Part 4 of the 5 Day Ignatian Reflection
Part 4 of the 5 Day Ignatian Reflection
Part 3 of the 5 day Ignatian Reflection.
Part 2 of the Ignatian Reflection
Part 1 of the 5 day Ignatian Reflection
In this Eucharist in which we celebrate our Father Ignatius of Loyola, in the light of the readings that we have heard, I would like to pose three simple thoughts guided by three expressions: placing Christ and the Church at the Center; allowing oneself to be conquered by Him to serve; to feel ashamed of our limits and sins, in order to be humble in front of Him and our brothers.
1. The coat of arms of us Jesuits is a monogram, the acronym of Iesus Hominum Salvator (IHS). Everyone of you can tell me: we know that very well! But this coat of arms continuously reminds us of a reality that we should never forget: the centrality of Christ for everyone of us and for the whole Society, which St. Ignatius wished that it be called of Jesus to indicate the point of reference. Of the rest, even in the beginning of the Spiritual Exercises, he places in first place our Lord Jesus Christ, our Creator and Savior (cfr. EE,6). And this places us Jesuits and the entire Society to be decentered, to have in front Christ always greater, the Deus semper maior, the intimior intimo meo, which continuously takes us out of ourselves, it takes us to a certain kenosis, to escape from our own love, wants and interests (EE, 189). We cannot take for granted the question made to us, to all of us: is Christ the center of my life? Do I truly place Christ at the center of my life? Because there is always the temptation to think of us as being in the center. And when a Jesuit places himself at the center and not Christ, he is mistaken. In the first Reading, Moses repeats with insistence to the people love the Lord, to walk in his ways because He is your life (cfr. Dt. 30, 16.20). Christ is our life! The centrality of Christ corresponds as well to the centrality of the Church: they are two flames that cannot be separated; I cannot follow if not in the Church and with the Church. It is also in this case that we Jesuits and the entire Society are not in the center, we are, so to speak, displaced, we are at the service of Christ and of the Church, the Spouse of Christ our Lord, which is our Holy Mother Hierarchical Church (cfr EE, 353). To be men rooted and founded in the Church, that is how Jesus wants us. There cannot be parallel or isolated paths. Yes, paths of searching, creative paths, yes, this is important: going to the outskirts, the vast outskirts. For this creativity is needed, but always in community, in the Church, with this affiliation that gives all of us the courage to continue forward. Serve Christ and love this Church concretely, and serve with generosity and with a spirit of obedience.
2. What is the path to live this dual centrality? Let us look at the experience of St. Paul which is also the experience of St. Ignatius. The Apostle, in the Second Reading that we have listened to, he writes: I strive towards the perfection of Christ for which also I was laid hold on by Christ Jesus. (Phil.3,12). For Paul this occurred on the road to Damascus, for Ignatius, in his house in Loyola, but the fundamental point is the same: to let oneself be conquered by Christ. I search for Christ, I serve Jesus because He searched for me first, because I have been conquered by Him: and this is the heart of our experience. But He is first, always. In spanish there is a very graphic word that explains this well: El nos primerea. He is always first. When we arrive, he arrives first and waits for us. And it is here that I wish to recall the meditation on the Kingdom in the Second Week. Christ our Lord, Eternal King, calls each and every one of us saying he who wishes to come with me must work with me, because following me in suffering, will follow me also in glory (EE,95): To be conquered by Christ to offer to this King all ourselves and all our labor (cfr. EE, 96); to tell the Lord that you wish to do everything for his greater service and praise, to imitate Him in bearing even insults, rejection, poverty (cfr EE, 98). I think of our brother in Syria at this time. To let oneself be conquered by Christ means to always reach out to those in front of me, towards the other half of Christ (cfr. Phil. 3,14) e to ask yourself with truth and sincerity: What have I done for Christ? What do I do for Christ (cfr. Phil. 3,14) What should I do for Christ? (cfr. EE, 53)
3. And I come to the final point. In the Gospel, Jesus tells us. For whosoever would save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it….He who is ashamed of me…. (Lk. 9,23). And so on. The shame of the Jesuit. The invitation that Jesus makes is to not be ashamed of Him, but to follow him with total devotion, trusting and relying in Him. But looking at Jesus, as St. Ignatius teaches us in the First Week, above all looking at Christ crucified, we feel that very human and very noble feeling that is the shame of not being at that height; we look at the wisdom of Christ and our own ignorance, at his omnipotence and our own weakness, to his justice and our own iniquity, to his goodness and our wickedness (cfr. EE, 59). Ask for the grace of shame, shame that comes from the continuous discussion of mercy with Him; shame that makes us blush in front of Jesus Christ; shame that places us in tune with the heart of Christ who has made himself sin for me; shame that places in harmony our hearts in tears and accompanies us in the daily sequence of my Lord. And this takes us, individually and as a Society, towards humility, to live this great virtue. Humility that makes us aware every day that it is not us that constructs the Kingdom of God, but it is always the grace of the Lord that acts in us; humility that urges us to place all of ourselves not at the service of ourselves or our ideas, but to the service of Christ and to the Church, like earthen vessels, fragile, inadequate, insufficient, but in which there is an immense treasure that we carry and make known (2 Cor. 4,7)
It is always pleasing for me to think on the sunset of the Jesuit, when a Jesuit finishes his life, when the sun sets. There are two icons of this sunset of the Jesuit that comes to mind: one classic, that of Saint Francis Xavier, looking towards China. Art has always depicted many times this sunset, this ending of Xaver. Even in literature, in that beautiful piece by Pemán. In the end, with nothing, but in front of the Lord; this does well to me, to think of this. The other sunset, the other icon that comes to mind as an example, is that of Father Arrupo in the last discussion in the refugee camp, when he tells us – this is how he himself would say it – this I say as if it were my swan song: pray. Prayer, the union with Jesus. And, after saying that, he boarded his plane, and arrived to Rome with a stroke, which began that long and exemplary sunset. Two sunsets, two icons that will do us well to look at, and return to these two. And ask for the grace that our sunset will be like theres.
