicit judgments about which choices are appropriate, that is in sync with God's action in the world." p. 24
Small faith communities can discern the spirits together reviewing their individual and collective light and dark graced stories. I recommend Fr. John English, S.J., Spiritual Intimacy and Community, An Ignatian View of the Small Faith Community.
St. Ignatius was a pilgrim. He walked many miles within Spain. He went to France, Italy, the Holy Land. St. Ignatius was a spiritual pilgrim too as he journeyed inward to greater intimacy with God. He journeyed outward also to care for his neighbor and the earth. A pilgrim has the freedom of the open road: to choose which direction to take, how quickly or slowly to move, when to travel and when to stay. St. Ignatius wanted to avoid rigidity and crippling uniformity.
I used to think of God's will as a play already written. My task was to recite the lines. Now I think of God's will as a general plan which God is inviting me to fulfill. With God's help, I feel called to write the play and then enact it.
I feel there is a sense in which we can freely create, in terms of concrete action in given circumstances, God's will for us now. Ignatian spirituality leaves us the freedom to find, to create if necessary, the images of Jesus and the Trinity which speak to and answer the needs of our own experience and our own times. God has a general plan and values but expects our free and imaginative cooperation. As we search to find God in all things, I think we can create God's will for us by our imagination, vision, and discernment. I used to be mostly passive in regard to God's will. Now I actively try to create God's will by always looking for better ways to be more effective. Grace is not simply to be watched and recorded but a dynamic process to be entered into.
Wholeness in Christ
The parts of my life at times seem broken and fragmented. Remembering my light and dark graced story, I have been able to piece it together, and expose certain patterns which are leading me toward wholeness in Christ. I feel God has spoken to me through my unique personality, my gifts and my decisions. At times I seemed to be going around in circles, even backwards, but God was able to guide me similarly to the way in which he led the Hebrew people in Exodus 13.17-22, with a column of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Although St. Ignatius was able to adapt to people and circumstances, he was also able to carry a project through to the end despite the most severe and unexpected obstacles. Ignatius was an extremely determined and persistent man.
I think it is foolish to think all events and all people's actions and words are immediately and transparently a divine revelation. The world is shot through with ambiguity and complexity. Fr. Jeronomo Nadal who knew St. Ignatius well writes: "Ignatius was led gently by the Spirit. Where, St. Ignatius did not know. Step by step Ignatius blazed a trail and made his way along it." I love this saying and have found it to be true in my own life. I look upon Jesus as my scout, blazing trails before me and beckoning for me to follow.
Someone making the Spiritual Exercises can slip into an individualistic and other-worldly mentality. Nor have I escaped this tendency. Ignatian spirituality led me to see that individual and personal actions have a social, structural dimension. Ignatian spirituality made me aware of structural and social sin.
The social nature of society and our efforts toward the common good don't eliminate individual initiative. St. Ignatius encouraged individual freedom and discretion in making the Spiritual Exercises. "Let him reflect on it for himself. . . ask for what I desire. . .as far as age, health and physical constitution permit."
Jesus Grows, We Grow
I have also begun to appreciate the eternal value of all of our present thoughts and acts. I feel in some small way a responsibility to this world here and now. For it is this world, these relationships that will be transformed and transfigured in the end-time.
"The people of Nazareth who spent some thirty years observing Jesus were certainly convinced of his growing humanness. 'Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary, a brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? Are not his sisters our neighbors here?' They found him too much for them" (Mark 6.3) He was all too normal, too thoroughly human, in his growth, to be the Messiah. Apparently, they had seen him learning how to tie on his sandals, to play games with the village kids, to plant and garden with Mary, to reap and gather with Joseph, and later to become the handyman who roofs houses, mends implements, follows the crops, and cuts irrigation ditches. They would agree with St. Luke that he 'progressed in wisdom, stature and grace.' (Luke 2.52, 2.48) (For this whole section consult David J. Hassel, S. J. "Jesus Christ Changing, Yesterday, Today, and Forever" Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits 24.3; May 1992, pp. 1-25)
As a human being, would not Jesus continue his growth in human knowledge after the resurrection? Would not his emotions expand, his affection for the women and men disciples become warmer, his human skills in communication sharpen, and his imagination take on new creativity?
Does Jesus' growth as a human being stop when he ascends into heaven? Or does his human personality continue to grow right up to this very day? In The Teacher XIV, 45-46, St. Augustine describes how Christ the Word illuminates every insight we enjoy. In On Free Will (III, xxii, 63-65) Augustine says Christ strengthens every decision we make. "That is, Jesus shares in our every insight and decision; Jesus co-insights and co-decides."
