Tag Archives: Ignatian Spirituality

Sacred Story renews interest in spiritual discernment

The notion of spiritual discernment is not new to the spiritual life of Catholics. It has been part of our spiritual heritage for a very long time. Discernment is the key way we judge reality as it exists, and how I am a protagonist in this reality. One of the spiritual masters of the contemplative life is Saint Ignatius of Loyola who, as you know, placed great emphasis on spiritual discernment. This is seen in his classic manner of leading persons to a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ in what is known as the Spiritual Exercises as lived in the 30-day silent retreat, or the 8-day retreat or some shorter form of retreat. The Exercises is more of an experience of grace than a text; it is a method, a journey rather a destination; discernment means having an experience greater sense of freedom in Christ than a decision maker.

The election of a new Pope, man who has been formed in Jesuit and Ignatian spirituality has consequently brought to us renewed interest in the difficult, exacting and yet rewarding manner of knowing and living God’s will and living in the Divine Presence now. We know that our happiness on earth as in heaven has been promised to us by the Lord Jesus himself. You may want to contemplate the biblical narrative of the hundredfold to see what Christ indicates.

The other night on EWTN’s program with Father Mitch Pacwa, SJ, a new program, the Sacred Story Institute, was discussed and the conversation gave me a solid impression that what is proposed herein is very much worth our critical attention. Poke around the website (link given above) and you’ll find some interesting and useful stuff. The work of Sacred Story is clearly about the new evangelization but it is more: it is about meeting Jesus personally through the gift of life given to us by God the Father. If the goal is gain more people in the pews, then don’t bother; the spiritual life is not a program. If you want to know Christ in a personal way with the concomitant desire to be His disciple, then look no further.

Here is my recommendation: watch what Jesuit Father William Watson says as he  introduces the Sacred Story Institute here. You may want to order a copy of Watson’s book, Forty Weeks: An Ignatian Path to Christ with Sacred Story Prayer. One valid piece of criticism I can offer is it can be perceived to rely on psychology a little too much. Fair enough. There are points in the work that gives the impression that seems to give too much preference to psychology than to spirituality. Perhaps this is a point in further revisions of the text as they do some beta testing.

It seems to me that if you want to be mature Christians, then you ought to take advantage of the work of this Institute.

Holy Name of Jesus with Pope Francis

IHS at the GesuThe Mass for the Feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus, the titular feast day for the Society of Jesus, was offered today by Pope Francis in the Church of Jesus. Today the Church reminds us “to let the center of … [our] heart be occupied by Christ.”

Gathering for prayer was an opportunity for the Holy Father to gather with his religious community in Rome to give God thanks for the many blessings received, and to give thanks for the new Jesuit saint Peter Faber (Pierre Favre). Several bishops and priests concelebrated the Mass: Cardinal Angelo Amato (Saints); Cardinal Agostino Vallini (vicar general of Rome); Archbishop Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, SJ (CDF secretary); Bishop Yves Boivineau of Annecy, France, in whose diocese Faber was born, and the vicar general Father Alain Fournier-Bidoz; and the Jesuit superior general Father Adolfo Nicolas, SJ, with seven younger Jesuit priests.

Peter Faber was canonized and thereby added to the long list of Jesuit saints by Pope Francis on 17 December 2013. Faber was the first companion of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, the first priest of the Society and is known as “the second Jesuit.” Faber is also known for his competency in giving the Spiritual Exercises. The tombs of Saint Ignatius and Saint Peter Faber are located in the Church of Jesus. This is the second time since being elected the bishop of Rome that Francis has offered Mass with the Jesuits at the Jesus Church.

In his homily Francis said,

We heard Saint Paul tell us: “Have this mind among yourselves, which was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant” (Philippians 2:5-7). We, Jesuits, want to be conferred the name of Jesus, militate under the standard of his Cross, and this means: to have the same sentiments of Christ. It means to think like Him, love like Him, see like Him, walk like Him. It means to do what He did and with his same sentiments, with the sentiments of his Heart.

