Ignatius in July, 18 & 19: Interpretation

See the source imageWhoops; looks like another slip-up in the conclusion to the Ignatian Year. How do you interpret that? I’m lazy? Slipping in my spiritual disciplines? Harbor a secret skepticism about Jesuits? Let’s look to one of my favorite citations in the Spiritual Exercises, which also makes it into the Catechism at #2478, which in turn cites the Spiritual Exercises:

To avoid rash judgment, everyone should be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbor’s thoughts, words, and deeds in a favorable way:

Every good Christian ought to be more ready to give a favorable interpretation to another’s statement than to condemn it. But if he cannot do so, let him ask how the other understands it. And if the latter understands it badly, let the former correct him with love. If that does not suffice, let the Christian try all suitable ways to bring the other to a correct interpretation so that he may be saved. (Sp Ex 22)

Two contexts follow. The Catechism is dealing with the Eighth Commandment in sections 2464 through 2513. Lying, in other words. If you think someone is lying, “everyone” should refrain from going with their “gut,” or less than sound evidence. In the Exercises, remember that tome was composed for spiritual directors. As a director listens to a newcomer to the spiritual life, the bias is to seek a positive interpretation on the person’s words and actions. Failing that, the director will proceed by asking questions. Note that Saint Ignatius does not endorse an inquisition as such. This is about mutual understanding.

One good summary of the 22nd annotation is here. From the author, Anthony Lusvardi, SJ:

(P)eople tend to make one of two opposite errors:  they turn into either an “Orthodoxy Policeman” or “Mr. Nice.”  A full reading of Annotation 22 shows that Ignatius realized both of these extremes could be harmful.

First, the Orthodoxy Policeman.  While less common in our Church and general culture, this character pops up more frequently on the blogosphere.  … He (or she) actually finds the detection of heresy a fun game and derives a certain perverse satisfaction when he (or she) notices the whiff of heterodoxy in the air.

The great error of Officer Orthodoxy, of course, is that he (or she) forgets that Christianity aims for conversion, not victory.

Ignatius isn’t looking to swing all the way over to “Mr Nice.”

Ignatius prescribes all appropriate means to correct false opinion.  If love is divorced from truth, it’s not really love.

Ignatius’ attitude toward the value of orthodoxy may strike some of us as uncomfortably un-modern.  The reason we react this way is because most of us tend to want to be Mr. Nice.  Mr. Nice just wants to get along and thinks that doctrine is divisive and oh-so-passé.

Long story short: no easy answers. The experience of life, of getting to know people, especially those outside of one’s orbit, means you might have to invest a little hard work. And not just look for a calling card.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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2 Responses to Ignatius in July, 18 & 19: Interpretation

  1. Liam says:

    Do consider that confession as practiced in the time of Ignatius was more likely to include what we today might consider an interrogation (and can still be encountered today; pilgrims confessing at St Peter’s in the Vatican may encounter it, for example, I am told) – think of it like being asked the questions of an examen in confession.

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