Dear brothers, let us turn to Our Lady. She who carried Christ in her womb and accompanied the first steps of the Church, may she help us to place Christ and his Church always at the center of our life and our ministry; She who was the first and the most perfect disciple of her Son, may help us to let ourselves be conquered by Christ to follow and serve Him in every situation. She who responded to the announcement of the Angel with the most profound humility: Behold the servant of the Lord, be it done to me according to your word. (Lk. 1,38), may she makes us taste the shame of our inadequateness in front of the treasure that has been entrusted to us, to live humbly in front of God. May the paternal intercession of Saint Ignatius and of all the Holy Jesuits accompany us on this path, may the continue to teach us to do all with humility, ad maiorem Dei gloriam.
[Translation by Junno Arocho Esteves]
Next Tuesday our family will travel
to California for a reunion on my wife’s side of the family. We’ll spend
a week of that time in the Sierra Nevada Mountains on Donner Lake. I can’t wait. It was about 25 years ago on a drive back from Donner Lake where a deep religious experience led to my abiding concern for the environment
and a confidence in our Creator.
Having spent a long weekend in solitude at Donner Lake, God neglected to answer
my BIG QUESTIONS: Do you really exist? Should I believe? During my
walks in the wilderness and quiet times on the deck of the cabin, I got no
answer. I’m not sure what I expected but I left my silence and sitting in
disappointment. But as I drove back to Oakland where my wife and I were
living at the time, I looked to the left as the sun was setting and the
snow-capped mountains were ablaze with red and orange against a darkening
sky. Gerard Manley Hopkins and John’s Gospel came to mind: The world
is charged with the grandeur of God. The world is charged with God Incarnate.
All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be.
What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human
race. (John 1:3-4). I know I smiled at that moment because it
felt like God was saying, “I heard you. How’s this answer?”
I hope you have or will take time to go on “retreat” this summer. Observe
nature in your backyard or on the beach or in the faces of those you love and
appreciate the interconnectedness of life, of the cosmos, of God Incarnate on
Earth and in Heaven. I hope you smile, too, when your moment of
July 31, 2013
Blessed Feast Day of St. Ignatius! Thank you to all who were able to join us at Mass this morning. To read the complete text of Fr. Bur’s homily, click here.
If you were unable to join us, we hope that you will take a few minutes to reflect on the legacy left to us by Ignatius and the Society of Jesus.
To that end, our Companions on Mission initiative has created an online resource to help the Prep community better understand Ignatian Spirituality. The site is for all of us who live the Jesuit mission and allows you to learn more about:
Fr. Charles A. Frederico, SJ
When IVC volunteers serving in the greater Los Angeles area were asked why they joined IVC their answers were enlightening as well as inspiring. Here are some of their responses:
“I have been blessed with a beautiful family, a full life with good health. It is my time to give back a little of all that God has given me. I hope this begins to show how grateful I am for all my blessings from the Lord.”
“After going through Just Faith programs on social justice I became aware of all the injustices that keep the poor being poor. I wanted to do something to help. I go to the Catholic Worker twice a month to help feed the homeless but I wanted to do more. My wife and I discovered the Ignatian Volunteer Corps and now two days a week I am a school counselor and my wife is the school nurse at a Catholic school in L.A.”
“I was seeking ways to have a prayerful life after retirement. I always had compassion for the less fortunate. I needed to get involved yet “with purpose”…I am trying to follow in the steps of Jesus. We are our brother’s keepers.”