The heart of Christ is the heart of a God who, out of love, “emptied” himself. Every one of us Jesuits who follow Jesus should be willing to empty himself. We are called to this abasement: to be of the “emptied.” To be men that do not live centered on themselves because the center of the Society is Christ and his Church. And God is the Deus semper maior, the God who always surprises us. And if the God of surprises is not at the center, the Society becomes disoriented. Because of this, to be a Jesuit means to be a person of incomplete thought, of open thought: because one always thinks looking at the horizon which is the ever greater glory of God, who ceaselessly surprises us. And this is the restlessness of our void, this holy and beautiful restlessness!

However, because we are sinners, we can ask ourselves if our heart has kept the restlessness of the search or if, instead, it has atrophied; if our heart is always in tension: a heart that does not settle down, a heart that does not shut itself in on itself, but which beats the rhythm of a journey to undertake together with all the faithful people of God. It is necessary to seek God to find Him, and to find him in order to seek Him again and forever. Only this restlessness gives peace to the heart of a Jesuit, a restlessness that is also apostolic, which must not make us grow tired of proclaiming the Kerygma, of evangelizing with courage. It is the restlessness that prepares us to receive the gift of apostolic fruitfulness. Without restlessness we are sterile.

This is the restlessness that Peter Favre [Faber] had, man of great desires, another Daniel. Favre was a “modest, sensible man of profound interior life and gifted with the gift of close relations of friendship with persons of all sorts” (Benedict XVI, Address to Jesuits, April 22, 2006). However, he was also a restless, uncertain and never satisfied spirit. Under the guidance of Saint Ignatius he learned to unite his restless but also gentle — I would say exquisite –, sensibility with the capacity to take decisions. He was a man of great desires; he took charge of his desires, he acknowledged them. In fact for Favre, it was precisely when difficult things were proposed that his true spirit was manifested which moved him to action (cf. Memoriale, 301). Authentic faith always implies a profound desire to change the world. Here is the question we should ask ourselves: do we also have great visions and dash? Are we also daring? Does our dream fly high? Does zeal devour us (cf. Psalm 69:10)? Or are we mediocre and content with our laboratory apostolic programs? Let us remember always: the strength of the Church does not lie in herself and in her organizational capacity, but is hidden in the profound waters of God. And these waters agitate our desires and desires enlarge the heart. It is what Saint Augustine says: pray to desire and desire to enlarge the heart. In fact it was in his desires that Favre could discern God’s voice. Without desires one goes nowhere and it is because of this that we must offer our desires to the Lord. Stated in the Constitutions is that “one’s neighbor his helped with desires presented to God our Lord” (Constitutions, 638).

Favre had the real and profound desire to “be dilated in God”: he was completely centered on God, and because of this he could go, in the spirit of obedience, often also on foot, everywhere in Europe to speak to all with gentleness, and to proclaim the Gospel. The thought comes to me of the temptation, which perhaps we might have and that so many have, of connecting the proclamation of the Gospel with inquisitorial blows of condemnation. No, the Gospel is proclaimed with gentleness, with fraternity, with love. Favre’s familiarity with God led him to understand that interior experience and apostolic life always go together. In his Memoriale he wrote that the first movement of the heart must be that ofdesiring what is essential and original, that is, that the first place be left to the perfect solicitude of finding God our Lord” (Memoriale, 63). Favre demonstrates the desire “to let Christ occupy the center of the heart” (Memoriale, 68). Only if one is centered on God is it possible to go to the fringes of the world! And Favre traveled ceaselessly also on the geographic frontiers, so much so that it was said of him: “It seems that he was born not to stay put in any place” (MI, Epistolae I, 362). Favre was devoured by the intense desire to communicate the Lord. If we do not have his same desire, then we need to pause in prayer and, with silent fervor, ask the Lord, through the intercession of our brother Peter, that he fascinate us again: that fascination of the Lord that led Peter to all his apostolic “lunacies.”

We are men in tension; we are also contradictory and inconsistent men, sinners, all. But men who want to walk under the gaze of Jesus. We are little, we are sinners, but we want to militate under the standard of the Cross of the Society conferred with the name of Jesus. We who are egoistic want, however, to live an agitated life of great desires. We renew now our oblation to the Eternal Lord of the universe so that with the help of his glorious Mother we may want, desire and live the sentiments of Christ who emptied himself. As Saint Peter Favre wrote, “We never seek in this life a name that is not connected with that of Jesus” (Memoriale, 205). And we pray to Our Lady to be messengers with her Son.

