St Ignatius of Loyola

Discernment

The third time is one of tranquility, when one considers first for what purpose man is born, that is to praise God our Lord and save his soul, and, desiring this, chooses as a means to this end some life or state within the bonds of the church, so that he may be helped in the service of his Lord and the salvation of his soul. I said a tranquil time, that is, when the soul is not agitated by different spirits, and uses its natural powers freely and tranquilly.

……

Without any disordered attachment, so that I am not more inclined or disposed to accept the thing before me than to refuse it, nor to refuse it rather than accept it, but that I find myself like a balance at equilibrium, ready to follow whatever I perceive to be more for the glory and praise of God our Lord and the salvation of my soul.

St Ignatius ‘Spiritual Exercises’st-ignatius-1-728

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Burrowing inward

…I received your letter…written in your hand. It has given me more than a little joy in our Lord to learn from it of matters that are drawn rather from an interior experience than from anything external; an experience which our Lord in His infinite Goodness usually gives to those souls who render themselves entirely to Him as the beginning, middle and end of all our good.  –St Ignatius

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Peace of mind

St Ignatius, an uneducated nonreligious man, sought by many for spiritual direction, his words on God and his exercises receiving intense attention; allows life to lead him to the university. That is to say he is court ordered to pursue an education if he is going to be educating people. Under scrutiny, he spends a lot of time in jail. He is investigated by the inquisition. His writing examined for heresy. As a student, he focuses his energy upon his courses. A doctor from the university praises his disposition, the serene sense of peace dominating him. The saint replies. “It is because I do not speak to anyone of the things of God, but once the course is finished the old life will return”.

St Ignatius

St Ignatius

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Realizing and relishing through prayer

“For it is not knowing much, but realizing and relishing things interiorly, that contents and satisfies the soul.”  –St Ignatius

Moved interiorly, feeling silent, creative juices flowing, quiet in being, another Spanish saint marches into definitude. Listening to the ‘Autobiography of St Ignatius’. The storyteller in me marvels at the feats of the young worldly Ignatius. A man of war his ability to endure pain astounds. I think many before modern medicine experienced pain on an intense level I have never known, nor will know. Medical treatment, no anesthesia, must have been horrible. Years later, 16th century, St Jane de Chantel would lose her husband to a hunting accident, a hunting companion errantly shooting him in the leg. He survived the gunshot, however nine days of medical surgeries and treatment killed him. In a fascinating way the body was a source of torment in medieval days that proved peculiar, spiritually bountiful. St Ignatius would begin his conversion bedridden. Numerous saints suffered, stricken to the prone position, isolated from activity and the world. In all honesty, there must have been an awareness medical treatment could just as likely kill you as save your life. Divine providence, hope through God, centering within collective consciousness.

Here is the beginning of St Ignatius autobiography, the words dictated to a scribe.

LIFE Up to his twenty-sixth year the heart of Ignatius was enthralled by the vanities of the world. His special delight was in the military life, and he seemed led by a strong and empty desire of gaining for himself a great name. The citadel of Pampeluna was held in siege…All the other soldiers were unanimous in wishing to surrender on condition of freedom to leave, since it was impossible to hold out any longer; but Ignatius so persuaded the commander, that, against the views of all the other nobles, he decided to hold the citadel against the enemy.

 …After the walls were destroyed, Ignatius stood fighting bravely until a cannon ball of the enemy broke one of his legs and seriously injured the other.

When he fell, the citadel was surrendered. When the French took possession of the town, they showed great admiration for Ignatius. After twelve or fifteen days at Pampeluna, where he received the best care from the physicians of the French army, he was borne on a litter to Loyola. His recovery was very slow, and doctors and surgeons were summoned from all parts for a consultation. They decided that the leg should be broken again, that the bones, which had knit badly, might be properly reset; for they had not been properly set in the beginning, or else had been so jostled on the journey that a cure was impossible. He submitted to have his flesh cut again. During the operation, as in all he suffered before and after, he uttered no word and gave no sign of suffering save that of tightly clenching his fists.

In the meantime his strength was failing. He could take no food, and showed other symptoms of approaching death. On the feast of St. John the doctors gave up hope of his recovery, and he was advised to make his confession. Having received the sacraments on the eve of the feasts of Sts. Peter and Paul, toward evening the doctors said that if by the middle of the night there were no change for the better, he would surely die. He had great devotion to St. Peter, and it so happened by the goodness of God that in the middle of the night he began to grow better.

His recovery was so rapid that in a few days he was out of danger. As the bones of his leg settled and pressed upon each other, one bone protruded below the knee. The result was that one leg was shorter than the other, and the bone causing a lump there, made the leg seem quite deformed. As he could not bear this, since he intended to live a life at court, he asked the doctors whether the bone could be cut away. They replied that it could, but it would cause him more suffering than all that had preceded, as everything was healed, and they would need space in order to cut it. He determined, however, to undergo this torture.