Christ then shares in every true insight and good decision of every person during the last two thousand years, whether that person is an artist or farmer or fashion designer or musician, or plumber or scientist or table waiter. "The risen Christ is then not only developing with each new insight and decision shared with us but also gathering into his human personality all that is true, beautiful, and good in each of us and in every culture, no matter how primitive or sophisticated we may be." Jesus shares our sufferings and anxieties and grows with us because of them. Jesus then contains within his human personality all that has happened in the last two thousand years. This would be too immense a burden if the divinity of Jesus were not supporting his human personality. "The fullness of him who fills the universe in all its parts." (Ephesians 1.22)
Thus Jesus brings to us today in the Eucharist and in our meditation and prayer all the riches of the past twenty centuries, as much as we can take, as much as we allow him to give us. "I live now not with my own life but with the life of Christ who lives in me." (Galatians 2.20)
The broader and deeper my knowledge when I die, the richer will be the intellectual power according to which I will grow after my resurrection. The more people I have loved in depth, the broader will be my affective base for resurrection growth. There is a close continuity between what I accomplish here on earth and what I will enjoy in heaven. My various skills in knowledge and friendship, in music and art, in mathematics and history, in sports, dance, and drama, in mechanics and wisdom will be kept in my risen existence and continue to grow there. Jesus does not lose his human personality and unique identity in his risen life. Nor will we.
Through many challenges and adversities, God led the Israelites from slavery in Egypt to the promised land. Jesus had his own ministry in Galilee, his journey to Jerusalem to confront the leaders of his day, his passion, death, and resurrection. Jesus continues to grow today joined to the human family as we struggle to reach the starting point of civilization. Each time I am united to Jesus in the Eucharist or through prayer and reflection, Jesus can give me the best of history. To the extent I assimilate Scripture, history, my own past, the past of others and other groups, I too am able to grow. Although I need natural and certainly supernatural help to do this, the Risen Jesus can co-feel, co-insight, and co-decide with me and with whatever group works and prays with him.
I offer my own version of the Morning Offering of the Sacred Heart devotion which is really an awareness of the core of Jesus' being and personality, an ever growing appreciation of the mind and heart of Christ: "Heart of Jesus, I place my heart next to Your Heart, as best I can to feel as you feel; my mind alongside your mind, to share in some small way in your insights; in union with the Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, in reparation for sin, I offer today to the Father in the Spirit, in union with the Immaculate Heart of Mary, joining with all the social action throughout the world, my research, my experience, my knowledge and my reading of the signs of the times, my analysis, my decisions for social justice, my acceptance of the challenge of the gospel, my successes and failures, my joys and sorrows, the joys and sorrows of my family and friends, of those I have visited or been close to in Israel-Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Cuba, Nicaragua, El Salvador, the Philippines, Japan, China, Russia, Lithuania, Belarus, Spain, Germany, France, Austria, South Africa, Peru, Prince Edward Island, Canada, Detroit, Cincinnati, Chicago, Indianapolis, Cleveland, New York, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Santa Clara, Seattle, Sarasota, Miami, San Antonio, farmland, inner-city, all classes, even those who disagree with me or oppose me. In union with You, I hope to create an interdisciplinary vision of a world with a world democratic authority; community ownership of the means of production, a community of communities; promotion of basic human rights, a culture of non-violence, and a global ethic."
A Thanksgiving Prayer
By Samuel F. Pugh: O God, when I have food, help me to remember the hungry; When I have work, help me to remember the jobless; When I have a home, help me to remember those who have no home at all; When I am without pain, help me to remember those who suffer, and remembering, help me to destroy my complacency; bestir my compassion, and be concerned enough to help; By word and deed, those who cry out for what we take for granted. Amen.
- Prayer of Tikkun Jewish Community
God in the Moment, Making Every Day a Prayer Kathy Coffey" The loudest, indeed the deafening, assurance of God's companioning comes through the incarnation of Jesus. .We are bound up with God in such a dramatic way that the intricacies of our lives are filled with divine energy."