A Vatican Radio report can be heard here.

Francis honors Ignatius, calls us to more faithful life in Christ

The faithfulness to the spiritual patrimony one is raised on is an essential piece of understanding one’s own history and the grace that you’ve been given. That doesn’t mean, in my mind, that you can’t augment the first inspiration with another so you can round-out your life in a new way. Perhaps making the connection between Ignatian spirituality with that of the Benedictine charism. Pope Francis has done that in my mind. He’s faithful to Loyola’s Exercises and yet has an appreciation for many of the Carmelites. Here is the papal homily given earlier in Rome for the liturgical memorial of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, a man who’s path to be a soldier for Christ and His Church was started by a cannonball injury. Later, Ignatius set his eyes on the Lord by doing an extended retreat at the Benedictine Abbey of Montserrat. Recall, it is Ignatius experience with the monks that his conversion takes shape and does the Spiritual Exercises. You would do well to be attentive to the Pope’s quoting of the Spiritual Exercises. AMDG

Loyola detailIn this Eucharist in which we celebrate our Father Ignatius of Loyola, in light of the Readings we have heard, I would like to propose three simple thoughts guided by three expressions: to put Christ and the Church in the centre; to allow ourselves to be conquered by Him in order to serve; to feel the shame of our limitations and our sins, in order to be humble before Him and before the brothers.

1. The emblem of us Jesuits is a monogram, the acronym of “Jesus, the Saviour of Mankind” (IHS). Every one of you can tell me: we know that very well! But this crest continually reminds us of a reality that we must never forget: the centrality of Christ for each one of us and for the whole Company, the Company that Saint Ignatius wanted to name “of Jesus” to indicate the point of reference. Moreover, even at the beginning of the Spiritual Exercises he places our Lord Jesus Christ, our Creator and Saviour (Spiritual Exercises, 6) in front of us. And this leads all of us Jesuits, and the whole Company, to be “decentred,” to have “Christ more and more” before us, the “Deus semper maior”, the “intimior intimo meo”, that leads us continually outside ourselves, that brings us to a certain kenosis, a “going beyond our own loves, desires, and interests” (Sp. Ex., 189). Isn’t it obvious, the question for us? For all of us? “Is Christ the centre of my life? Do I really put Christ at the centre of my life?” Because there is always the temptation to want to put ourselves in the centre. And when a Jesuit puts himself and not Christ in the centre, he goes astray. In the first Reading, Moses forcefully calls upon the people to love the Lord, to walk in His ways, “because He is your life” (cf. Deut. 30, 16-20). Christ is our life! The centrality of Christ corresponds also to the centrality of the Church: they are two flames that cannot be separated: I cannot follow Christ except in and with the Church. And even in this case we Jesuits and the whole Company, are not at the centre, we are, so to speak, “displaced”, we are at the service of Christ and of the Church, the Bride of Christ our Lord, who is our Holy Mother Hierarchical Church (cf. Sp. Ex. 353). To be men routed and grounded in the Church: that is what Jesus desires of us. There cannot be parallel or isolated paths for us. Yes, paths of searching, creative paths, yes, this is important: to go to the peripheries, so many peripheries. This takes creativity, but always in community, in the Church, with this membership that give us the courage to go forward. To serve Christ is to love this concrete Church, and to serve her with generosity and with the spirit of obedience.

2. What is the way to live this double centrality? Let us look at the experience of Saint Paul, which was also the experience of Saint Ignatius. The Apostle, in the Second Reading that we heard, writes: I press on towards the perfection of Christ, “because I have indeed been conquered by Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:12). For Paul it came along the road to Damascus, for Ignatius in his house at Loyola, but the fundamental point is the same: to allow oneself to be conquered by Christ. I seek Jesus, I serve Jesus, because He sought me first, because I was conquered by Him: and this is the heart of our experience. But He is first, always. In Spanish there is a word that is very graphic, that explains this well: He “primerea” first ahead of us, “El nos primerea”. He is always first. When we arrive, He has already arrived and is expecting us. And here I want to recall the meditation on the Kingdom in the Second Week. Christ our Lord, the eternal King, calls each one of us, saying to us: “He who wants to come with Me must work with Me, because following Me in suffering, he will follow after Me likewise in glory” (Sp. Ex. 95): Being conquered by Christ in order to offer to this King our whole person and all our hard work (cf. Sp. Ex. 96); to say to the Lord that he would do anything for His greater service and praise, to imitate Him in bearing even injury, contempt, poverty (Sp. Ex. 98). But I think of our brother in Syria in this moment. To allow ourselves to be conquered by Christ means to be always directed towards what is in front of me, toward the goal of Christ (cf. Phil. 3:14), and to ask oneself with truth and sincerity: “What have I done for Christ? What am doing for Christ? What must I do for Christ?” (cf. Sp. Ex. 53).

