Long Life or Short

St. Ignatius' death mask. Source: calledbyname.com

The Jesuits have shaped me at my core being. I have been blessed by their guidance, spirituality, and ministries.  In my mid-twenties, I gently landed at a Jesuit parish, searching for a community that would hold my questions without judgment and challenge me to serve God in tangible ways.

The community of St. Ignatius in Winnipeg has transformed me in many ways, but not the least of which is through the 19th Annotation of the Spiritual Exercises.

When I took them almost 20 years ago, the Principle and Foundation (P & F) was one of the life-changing experiences upon which I would come to depend. Many of the challenges that were outlined had a weightiness to them that scared me a bit and yet how I longed to live like that.

Would it be possible for me to hold lightly to polar opposites such as health and sickness, riches and poverty, honour and dishonour, or a long versus a short life?  Might I ever reach that freedom in order that I might better praise, reverence and serve God?

Over the decades, I became more strongly rooted in Ignatian Spirituality.  I was trained as a spiritual director where I would watch others grapple with some of the same lessons and blossom into new creations.

The privilege of this opportunity has been one of the greatest gifts of my life. I knew that if I could grow into the person that God desired me to be that I could encourage others to do the same.

Just over three years ago, I leaned heavily into my understanding of what St. Ignatius tried to teach.  A doctor appointment which led to a series of tests and encounters with specialists had me returning to the P & F and the Suspice (Take and Receive) prayer as I experienced health concerns.

I held my hands as open as I could though fear rose as I shifted from not clinging to health nor sickness to not desiring a long life or short. When the final verdict was reached—a rare form of cancer that is almost always fatal—the fears had mostly dissipated thanks to my Ignatian beliefs.

The surgeon hesitated after I had signed off on the papers. He held the file in the air and could not seem to bring himself to put it on the stack on his desk.  I knew he was uncertain that I would even survive the surgery.   I assured him I was ready for either outcome and that he should proceed.  The file was added to the stack.

Not only did I make it through surgery, I have lived 12 months beyond my expiry date.  Each day that I am given, I try to remember why I am here: to praise, reverence and serve God. As my life has been considerably pared down to the essentials, I long only for this.

Some days I am too tired to act like a good servant but I offer what I still can, knowing that God is pleased with whatever I am capable of at this point.

I remain grateful to the Jesuits, St. Ignatius, my parish community and God for the strong foundation I have been given for this wild adventure through illness and a shortened life.  I always thought that I would live well into my 90s but joyfully give over to God all that I have been able to experience here on earth within a shorter time frame.  All has been gift.

Suzanne, a good collaborator of the Jesuits, was very involved in the Spiritual Exercises apostolate of St. Ignatius parish, Winnipeg, and also in many social justice issues. She died on June 25, 2018. May she rest in peace.

  • Donna Zeolla
    Posted at 07:00h, 09 July Reply

    This is beautiful. Clear eyed faith.

  • Peter Bisson, SJ
    Posted at 10:48h, 09 July Reply

    God bless you Suzanne! Thank you for sharing. Pray for us.

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