Beautiful Aloysius + St. Ignatius

St. Aloysius Gonzaga
Most Beautiful Painting of St. Aloysisus in the world?

Let’s listen for a moment to how St. Ignatius formulated his understanding of the treasure buried in the field, the pearl of great price:

Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save his soul. The other things on the face of the earth are created for man, that they may help him in prosecuting the end for which he is created. From this it follows that man is to use them as much as they help him on to his end, and ought to rid himself of them so far as they hinder him. For this it is necessary to make ourselves indifferent to all created things in all that is allowed to the choice of our free will and is not prohibited to it; so that, on our part, we want not health rather than sickness, riches rather than poverty, honor rather than dishonor, long rather than short life, and so in all the rest; desiring and choosing only what is most conducive for us to the end for which we are created.

St. Ignatius wrote that paragraph as the “First Principle and Foundation” for the spiritual life. Then he taught his followers how to initiate a spiritual life, with the first principle and foundation in mind. Meditate as follows:

Imagining Christ our Lord present and placed on the Cross, let me speak with him freely, focusing on how from Creator He is come to making Himself man, and from life eternal is come to temporal death, and so to die for my sins. Likewise, looking at myself: What have I done for Christ? What I am doing for Christ? What ought I to do for Christ? And so, seeing Him such, and so nailed on the Cross, to go over that which will present itself to my mind.

My colloquy with Christ is made, properly speaking, as one friend speaks to another, or as a servant to his master; now asking some grace, now blaming oneself for some misdeed, now communicating one’s affairs, and asking advice. Then let me say an Our Father.

With these meditations, St. Ignatius founded the Society of Jesus. This Society has conquered enormous lands. No other organization has conquered the world like the Jesuits have. Google has nothing on the Jesuits. Facebook has nothing on the followers of St. Ignatius. Google and Facebook will both vanish from the earth, and the churches erected by Jesuits in the far corners of the globe will still stand.

The followers of St. Ignatius carry one weapon only: Personal devotion to Jesus Christ, the Savior and High Priest of the world. The followers of St. Ignatius win battles by: a) thinking clearly, b) communicating skillfully, c) educating others with patience and love, d) wanting nothing but the advancement of the kingdom of Christ, e) acting only in union with the Pope, and f) being willing to suffer and die for Christ.

May the good Lord bless our Jesuit Pope and all the Jesuits. May He bless all the followers of St. Ignatius. May He bless everyone who consecrates him- or herself to the cause of the New Evangelization.

When we stand on the spiritual foundation of living to praise God and to serve the Crucified, then the angels, the saints, the heavenly powers, the history of the Church, the patrimony of the western world, the storehouse of Catholic thought, and every good and beautiful thing, all line up on our side.
Ignatius prayed that he would be poor, that he would be mocked and derided, that he would be reviled and despised—all so that He could be united with Christ, poor, mocked, derided, reviled, and despised. Ignatius gave all his efforts to God and His Church. If his Society was suppressed, he said, he would spend ten minutes in the chapel, and then he would be fine.

Ignatian “indifference” is only indifference to everything that doesn’t really matter. Ignatius was indifferent to everything passing, because he was utterly consumed with zealous interest in God and the salvation of souls.

Meditation on the Call of the King

St. Ignatius Loyola discovered that a person can grow closer to Christ by using the power of the imagination.

As one of his spiritual exercises, St. Ignatius proposes that we first envision the most captivating leader imaginable.

We imagine someone with a clear sense of purpose, a beautiful and noble plan. Someone embarking on an adventure requiring great self-sacrifice. This leader personally invites us to join the enterprise. He promises us an equal share in the labor and in the fruits of its success.

Maybe we could take the fields of business or science as an example. Let’s each imagine our favorite entrepreneur coming to us personally to invite us to join his or her company, right as it was just starting up. It could be Henry Ford, or Walt Disney, or Steve Jobs, or any other great market visionary. “Work with me, share my life, and you will share in the rewards.”

Continue reading “Meditation on the Call of the King”

The Benefit of the Doubt

St. Ignatius Loyola was a dandy knight and a courtier until he was seriously wounded in a battle. As he lay in bed recuperating, he read the life of Christ and some biographies of saints. He decided to renounce the world and to try to imitate the Lord Jesus in a life of poverty, chastity, and total obedience to God. St. Ignatius went from delusions of grandeur to extreme, almost frightening humility.

St. Ignatius is famous for his “Spiritual Exercises,” a month-long series of meditations which unite the person who makes them with Christ. In order for someone to do the Exercises, he or she needs a guide. The relationship between the person praying and the director is crucial for spiritual success. Profound trust is obviously necessary.

Because this relationship is so important, St. Ignatius spelled out how both parties should approach it. His teaching is a perfect guide for all of us in our dealings with other people:

“That both the giver and the maker of the Spiritual Exercises may be of greater help and benefit to each other, 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.” (paragraph 22 of the Spiritual Exercises)

It is much easier to want to do this than to do it, as we know. Giving the other person the benefit of the doubt every time is a very demanding discipline. But isn’t it the way that the saints have seen things? Haven’t the saints always been accused of being naïve and obtuse, precisely because they refused to think ill of another person until there was unimpeachable objective evidence? The saints have lived in the so-called “dream world” in which other people always mean well.

At the end of the book of the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius gives some practical rules for staying in communion with the Church. One of them is: “What seems to me to be white, I will believe to be black if the hierarchical Church thus determines it.” (paragraph 365).

This extreme case of self-doubt obviously only applies in matters where the Church teaches a solemn doctrine. But the underlying theme is the same as in the rule for giving the benefit of the doubt to the other person. The underlying theme of St. Ignatius’ spiritual life is: I should be quick to doubt myself. My own conclusions must always be put to a rigorous test before I commit myself to them.

I do not claim to be any expert at this. I tend to assume that everyone thinks that I am a big fool, deluded and impossible to understand. In fact, only about 50% of the people I know think this.

Now, there is self-doubt and there is self-doubt. Humbly withholding judgment is good self-doubt. Perpetual fear and trembling is bad self-doubt. This perpetual fear and trembling pretty well describes my first five years as a priest. After all, the responsibilities are frightening, and my capacities are woefully limited. Someday the Lord will ask me to give an account for all the souls that have ever been under my care in any way, and if I have failed any of them, I will have to pay the price for my negligence.

I am not looking for pity here, though. I love being a priest, and in fact I do not tremble at all times. I know that if I do my duty, teach the truth with loving care, and do my best to be kind, then I can hope that I will get to heaven someday, and be with the people I have loved here on earth. Being a priest is fundamentally a matter of duty; the good Lord does not ask His priests to be mind-readers (believe it or not) or rock-stars, or even particularly good politicians. We are just supposed to pray all the time.

May the good Lord give me the grace to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, to think that they are right until I know for sure that they are wrong, and to help them in any way I can.