3. And I come to the final point. In the Gospel, Jesus says to us: “Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it . . . If anyone is ashamed of me . . .” (Lk 9:23). And so on. The shame of the Jesuit. The invitation that Jesus makes is for us to never be ashamed of Him, but to always follow Him with total dedication, trusting Him and entrusting ourselves to Him. But looking at Jesus, as Saint Ignatius teaches us in the First Week, above all looking at Christ crucified, we have that very human and noble feeling that is the shame of not reaching the highest point; we look at the wisdom of Christ and at our ignorance; at His omnipotence and our weakness; at His justice and our iniquity; at His goodness and our wickedness (cf. Sp. Ex. 59). Ask for the grace of shame; the shame that comes from the constant dialogue of mercy with Him; the shame that makes us blush before Jesus Christ; the shame that puts us in tune with the heart of Christ who is made sin for me; the shame that harmonises our heart in tears and accompanies us in the daily following of “my Lord”. And this always brings us, as individuals and as a Company, to humility, to living this great virtue. Humility that makes us understand, each day, that it is not for us to build the Kingdom of God, but it is always the grace of God working within us; humility that pushes us to put our whole being not at the service of ourselves and our own ideas, but at the service of Christ and of the Church, like clay pots, fragile, inadequate, insufficient, but having within them an immense treasure that we carry and that we communicate (2 Cor. 4:7). It is always pleasant for me to think of the sunset of the Jesuit, when a Jesuit finishes his life, when the sun goes down. And two icons of the sunset of the Jesuit always come to me: one classical, that of Saint Francis Xavier, looking at China. Art has painted this sunset so many times, this ‘end’ of Xavier. Even in literature, in that beautiful peace by Pemàn. At the end, having nothing, but in the sight of the Lord; it does me good to thing about this. The other sunset, the other icon that comes to me as an example, is that of Padre Arrupe in the last interview in the refugee camp, when he told us – something he himself said – “I say this as if it were my swan song: pray.” Prayer, the union with Jesus. And, after having said this, he caught the plane, and arrived at Rome with the stroke that was the beginning of so long and so exemplary a sunset. Two sunsets, two icons that all of us would do well to look at, and to go back to these two. And to ask for the grace that our sunset will be like theirs.

Dear brothers, let us turn again to Our Lady, to her who bore Christ in her womb and accompanied the first steps of the Church. May she help us to always put Christ and His Church at the centre of our lives and of our ministry. May she, who was the first and most perfect disciple of her Son help us to allow ourselves to be conquered by Christ in order to follow Him and to serve Him in every situation. May she that answered the announcement of the Angel with the most profound humility: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to thy word” (Lk 1:38), make us feel the shame for our inadequacy before the treasure that has been entrusted to us, in order to live the virtue of humility before God. May our journey be accompanied by the paternal intercession of Saint Ignatius and of all the Jesuit saints, who continue to teach us to do all things “ad majorem Dei gloriam.”

Pope Francis’ books draw on Ignatian spirituality

Have you been wondering what the Pope has published? Well, look no further. L’Osservatore Romano is publishing an article in tomorrow’s edition on Francis’ books. With Pope Francis leading the Church I think there will be a resurgence of Ignatian spirituality –as distinct from “Jesuit spirituality”, inhabiting our Christian lives. I am sure these books will be published in various languages before long.

