Can You Build the Tower?

For which of you having a mind to build a tower, doth not first sit down, and reckon the charges that are necessary, whether he have wherewithal to finish it: Lest, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that see it begin to mock him, saying: This man began to build, and was not able to finish.

Or what king, about to go to make war against another king, doth not first sit down, and think whether he be able, with ten thousand, to meet him that, with twenty thousand, cometh against him? Or else, whilst the other is yet afar off, sending an embassy, he desireth conditions of peace. (Luke 14:28-32)

St. Ignatius Loyola drew up a procedure for young men who thought of joining his religious order. The procedure applies for anyone who wants to become a religious or a priest. Maybe this same procedure should apply to anyone intending to serve as President of the United States, too.

Seclude yourself completely. Then meditate for three days on these two little parables of the tower and the king going into battle…

What exactly is it going to take for me to pull this off? (Whatever “this” might be.) Do I have what it takes? Am I meant to do this?

Now, maybe we wonder: Isn’t the Lord contradicting Himself here? What about the Sermon on the Mount? What about Let Go and Let God? What about the flowers of the field, who neither toil nor spin, yet the heavenly Father provides for them? What about, “Tomorrow will take care of itself?”

Can’t a Christian pray his way through anything—even an unrealistic, grandiose scheme? Even if I get too big for my britches and bite off more than I can chew?

Well, the Lord is merciful, even towards fools who rush in.

But I think what He is trying to say is:

I have bountifully provided you with a certain amount foresight. You don’t have all the foresight I have, of course, but you have some. I will take care of tomorrow, you can be sure of that. But sometimes your job for today is to think about tomorrow with ruthless realism and humility. Don’t decide to become a big shot, and then pray for me to get you through. Pray now about whether or not you are cut out to be a big shot.

St. Ignatius commends the person who takes the measure of what he has in mind–and then admits that it’s too much for him. Let the probationary novice go in peace, with a blessing, if he decides to leave the novitiate after these few days of meditation on the parable of the tower.

On the other hand, even more sobering would be: To take the careful measure of the difficult task and come to the humble conclusion that, Yes, I guess if anyone is meant to do this, then it’s probably me. May God help me.

Which calls to mind another famous saying of St. Ignatius. Work as if everything depended on you. Pray as if everything depended on God.


One thought on “Can You Build the Tower?

  1. Father Mark,

    Examines aside, anything that get’s you in silence and stillness in this world is for the better.

    A possible kicker to St. Ignatius’ saying: “Love the person in front of you as you would Christ, Himself, if he were standing there!”

    In God we trust.



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