The Principle and Foundation
“…then within me there is something like a burning fire
shut up in my bones;
I am weary with holding it in,
and I cannot.”
My dear friends in Christ, Fr. Earl has asked me to speak about what Ignatian Spirituality has meant for me, and what I think it means for our parish. I would like to graciously thank him for this opportunity to share the joy and fulfilment it has given me over these past 20 years.
On October 15 this year, it will be 21 years since I chaired the meeting that started the return of Catholic education in the form of the reopened St. Bonaventure’s College – St. Bon’s. That could also be considered the day my journey to appreciate Ignatian Spirituality began.
About one year after St. Bon’s reopened, I went to Fr. Winston Rye, the Jesuit President and Principal of the school, saying “Father Rye, I’d like to do those Spiritual Exercises, because if I’m going to be the chair of a Jesuit school, I figure I had better do them to find out what this is all about.” It took me over 18 months, but I got them done. I did them again maybe 6-8 years ago. I would highly recommend it.
What I would like to share with you today is the Principle and Foundation, the basis for the Spiritual Exercises. It is the realization that one achieves through the preparatory phase of those Exercises.
Principle and Foundation in a paraphrased version
God wanted someone with whom he could share his infinite love. God freely made us out of love so that we might share our lives with him together in love, for if anyone showed us that much love, what else would we want to do but to be with him and love back?
God made everything else on the earth to help us find our way to him in heaven when the time comes. We have to learn how to use everything else, choosing what helps us, and leaving alone what doesn’t.
So we don’t have to worry about whether we are rich or poor, healthy or sick, or other earthly things, for if we accept God’s love, and make the right choices, and find our way to him at the end of the day, what else matters?
And so, how can anyone be anything but happy, and free from anxiety when you come to realize this basic tenet of life – that God loves us – INFINITELY. And when someone hugs you that tight, holds you so sweetly, as your own loving mother, no matter what you do or say, no matter what you don’t do or say, no matter what happens – how can you help but love Him back, hug Him back. And then to consider the entire earth, the universe and everything in it, on it, above it, under it, is there for us to use to find our way to Him -is that not a wondrous way to see the world?
Life then becomes filled with opportunities, though we have to sometimes try hard to see them. Each moment, each thought, is a chance to choose God or to not choose God. Even in suffering, physical or mental, we can choose the embrace of One who will always care, hold our hand through all, share the heavy burden with us, even if He cannot take the hurt away. Or we can choose to tough it out alone.
That binary system of Ignatius, the choice of the Two Standards, (another part of the Exercises) or two flags to gather around, the choice of Christ versus the alluring choice of Satan, is so simply true. I can simply choose to follow Christ in the instance of opening the door for that older person struggling with a cane, or I can simply choose to keep walking to where I am going because I will probably be late, and look the other way. The kids in Children’s liturgy pick this idea up easily. Though sometimes it isn’t that easy to discern.
St. Ignatius’ mind was once flooded with so many wonderful ideas he couldn’t focus with the distraction; he then realized that Satan was filling his mind with these to distract him, to compromise his focus, on Christ. What an amazing discernment!
To view the world as all from God, and therefore to see God in all things, is, for me, a heightened sense of awareness that makes everything spiritually relevant; in everything, the presence, but often the generosity and mercy, and also the challenge and call of God can be seen. Ignatius defines yet another simple truth – that God is in all things.
I challenge you all to become mystics and find God everywhere. However, sensing the Spirit in the drizzle and fog is a lot easier to take than sensing the Spirit in pelting cold ice pellets traveling nearly horizontally, but the latter has a greater awakening power to it!
Implicit in this truth is clearly the sense of stewardship of the earth, and that is obvious.
Finally, the statement of detachment from worldly concerns is another simple truth. What else really matters but to find our way to our infinitely loving and caring God? But this requires such a strong trust, a strong faith; it is so challenging, but true. Yet, we realize that even if we do lose it all, so to speak, our health and our wealth, we need not have lost WHO is most important and WHO is always there for us.
In Matthew chapter 13, Jesus speaks to the question of why he always speaks in parables. In that discussion, he says to his Apostles: ““To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 for to him who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” Take this Principle and Foundation to be one of those secrets.
My friends, the opportunity we are confronted with now is to share the powerful truths as discerned by St. Ignatius in the Spiritual Exercises with each other, with our community, and with our world that is so distracted and broken right now. To share that sense of God’s love by deeply loving others, to recognize God in all things by recognizing our opportunities and by being wise and good stewards of our earth, by choosing to focus our attention on what is right, socially just, merciful and compassionate – these are what I see that make up our mission at St. Pius X parish.