Tag Archives: St Ignatius of Loyola

Discretion keeps the practice of virtue between extremes

The daily grind of living is only made more fruitful when we take time to use the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  While not technically not one of the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit, Prudence (a cardinal virtue) is perfected by the Spirit’s energy. How often do we move through our day without giving time to self-awareness, reflection on our “I” in action? The lack of a Trinity-diven examination of conscience in one’s  spiritual life is a pitfall many post-moderns fall into. Any person wanting to know more about him or herself needs to spend time, if only 10 minutes a day, in reviewing points of grace and sin in life up to that point of the day while asking for the grace of root-and-branch conversion. For example, it is has been said that a measure of the person today is how he or she uses free time. Discretion is a fruit of the virtue of prudence; ask yourself if you have been sufficiently discrete in your undertakings.

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Spiritual infirmities such as tepidity are caused, not only by chills but also by fevers, that is, by excessive zeal. Saint Paul says, let your service be a reasonable service [Rom. 12:1], because he knew the truth of the words of the Psalmist, the king in his might loves justice [99:4], that is, discretion; and what was prefigured in Leviticus, whatsoever sacrifice you offer, you shall season it with salt [2:13]. In the same vein does Saint Bernard speak: the enemy has no more successful ruse for depriving the heart of real charity than to get him to act rashly and not in keeping with spiritual reasonableness. “Nothing in excess,” said the philosopherAnd this principle should be our guide even in a matter pertaining to justice itself, as we read in Ecclesiastes, be not over just [7:16]. If one fails to observe this moderation, he will find that good is turned into evil and virtue into vice. He will also learn that many inconveniences follow which are quite contrary to the purpose of the one who so acts.

The first is that God is not really served in the long run, as the horse worn out in the first days does not as a rule finish the journey, and thus it happens that someone must be found to care for it.

Second, gains that are made through such excessive eagerness do not usually endure, as Scripture says, wealth gathered in haste will dwindle [Prov. 13:11]. Not only dwindle, but it may be the cause of a fall: and he that is hasty with his feet shall stumble [Prov. 19:2]; and if he stumbles, the further he falls, the greater the danger for he will not stop until he has reached the bottom of the ladder.

Third, there is the danger of being careless in overloading the vessel. There is danger, of course, in sailing it empty, as it can then be tossed about on the waves of temptation; but there is also danger of so overloading it that it sinks.

Fourth, it can happen that, in crucifying the old man, the new man is also crucified and thus made unable through weakness to practice virtue. Saint Bernard tells us that because of this excess we lose four things: “The body loses the effect of the good work, the soul its devotion, our neighbor good example, and God His honor.” From this we infer that whosoever thus mistreats the living temple of God is guilty of sacrilege. Saint Bernard says that the neighbor is deprived of good example, because the fall of one and the ensuing scandal are a source of scandal to others; and he calls them, in cause at least, disturbers of unity and enemies of peace. The example of such a fall frightens many and makes them tepid in their spiritual progress. In the fallen there is danger of pride and vainglory, since they prefer their own judgment to the judgment of everyone else, usurping what is not their own by setting themselves up as judges in their own cause when the rightful judge is their superior.

Besides these, there are also other disadvantages, such as overloading themselves with weapons which they cannot use, like David with the armor of Saul [1 Sam. 17:38-39]. They apply spurs to a spirited horse rather than the rein. Therefore there is need of discretion on this point to keep the practice of virtue between both extremes. Saint Bernard gives this advice: “Good will is not always to be trusted, but it must be bridled, regulated, especially in beginners,” if one wishes to benefit others without any disadvantage to himself, for he that is evil to himself, to whom will he be good? [Sir. 14:5].

Saint Ignatius of Loyola 
Letter to the Fathers and Brothers studying in Coimbra, Portugal 
May 7, 1547

The Magis according to St Ignatius of Loyola

San Ignacio de Loyola.jpgAn often confused issue in Ignatian spirituality as it is formulated by Saint Ignatius of Loyola is the concept of the magis. It can be an elusive but central Ignatian idea. But it doesn’t have to be such. Many writers on Ignatian spirituality say that the magis means the best, the highest, the most that we can do for God. But these writers miss the point because Ignatius doesn’t speak in superlative terms.

The recently departed Jesuit Father Dave Fleming contests this understanding. According to Fleming, the magis is comparative not superlative.  That is, it is the more, not the most.  Holy Father Saint Ignatius meant the magis to be interpreted and thus lived in view of the greater not the greatest.

Father Dave wrote: “Ignatius never works with superlatives.” Fleming explains, “When we want to do the best, we may get frozen. If we want to do what might be better, we might be able to choose.” Thus, there is an emphasis on freedom in this more authentic interpretation of Ignatius than what one gets with using superlative language. Hence, the magis as a comparative applies to everything, not just a select point or two of one’s life. Everything. A complete and sincere gift of self to God, and then to neighbor.

Saint Ignatius of Loyola

Loyola.jpgToday’s second reading for the 18th Sunday through the Year coheres with Saint Ignatius of Loyola‘s liturgical memorial we would have celebrated had it not been a Sunday. Saint Paul sets our sights on the fact that nothing can be a barrier to Christ’s Love for us. But do we believe this? Do we live on the edge of Love or in Love’s center? Listen again to the famous passage from the Apostle to the Gentiles and think of the spirituality of Loyola: 

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall
tribulation or distress or persecution, or famine or nakedness or peril or
sword? No, in these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved
us. I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor height, nor
depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of
God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:30-39)

Easter 470 years later

Ignatius Loyola detail2.jpg470 years ago on this date, another Easter Sunday, Ignatius of Loyola and his first companions elected Ignatius as the first superior of the new group, a year following the Church’s approval of the society. Just two days before his election, the companions went to the Basilica of Saint Paul outside the Walls to profess their vows.

With these events, Loyola had more concrete points in following God’s will in forming a new society of priests aiming to reform Christian culture under the Roman Pontiff.

Confronting the Devil– one of the Church’s greatest needs

With last the announcement last week about a study session of the new Rite of Exorcism seemingly many peoples’ interest in the devil and evil soared. But I wonder if we all know the implications of having an interest in the “devil and evil” means. What it means is that we are in a spiritual battle with evil, a fact that is being spoken of more and more.

The Servant of God Pope Paul VI addressed the issue in a General Audience on November 15, 1972. What he said in 1972 remains so very true today:

What are the Church’s greatest needs at the present time? Don’t be surprised at Our answer and don’t write it off as simplistic or even superstitious: one of the Church’s greatest needs is to be defended against the evil we call the Devil.

The papal address is not long and it covers topics of a Christian’s vision of the universe, the mystery of evil, seeking answers to our questions, the biblical witness to evil and the Devil, the Devil’s ability to tempt us, the peril of ignoring the Devil, the presence of diabolical actions and what our defense against the Devil means. Read what Pope Paul said.

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In his meditation of the second week of the Spiritual Exercises Saint Ignatius of Loyola presents to us “On the Two Standards” telling us we are faced with making a choice: “The one of Christ, our Commander-in-chief and Lord; the other Lucifer, mortal enemy of our human nature.” Loyola places in front of us the choice of how we are going to live our lives, either for Christ or against Christ, either for good, or for evil. Why sell our soul for money, power and fame when the Lord offers us a life that’s attractive and beautiful through the virtues of spiritual –and possibly in actual poverty, contempt for worldly honor and humility against pride? Poverty, whether spiritual and/or actual, obedience and humility are virtues that lead to all other virtue and everlasting life in Jesus Christ.

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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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