To work is to pray. For Ignatius, if we are seeking to do God's will, if we are acting with God to make a better world, we are no less united to God in busy confusion than in formal prayer. How many millions of laborers and domestic workers, how many poor and unlettered people untrained in formal prayer experience union with God in this way? St. Thomas Aquinas: "As long as one is acting in one's heart, speech, or work in such a way as to tend towards God, one is praying. One who is directing one's whole life towards God is praying always." But praying informally or always presupposes praying formally, that is, setting aside some time for prayer in the formal sense. The Call to Discernment in Troubled Times, p. 246.
Bedtime Prayer of Forgiveness: YOU, my ETERNAL FRIEND, witness now that I forgive anyone who hurt or upset me or who offended me-- damaging my body, my property, my reputation or people that I love; whether by accident or purposely; with words, deeds, thoughts or attitudes.
I forgive every person who has hurt or upset me. May no one be punished because of me. May no one suffer from karmic consequences for hurting or upsetting me.
Help me, Eternal Friend, to keep from offending You and others. Help me to be thoughtful and not commit outrage by doing what is evil in Your eyes.
Whatever sins I have committed, blot out, please, in Your abundant kindness, and spare me suffering or harmful illnesses. Help me become aware of the ways I may have unintentionally or intentionally hurt others, and please give me guidance and strength to rectify those hurts and to develop the sensitivity to not continue acting in a hurtful way. Let me forgive others, let me forgive myself, but also let me change in ways that make it easy for me to avoid paths of hurtfulness to others.
I seek peace, let me BE peace. I seek justice, let me be just. I seek a world of kindness, let me be kind. I seek a world of generosity, let me be generous with all that I have. I seek a world of sharing, let me share all that I have. I seek a world of giving, let me be giving to all around me. I seek a world of love, let me be loving beyond all reason, beyond all normal expectation, beyond all societal frameworks that tell me how much love is "normal," beyond all fear that giving too much love will leave me with too little. And let me be open and sensitive to all the love that is already coming to me, the love of people I know, the love that is part of the human condition, the accumulated love of past generations that flows through and is embodied in the language, music, recipes, technology, literature, religions, agriculture, and family heritages that have been passed on to me and to us. Let me pass that love on to the next generations in an even fuller and more explicit way.
Source of goodness and love in the universe, let me be alive to all the goodness that surrounds me. And let that awareness of the goodness and love of the universe be my shield and protector. Hear the words of my mouth and may the meditations of my heart find acceptance before You, Eternal Friend, who protects and frees me. Amen.
-The Tikkun Community
Saint Kateri (Catherine)Tekakwitha, She-who-puts-things-in-order, Acts of Love
We can make acts of love to each Person of the Trinity, the saints, those who are our family and friends, those who have gone ahead, our enemies.
The Native American Saint Kateri is one example of someone to love. "I hear her name amidst The Howling winds/ And in the gentle breeze/ I hear her laughter in the streams and trees/ I hear her praying In the skies/ I watch her walking in the forest/ See her smile/ And listen to her sigh/ Slowly I start to realize She is already canonized In the blood Of her own people/ In the suffering of her race/ What we have to rediscover is to wonder at His working/ The splendor of His grace That shines radiant in the face Of a young Mohawk Indian girl Called Kateri Tekakwitha/ I love her and I talk to her." Brian O'Reilly, S.J.
(Material below taken from Fr. Francis Xavier Weiser, S.J. Kateri Tekakwitha)
The feast of Blessed Kateri (Catherine) is July 14th. In 1660 her parents died of smallpox when Kateri was 4. Kateri was scarred for life and her vision impaired. Her mother's sister and brother-in-law became Kateri's foster parents. Although Chief Iowerano, Kateri's new father, nurtured passionate enmity against the Catholic faith of the French foreigners, Kateri had a secret desire to speak to a blackrobe about the Christian faith.
At 8 Kateri was given the Mohawk name Tekakwitha, an ideal woman, prudent, industrious, she-who-puts-all-things-in-order.
With most of the village on a hunting party, in 1675 Fr. James de Lamberville, S.J. visited the elderly and the sick. Lacking distant vision, Kateri had fallen and injured her leg. When Fr. Lamberville was about to pass by her tent, like a blinding flash of light, a great decision flamed in Kateri's soul. All fear and shyness left her. She felt a wave of strength and courage surge through her whole being. Disregarding the pain of her wound she rose, stumbled a few paces to the entrance of her tent and called "Rakeni! "(Father). I want to know and love Rawanniio, the true God. I want to become a Christian.
