Wednesday, July 31, 2013

St. Ignatius, Thank You!

I LOVE St. Ignatius. He taught us how to talk with God. We were already talking AT God, but Ignatius, guided by the Holy Spirit, took it a up a notch and made it a conversation.

Through The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, he teaches us how to recognize heart movements throughout our day, including desolation and consolation. A soldier, he lays out a battle plan for following our leader, Jesus, and counteracting the movements of the enemy in our lives.

I remember the first time I felt consolation during my prayer time. It blew me away. It obviously wasn't the first time I'd talked to God, but it was the first time I recognized Him talking back!  I was having a conversation with God! How unbelievable cool is that???

I also remember the first time the enemy slipped into the conversation. Not so cool. Sometimes he was obvious, like when I received a mimic of consolation over a thought that was not leading me to Jesus (there's a reason he's known as the Father of Lies), but just as I'd laughed off his clumsy efforts, he got me through a technique so subtle I shudder to think how I might have followed if I hadn't had an excellent spiritual director who pointed out the errors.

He taught us Discernment to help us do God's will. The choice between good and bad are obvious, but what if you need to choose between two goods? Which one is actually God's will?

He also gave us the Daily Examen, a structured reflection on the day and plan for tomorrow to keep us on track. It begins with gratitude for all gifts received, and when you regularly go through your day and find these gifts, it becomes easier to notice them "ïn the moment". Then you petition God to help you review your day, because you need His grace to do it properly. Then it's on to a review of the entire day, noticing God's movements and your reactions to them--your choices. Then you ask for forgiveness for your sins, which you'll have seen in your review.  Finally, you plan for the next day, asking for the graces you need.

And he teaches us detachment--from worldly things to events in our lives. It's difficult to not mind whether you are rich or poor, sick or healthy, but Ignatius taught that acceptance of whatever God sends us would set us free. On a practical level, when things don't go right, I try to open myself up to the possibilities of this new situation. What is God asking me to do?

Example. I have a doctor's appointment and I'm feeling particularly rushed. The doctor is late. Instead of getting angry, I remain detached. I wind up listening to someone in the waiting room who really needed an ear. God put me exactly where I was supposed to be to serve Him.

And the whole process, from the Spiritual Exercises to the Examen, will only work if you are completely honest with God. And that's just how He likes us.

Ignatius also founded the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits, who were largely involved in the Counter Reformation, and for that we must thank him, too. The Jesuits are involved in everything from helping the poorest of poor to teaching. And yes, I know there are fringe groups, but aren't there always?

St. Ignatius, pray for us!  And thank you!

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