Do you readers know the Principle and Foundation from the Spiritual Exercises? As I understand (and would paraphrase) it, we are made by God to love and serve God. Perhaps its not in a human gene sequence (sorry Max), but it is part of the deeper realty of human engineering.

As such, human cooperation with other people and with things in the physical universe puts us in the greatest possible harmony. Why? As long as we willingly cooperate with how we are made, we satisfy the deepest needs within our being.

spiritual freedomI notice the Principle and Foundation seems to be less about God’s will, as such. It is more about a collaborative and cooperative fulfillment.

In the parish I visited earlier this week, they had John English’s excellent classic Spiritual Freedom. In my down time, I revisited some aspects in the Exercises on discernment, and thus was drawn back into material I covered in class last summer and in the online retreat two years ago.

Here is Saint Ignatius on indifference:

(I)t is necessary to make ourselves indifferent to all created things in all that is allowed to the choice of our free will and is not prohibited to it; so that, on our part, we want not health rather than sickness, riches rather than poverty, honor rather than dishonor, long rather than short life, and so in all the rest; desiring and choosing only what is most conducive for us to the end for which we are created. (SE

Some other adaptations are here, but I found myself drawn to the mainstream expression, particularly, “and so in all the rest.” What does that mean? How far does it go? Should I not desire a more natural surrounding to a large city? A small parish to a larger one? An established parish over a new one? An easier pastor to a more difficult one? Liturgy and music or neither?

And as I was stuck in rush hour traffic yesterday, it continued. Should I desire an open road to a clogged one? Having a hotel reservation to taking my chances? An inexpensive room to a pricey one? Indian food to Mexican? How far does it go? And I had a good laugh at my own expense.

ignatius of loyolaBut I realized that the Lord, through his servant Ignatius, is not calling me to a continual application of the P&F in every little thing. What unsettles me, clogs me like 5pm traffic, sets me on edge, and dampens my laughter? It is then that I think Christ is nudging me to a broader application of the Exercises.

This will be hugely useful to my continuing discernment: staying in my present parish, or leaving for another pasture. How has God made me? That will determine the best fit.

I feel more indifferent than when I began this week’s pilgrimage. That quality is not congruent to apathy–far from it. There will be a smooth path at the end of the current uncertainty. I am sure of it. And actually, even if I miss it, I know God will not abandon me. I will have yet another opportunity to encounter, experience, and enact the Principle and Foundation. I expect I will always be a student in the school of Ignatius. No graduation for me in 2015.

I would encourage any readers out there to explore the Spiritual Exercises in everyday life. The online resource at Creighton University is good, but it was more helpful to have my own director assist me with them. Better is to find a group run by a competent and trained guide. Good luck. See you on the journey.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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