Today is the feast day of St Ignatius of Loyola, who founded the Jesuits and wrote the Spiritual Exercises.
He has had a big impact on my own life and we as a group have used his Examen in our group life to review what God is doing in our lives.
I have been reflecting today on how St Ignatius’s Spiritual Exercises came out of his own experience. At the heart of them is the Gospel and the on-going conversion that is the spiritual life.
Ignatius’ own converstion, during recovering from an injury recieved in the Battle of Pamplona, transformed him as a person and changed the direction of his life.
His natural enthusiasm meant that he jumped into his new life with great gusto but this took him to extremes. The intervention of a local priest helped Ignatius come to a more balanced approach to his faith and life in general. As he walked with Christ, he began to notice ways in which God led him and ways in which he resisited God’s plan and tried to do it his own way. Through many years, St Ignatius deepened his relationship with God. It was all the ups and downs and the recognition of how he responded to the call of the Holy Spirit in different moments that made Ignatius the gentle and loving man he was at the end of his life. This he poured into his dealing with others and into the advice for directors he puts into the book of the Spiritual Exercises.
All he learnt he summed up in the Principle and Foundation which, although written after he had completed the Exercises comes early on in a retreat. This is the version translated by David Fleming SJ:
The goal of our life is to live with God forever. God, who loves us, gave us life. Our own response of love allows God’s life to flow into us without limit.
All the things in this world are gifts of God, presented to us so that we can know God more easily and make a return of love more readily.
As a result, we appreciate and use all these gifts of God insofar as they help us develop as loving persons. But if any of these gifts become the center of our lives, they displace God and so hinder our growth toward our goal.
In everyday life, then, we must hold ourselves in balance before all of these created gifts insofar as we have a choice and are not bound by some obligation. We should not fix our desires on health or sickness, wealth or poverty, success or failure, a long life or short one. For everything has the potential of calling forth in us a deeper response to our life in God.
Our only desire and our one choice should be this: I want and I choose what better leads to God’s deepening his life in me.