Kateri's mother and her mother's friend had been Christian. "Rakeni, my father knows that I was never disobedient to him; but in religion, I have to go my own way. I am eighteen years old and must make my own decision. Rawanniio will help me to be firm." Assured of her determination, Fr. Lamberville invited her to join the instructions of the catechumens. Kateri staggered back to the bed and cried for joy.
She was harassed by her family and her village and eventually escaped from her foster father near Auriesville, New York, to the Jesuit Mission of St. Francis Xavier near Montreal. She lived a life of prayer and penance and cared for the sick, the elderly, the poor. The Jesuits did not make the Christians second-class Frenchmen, but let them continue their own way of life, their beloved native customs and traditions.
Discovering from a Sister that women as well as men made vows of chastity, she said to the priest: "I am not my own; I have given myself entirely to Jesus. He must be my only love. The state of helpless poverty that might befall me if I do not marry, does not frighten me. With the work of my hands I shall always earn what is necessary, and what is left over I'll give to my relatives and to the poor. God will always help me, I am sure."
Tekakwitha was overcome by a prolonged fever and died, April 17, 1680, at the age of 24. Immediately after her death a mysterious event occurred. The priests and all present saw it happen. Her face changed completely within a few minutes. .According to the reports of all the eyewitnesses it was like a modern film scene in slow motion: the ravages of sickness, the lines of bitter suffering disappeared. Her countenance became fresh, radiant and incredibly beautiful. The pockmarks that had disfigured her from childhood disappeared. Her face became like that of a healthy Indian child. The touch of a smile, gentle and charming played around her lips. A gasp of wonder and awe ran through the wigwam. Even men who once had cruelly tortured their enemies without blinking an eye were shaken by the sight and broke into tears. Anastasia, her birth mother's Christian friend sank to her knees and whispered in utter amazement Kateri's early name Ioragode "Little Sunshine!"
"Dear woman of courage and faith/Mystic of the wilderness, Sage of the valley/Listener to the Spirit who-whispers-within/ Mohawk maiden, Servant of the poor/ Blessed are you among Native people. Given the lovely name Te ka Kwitha,/ You remain for your people forever "She-who-puts-things-in-order"/ The name you received, orphaned, half blind/ and scarred by smallpox for life. At baptism, washed by the Spirit of Fire and Rain/ You walked through water with Moses, Sarah and Jesus/ And were christened Kateri after wondrous Sienna/A woman of another time and a distant culture/Destined to become an exemplar for all anishnabeg.
You saw more clearly than a wide-eyed fawn/the hurts and needs of those around you/The little one, the sick, the old people/ And your face, though fine pottery scratched,/Glowed with the aura of a child of Gitchi Manitou. Then, after only twenty-four years, you died/ Your face, scars healed, shone like the morning sun/ Now, years later dear woman of courage and faith/ She-Who-puts-things in order, walk with us/ Kateri, and teach us all to live, to serve, to love. Fr. Martin Machovec, O.M.I.
I pray to Saint Kateri today to "put things in order","to put things in place," to bless my Vision of Hope, all who pursue it, all everywhere, including the communion of saints.
Dream the Impossible Dream
A friend gave my brother Ken and I tickets to a revival on Broadway of The Man of La Mancha I share with you part of an inspiring moment for me. Wasn't St. Ignatius leaning against the wind? When we dream alone, it remains a dream. When we dream together, our dream becomes a reality.
The Man of La Mancha 1966, Dell Publishing. written by Dale Wasserman, lyrics by Joe Darion, music by Mitch Leigh
Like his contemporary, William Shakespeare, Miguel de Cervantes y Saavedra lived a life only sparsely documented. Born 1547, soldier, wounded at Lepanto, taken captive, five years a slave in Africa. Wrote 40 plays, none of which was successful. Inquisition excommunicated him and he served five terms in prison. 58, aging, infirm, an utter failure, he wrote Don Quixote in 1605, 10 years later he wrote Volume II which insured his immortality as author of the world's greatest novel, but he was already broken in body if not in spirit. He died in 1616.
Dale Wasserman: "Man of La Mancha plows squarely upstream against the prevailing philosophy, Theater of the Absurd, Black Comedy, Theater of Cruelty, theater of alienation, of moral anarchy and despair. Man of La Mancha seems hopelessly naive in its espousal of illusion as man's strongest spiritual need, the most meaningful function of his imagination. "Facts are the enemy of truth" says Cervantes-Don Quixote. That is precisely what I felt and meant."