“Why do I work for the poor? It’s all I’ve ever done as an adult. It’s who I am; it’s part of my Christian faith. It keeps me rooted; it reminds me of how Christ chose to be with the poor. Solidarity with the poor is the starting point of how I live my life. (These are all values that I don’t always live everyday but I aspire to).”
“IVC is an opportunity to give back for all the blessings given me and to give back where most needed – to the poor. An opportunity for my life to have real meaning. Belonging to IVC gives me great joy and the strength of a community of like souls as I strive to have a deeper relationship with God.”
Reading through all of the responses searching for a representative sample, my curiosity reached beyond the volunteers to the Regional Directors. Why do they serve the Ignatian Volunteer Corps? This led to some soul searching and it was not until participating at an early morning liturgy on Pentecost Sunday that the light went on in my head. I realized that being a Regional Director of IVC meant being part of building up the Kingdom of God. While this may sound simple and obvious it has taken me nearly five years to come full circle back to this point.
IVC started out as a mission and grew into a job. The ministry I signed on for evolved into fundraising, clerical work and event planning. It kept me busy and focused but it did not feed my soul until I realized that all of the work whether it is phone calls, retreats, creating excel sheets (the bane of my existence!) or enjoying listening to and interacting with the volunteers or agency directors and clients, was part of leading others to God. It was a moment inspired by the Spirit that I will use as a touchstone for the future.
Anne Hansen is Regional Director for IVC Los Angeles and has written a column for the Tidings newspaper for many years (nearly 20) – Family Time. She co-authored Culture-Sensitive Ministry (Paulist Press, 2010) and offers workshops and retreats throughout the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
Trees continually grow. When they stop growing,
they die. Like trees, we also grow, as long as we live. We do not increase in
height; we certainly do not put out additional appendages, such as arms or
legs, but even physically our bodies continually grow new cells that replace
old ones. But, as embodied spirits, our main area of growth is not physical,
but in our thoughts, values and motives and in the ways we fulfill our purpose
Most of us enjoy the presence of trees in all
their variety. They are not only pleasing to our eyes, but also connect us with
nature. We perceive more than the bark and branches, roots and leaves, and are
at times moved with appreciation for the gift of life even in a form so
apparently different from our own. We plant trees, and nurture them, but we do
not make them. Like trees, we too are not self-created. Though we are unique
individuals, we are communal and interdependent, which often brings us much joy
and pleasure, though at other times sadness and pain as well. Through our
interactions in all manner of relationships, we can recognize our own
connection with nature – human nature.
Though we appreciate the beauty of shrubs,
flowers and grasses, trees are easier to identify with as individuals. We can
see in them many qualities that we value highly. Trees remain steadfast in all
kinds of weather, favorable and unfavorable; they do not try to appear as any
other tree, but retain all their own characteristics whether they are in an
urban or country environment. We admire in trees some of what we respect in one
another: continually adapting to present circumstances, always reaching for the
light, no matter what the surroundings, and never ceasing to grow.
Though trees do not of themselves move from place to place as we do, yet we use the metaphor of “grow where you are planted” in praise of the human virtue of being one’s self in all the unchanging or unchangeable personal qualities that are ours, as well as within the circumstances of our environment. Trees are not considered “stubborn” for
being the kind that they are, nor are we, when we make decisions according to
the values that make us who we are. We adapt, we change, we learn through
experience, but the “tree rings” of our growth are manifested by the way we
take responsibility for all that we say and do.
We do not expect to live as long as oak trees or giant sequoias, but we hope to proceed to a mode of life in which we will at last be able to fully appreciate all of God’s creation, and relate in utter clarity with the very Person of God. For now, we can appreciate the gift we have, as our kind of creature, that enables us to look at trees with our eyes,
but move from physical sight to internal thoughts and uses of imagination that
characterize our ongoing human growth. Our roots are directly in God, while we
are yet part of this earth; our growth is not primarily towards the light of
the sun, but into the very person of God.
Trees turn out beautifully as long as they are
within the proper environment. Our beauty depends upon our freely chosen
response to God.
Father Randy Roche, SJ, Director of the
Center for Ignatian Spirituality, has an M.A. in Theology from Santa Clara
University, and an M.S. in Counseling from San Diego State. He has served as
LMU Director of Campus Ministry, Rector of the Jesuit Community at Jesuit High
School in Sacramento, Director of Studies and Spiritual Director at the Jesuit
Novitiate, and as Pastor, Superior, and Director of Diocesan Campus Ministry at
the Newman Center in Honolulu.
Throughout his years of ministry, he has
continuously deepened his own experience of the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises,
while also acting as a guide in the Exercises for lay people and religious. Not
surprisingly, his specialty is Ignatian spirituality as a tool for discernment