Days of Preparation: Week Five/Session Two.
Theme: The Principle and Foundation.
Our reading for today: Ignatius’ Principle and Foundation.
Human beings are created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by means of doing this to save their souls. The other things on the face of the earth are created for the human beings, to help them in the pursuit of the end for which they are created. From this it follows that we ought to use these things to the extent that they help us toward our end, and free ourselves from them to the extent that they hinder us from it.
To attain this it is necessary to make ourselves indifferent to all created things, in regard to everything which is left to our free will and is not forbidden. Consequently, on our part we ought not to seek health rather than sickness, wealth rather than poverty, honor rather than dishonor, a long life rather than a short one, and so on in all other matters. Rather, we ought to desire and choose only that which is more conducive to the end for which we are created. (SE 23 traditional translation by George E. Ganss, SJ)
Kevin O’Brien states in his book, The Ignatian Adventure, that Ignatius’ Principle and Foundation statement (above) “reads like a mission statement for the human person: ‘I am created to praise, love, and serve God.’” Kinda reminds me of the one sentence mission statement I was required to memorize as I was preparing for confirmation in the Presbyterian Church back in the day. The Westminster Shorter Catechism, written by a handful of English & Scottish reformers about one hundred years after Ignatius formed his band of Jesuits, states a human being’s primary purpose this way:
Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.
O’Brien goes on in his book, saying: “Of course, this vocation (of glorying God) is specified in each unique human life. When we live out of this vocation, we are truly happy and fulfilled. (But) when we allow disordered loves and self-preoccupations to clutter our lives, we find ourselves out of balance, unhappy, and discontented.”
According to Ignatius, the key to successfully living out this holy vocation, free of “disordered loves and self-preoccupations” is to diligently seek the grace of indifference.
Now don’t get fooled here with Ignatius’ choice of words. Indifference, to the early Jesuits, did not mean what it means to us today: an unfeeling lack of concern or a dissociation from people or from things happening around us. In Ignatian spirituality, indifference means “that we hold all of God’s gifts reverently, gratefully, but also lightly, embracing them or letting them go, all depending on how they can help us fulfill our vocation to love in everyday, concrete detail.” (Kevin O’Brien, SJ)
To Ignatius, living a life of indifference was to become spiritually free. But don’t think that just because Ignatius wasn’t a protestant reformer, that he believed a man or woman could attain to a life of indifference through his or her own good works! As O’Brien clearly states in his book, “Spiritual freedom or indifference is a gift from God: we can’t make it happen.” But, O’Brien quickly adds, (and I’m very inclined to agree) “We can, over time, foster indifference by developing good habits of thinking, choosing, and acting.”
Hmm. I like that.
Indifference, or in other words, the ability for me to let go of all things around me so that God is free to have His complete way in my life, is first, and foremost, a gift from God. John Wimber, my pastoral mentor, just might have called this work of indifference a gift of the Spirit, which comes from heaven through the hands of a loving Father, given to me so that I might be free to live this life as He originally intended. And then, as that gift of indifference begins to settle into my life, I can choose, as O’Brien states, to foster (or steward) this gift “by developing good habits of thinking, choosing, and acting.”
My prayer: Father God, Your gift of indifference sounds like something I desperately need in order to be free in this life to focus on my true vocation: glorifying God, and enjoying You forever. Holy Spirit, release this powerful gift into my life, freeing me from my fleshly consumption with “all created things.” And may I learn, as I walk alongside the Master, to steward this gift of indifference, so that I might be increasingly empowered, as Jesus was, to seek first, the Kingdom of God. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: Indifference, as described by Ignatius, is not a ‘care-less’ attitude, nor does it appear to be the air of aloofness or elite-ness I tend to see in some overly-religious people. So how might I still be fully awake and alert to my worldly surroundings, fully interacting with my everyday environment, while not being held captive by a life filled with “disordered loves and self-preoccupations?”
So what is God speaking to you today as we ponder together The Ignatian Adventure?
Over an eight month period, you and I will be working our way through the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius. For more information on our journey and how to begin…click here!
To go onto the next journal entry…click here.