His elder brother looked on with astonishment and admiration. He said he could never have had the fortitude to suffer the pain which the sick man bore with his usual patience. When the flesh and the bone that protruded were cut away, means were taken to prevent the leg from becoming shorter than the other. For this purpose, in spite of sharp and constant pain, the leg was kept stretched for many days. Finally the Lord gave him health. He came out of the danger safe and strong with the exception that he could not easily stand on his leg, but was forced to lie in bed.

Informed of impending doom, the worldly St Ignatius greets St Peter in prayer.

Informed of impending doom, on his deathbed, the worldly St Ignatius greets St Peter in prayer.

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First Mass aftermath

My God, I am yours for time and eternity. Teach me to cast myself entirely into the arms of your loving Providence with a lively, unlimited confidence in your compassionate, tender pity. Grant, O most merciful Redeemer, that whatever you ordain or permit may be acceptable to me, take from my heart all painful anxiety; let nothing sadden me but sin, nothing delight me but the hope of coming to the possession of You, my God and my all, in your everlasting kingdom. Amen. –Suscipe of Mother Catherine McAuley, founder of the Sisters of Mercy

Suscipe Latin for receive. Traditionally the word Suscipe is associated with St Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, as he established his Ignatian Spiritual Exercises. Ignatian formation strives to dispose one’s soul of obstacles, ridding oneself of all disordered attachments. Once exercised, stripped down, complications and impediments removed, an empty soul can properly seek and align itself with Divine Will.

Suscipe of St Ignatius: ‘Receive, O Lord, all my liberty. Take my memory, my understanding, and my entire will. Whatsoever I have or hold, You have given me; I give it all back to You and surrender it wholly to be governed by your will. Give me only your love and your grace, and I am rich enough and ask for nothing more.’ 

Celebrated mass, surprised by the depth of the sanctity. Upon the same grounds as the marvelous retreat center is a retirement home for Sisters of Mercy nuns. The thirty-two females being spiritually directed this week, I believe, are all Sisters of Mercy nuns. Beginning this post is a quote from the founder of the Sisters of Mercy. It is received from a painting posted on the stairwell next to my room. The artwork in the retreat center and the retirement home is incredible. Mass is celebrated in the retirement home. I am allowed to walk through to attend mass. Aside from mass, it is off limits. My room is on the second floor. Across the hall is a large comfortable library. Sisters gather in the library. Directly, beneath my room is a chapel, including a tabernacle hosting the Eucharist. The Eucharist is directly below my room. I must comment on the quietness at Our Lady of the Pines. Interiorly and out of doors, it retains a depth, a prayerfulness and tangibility. I credit the populating religious, consecrated individuals focusing their energy upon spiritual discernment. During lunch, I noticed an elderly gentlemen push his walker through the dining room, exiting the room in order to eat on a patio. Already seated, I gathered my tray and followed him. Through hand signals, he welcomed me, gesturing silence. I deduced from his physical articulation he has taken a vow of silence during his retreat. His appearance and apparel makes me think he is a retired priest from the Youngstown Diocese. Together we sat upon the patio immersed in silence, a bluff in front of us, leeside a small pine forest descending to lower ground, walking paths waiting for exploration.

Back to mass, seated amongst approximately sixty religious, I felt tremendous stress. Nothing to do with them or the location. It was all about me. Concentrating upon my personal life, my experiences: past, present, and future, how could I not be filled with awful stress, anxiety and worry. I must be who I am. Brutal honesty is necessary for proper growth. Right now it is pouring down rain. Rain shellacking, I sit next to the large bay windows, rain obstructing the view of all three windows. It is appropriate. I have been attending mass at St Paul’s Shrine daily, mass and adoration, feeling the power and presence of my effort. However, it was not until mass at St Bernadine’s chapel here at Our Lady of the Pines retreat did I comprehend how much stress, anxiety; disordered emotion, thoughts, memories, and overall state of direst fills me. I could barely hold back tears, and in fact several fell out. I had to distract my mind from a younger sister’s voice directly behind me. To absorb and immerse myself within its beauty would have completely unraveled me. Two thoughts fixated during mass. Yesterday the saint of the day was St Maria Goretti. During his homily Father Phil told of Allessandro Serenelli, the man she forgave, sitting next to her mother during her canonization. The rapist and murderer of the little saint sat next to her mother during her official recognition as a saint. It may be extreme, overly dramatic, yet I identified with Allessandro at mass today. The second thought touches upon the Old Testament reading: Jacob wrestling with God, attaining a new name through the tussle, becoming Israeli, a Patriarch of God’s chosen people. The priest told of a conversation with a rabbi. The Rabbi said, ‘Christians talk of loving God. Jews talk of wrestling with God’.

Venerable Mother Catherine McAuley

Venerable Mother Catherine McAuley

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