If we have high ideals and don?t quite reach them, we will achieve more than if we set our sights at a more "realistic" level. A peace with justice is more real than the world of shadows in which we live.
Although I am very conscious of the group or original sin in our world, I feel my own vision is too minimal and conservative. A world democratic authority; local community ownership of the means of production, the factories and farms; promotion of basic human rights; a culture of non-violence, are the beginning of a humane civilization. We ought not underestimate the will and power of God for good.
P. 43 "Like beauty, "tis all in the eyes of the beholder." Dr. Carrasco: "There are no giants. No kings under enchantment. No chivalry. No knights. There have been no knights for three hundred years." Don Quixote: "Facts are the enemy of truth." p. 74. "The lady Dulcinea. Her beauty is more than human. Her quality? Perfection. She is the very meaning of woman" Padre: "To each his Dulcinea." p. 75.
p. 85 Aldonza "The world's a dungheap and we are maggots that crawl on it!" Don Quixote: "My lady knows better in her heart." "Whether I win or lose does not matter. Only that I follow the quest." "The mission of each true knight.. his duty? nay, his privilege!
To dream the impossible dream, To fight the unbeatable foe, to bear with unbearable sorrow,
To run where the brave dare not go. To right the unrightable wrong,
To love, pure and chaste, from afar,
To try, when your arms are too weary, To reach the unreachable star!
This is my Quest, to follow that star, No matter how hopeless, no matter how far,
To fight for the right without question or pause,
To be willing to march into hell for a heavenly cause!
And I know, if I?ll only be true to this glorious quest, That my heart will lie peaceful and calm when I?m laid to my rest. And the world will be better for this, That one man scorned and covered with scars, Still strove, with his last ounce of courage, To reach the unreachable stars!"
P. 99. Cervantes: "I have lived nearly fifty years, and I have seen life as it is. Pain, misery, hunger...cruelty beyond belief. I have heard the singing from taverns and the moans from bundles of filth on the streets. I have been a soldier and seen my comrades fall in battle. . or die more slowly under the lash in Africa. I have held them in my arms at the final moment. These were men who saw life as it is, yet they died despairing. No glory, no gallant last words. . .only their eyes filled with confusion, whimpering the question: "Why?" I do not think they asked why they were dying, but why they had lived. When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? Perhaps to be too practical is madness. To surrender dreams "this may be madness. Too much sanity may be madness. And maddest of all, to see life as it is and not as it should be."
P. 104 Don Quixote: "Let a man be overthrown ten thousand times, still must he rise and again do battle. The Enchanter may confuse the outcome, but the effort remains sublime!" P. 109 Knight of the Mirrors: "The lady is a trollop, and thy dream the nightmare of a disordered mind!"
P. 125: Aldonza "To dream the impossible dream, To fight the unbeatable foe, To bear with unbearable sorrow,
To run where the brave dare not go...To run where the brave dare not go,
Though the goal be forever too far, To try, though you're way worn and weary, To reach the unreachable star.
Though you know it's impossibly high, to live with your heart striving upward
To a far, unattainable sky!"
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Light Graced Hope
Isaiah, 65.17 ff "They shall live in the houses they build, and eat the fruit of the vineyards they plant."
Revelation 21. 1-7 I John, saw new heavens and a new earth. The former heavens and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no longer. I also saw a new Jerusalem, the holy city, coming down out of heaven from God, beautiful as a bride prepared to meet her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne cry out: "This is God's dwelling among humankind. He shall dwell with them and they shall be his people, and He shall be their God who is always with them. He shall wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, crying out or pain, for the former world has passed away."
The One who sat on the throne said to me, "See, I make all things new!" Then he said, "Write these matters down, for the words are trustworthy and true!" He went on to say: "These words are already fulfilled. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To anyone who thirsts I will give to drink without cost from the spring of life-giving water. He who wins the victory shall inherit these gifts. I will be his God and he shall be my son."
John 6: 54 ff "He who feeds on my flesh and drinks of my blood has life eternal, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood real drink. The person who feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the Father who has life sent me and I have life because of the Father, so one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and died nonetheless, the person who feeds on this bread shall live forever." John 14. 6. "I am the way, and the truth, and the life."
John 14. 23 "Jesus answered: "Anyone who loves me will be true to my word, and my father will love him; we will come to him and make our dwelling place with him." John 15.4 "Make your home in me, as I make mine in you. As a branch cannot bear fruit all by itself, but must remain part of the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me."