The first two books in Italian by Jorge Mario Bergoglio were presented on Tuesday, 26 March in the offices of Civiltà Cattolica. They are published by Editrice Missionaria Italiana (Emi): Umiltà, la strada verso Dio (Bologna, 2013,  64 pages, € 6.90, with an afterword by Enzo Bianchi) and Guarire dalla corruzione (Bologna 2013, 64 pages, € 6.90, with an afterword by Pietro Grasso) and are collections of  addresses that the Cardinal Archbishop of  Buenos Aires gave in 2005 to the faithful of the archdiocese.

Both books draw on the spirituality of St Ignatius of Loyola to describe  its deep inner workings and offer solutions to extremely pertinent phenomena such as corruption in both society and the Church, as well as the urgent need for an ecclesial life distinguished by brotherly holiness.

Speakers at the meeting chaired by Fr Antonio Spadaro, editor-in-chief  of the Jesuit journal, were Lucetta Scaraffia, an Italian historian, Fr Luigi Ciotti and Lorenzo FazzinI, director of Editrice Missionaria Italiana.

Bergoglio stated:

“Factions fighting to impose the hegemony of their own viewpoint and preferences are  fairly common in religious communities, both local and provincial. This occurs when charitable openness to neighbour is replaced by each individual’s own ideas. It is no longer the religious  family as a whole which the religious defends, but only the part of it that concerns him. People no longer adhere to the unity that contributes to configuring the Body of Christ, but rather to the divisive, distorting, and debilitating conflict. For formation teachers and superiors it is not always easy to inculcate a sense of belonging to the family spirit, especially when it is necessary to shape inner attitudes, even small ones, but which have repercussions at this level of the institutional body. One of the effective attitudes that must acquire substance in the hearts of young religious is that of ‘self-accusation’, for it is in the absence of this practice that the spirit of  separation and division is rooted. It is therefore essential first of all to ban every  reference, even an unconscious one, and every kind of pharisaic attitude that presents self-accusation as something puerile or characteristic of the cowardly. Self-accusation, rather, presupposes a rare courage in order to open the door to unknown realities and let others see beyond my appearance. It means removing all our make-up so that the truth may shine through.

The accusation of ourselves (which is only a means) is the basis in which the fundamental option puts down roots: for anti-individualism and for a family and Church spirit which brings us to relate as good children and good siblings, so as to succeed later in being good parents. Accusing ourselves implies a fundamentally communitarian attitude.”

Smearing the Pope

English: Monochrome version of the IHS emblem ...

The honeymoon was very short-lived: as tools of communication fling far and wide information and misinformation, social media gurus are now producing conflicting information about Pope Francis. But if you think I am talking exclusively of those who are Catholic haters think again; the Church has her detractors –enemies?– and sadly from within. There are some insightful readers that help us to connect the dots of a new papacy. Father Raymond de Souza, John Allen and John Thavis comes to mind as credible.

I am not surprised that smear campaigns are spreading pretty fast with a click of the button, for example of topics being covered: Francis dealing with dictatorships; Francis and liturgical practice; Francis and the moral teachings of the Church; Francis, the poor and the papal ministry; Cardinals turning on Benedic; Francis and the Ignatian (and Jesuit charism); Francis and Communion and Liberation; Francis and Benedict.

Many have fallen in love with Pope Francis –at the moment he’s the People’s Pope. It won’t be long before concerted ugliness is mainstream seeking to discredit, distract and divide, and lead away from the faith in Christ and the Church. Division has appeared and it’s the work of the devil, not of the Holy Spirit. Don’t believe me, just wait and see…

Stuff to read first…

Mary Anastasia O’Grady, “Behind the Campaign to Smear the Pope” (WSJ, March 17, 2013) —a must-read, a good job done

John Allen, “Path to the papacy: ‘Not him, not him, therefore him,” (NCR, March 17, 2013) –lots of good details and analysis

Ross Douthat, “What the Church Needs Now,” (NYT, March 15, 2013) –key points need heeding

To understand the problem of Ms Manson’s thinking see article below, you need to read what Father John Zuhlsdorf writes, “Liberals will soon turn on Pope Francis” -(my thoughts later on what Manson wrote).

A sampling of the detractors:

  • Jesuit Father Thomas Reese, “Francis, the Jesuits and the Dirty War,” (NCR, March 17, 2013) –gives very questionable analysis of the political and religious landscape but identifies Francis’ “acceptability” within the Society of Jesus; recall that Father Reese was sacked by Pope Benedict

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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