Ignatian Based Spirituality for the Final Third of Life


John A. Cooper, CSD

Ignatian Based Spirituality for the Final Third of Life

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2021 – Times and places to be determined

Description: This course is intended to be conducted in small group settings using a “two by two” methodology whereas the first “giver” moderates the course with an associate who is in training to replicate the process in the associate’s own future groups. The participants are referred to as “receivers” of the Spiritual benefits of this course. Spirituality for the final third of life will be approached from an Ignatian point of view, with the Ignatius’ Suscipe as a foundational principle.[1]

Required Texts (Please Bring to Class Each Time)

Pilgrimage into the Last Third of Life: 7 Gateways to Spiritual Growth by Jane Marie Thibault and

Richard L. Morgan; Upper Room Books 2012. ISBN 978-0-8358-1117-0.[1]

Let God In: One Ignatian Journey: by John Cooper, Austin Macauley Press, 2019. ISBN 9781528927482.[2]

-Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life by Richard Rohr; Josey-Bass, 2011. ISBN 978-0-470-90775-7.[3]

-Other handouts to be used as course progresses including the Field Hospital Exercises of Fr. Michael Hansen, SJ of Australia.[4]

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Required Reading

The readings above are the basis of class discussion and Spiritual progress into our own aging and death, all the while seeking Divine unity, now and in our sure coming transition into life after death. Page assignments will be given for each class. At this time the length of the class is variable, but one may drop out at any time according to one’s own judgement and needs.  It is suggested one should begin to read the three books mentioned in advance, however it is anticipated the class will progress at a pace whereby one can read the assigned pages a little at a time before the small group discussions take place.

Times and places of classes are to be determined according to interest.

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So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to all the generations to come (Psalm 71:18 – NRSV

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[1]https://www.amazon.com/Pilgrimage-into-Last-Third-Life/dp/0835811174/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=pilgrimage+into+the+last+third+of+life&qid=1624110854&sr=8-1

[2] https://www.amazon.com/s?k=Let+God+In%3A+One+Ignatian+Journey&ref=nb_sb_noss_2

[3] https://www.amazon.com/Falling-Upward-Spirituality-Halves-Life/dp/0470907754/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3GY0YD7MR9KH0&dchild=1&keywords=falling+upward+rohr&qid=1624111631&sprefix=Falling+UpWard%2Caps%2C261&sr=8-1

[4] https://first-exercises.us10.list-manage.com/track/click?u=75fd6f8cf8deaab17d0961da5&id=b548fb5c23&e=a0332c9cc8


[1] https://www.loyolapress.com/catholic-resources/prayer/traditional-catholic-prayers/saints-prayers/suscipe-prayer-saint-ignatius-of-loyola/

Oh Jesus!

Oh Jesus, the One who can walk through closed doors, yet you knock, that we may open our doors to you and choose you of our own free will, thus participating in your love and grace!

I am the Possum you Killed

It was an invigorating Spring day, and I had just crawled up from the creek between the 20-acre and 15-acre McCulley fields where I saw you last Fall, hand picking the outside rows of corn to make way for the John Deere corn picker. You were working with your Uncle Bill last Fall. I have good hearing, and I heard you coming. Stepping in the crisp leaves, your feet crunched along the path leading to the larger creek. You often went this way, crossing the creek to reach the lower fields for hunting.   I could smell you. Humans have an odd smell to possums like me.

I saw your 22-caliber semi-automatic rifle and recalled that many times you shot sparrows on the electric high wire, “just for the fun of it.” Oh no! I didn’t have time to crawl back to safety. At least rabbits have a chance. They can run fast and jump and dart around, but my only defense was to lie there, helpless, playing dead among the fallen leaves.

But you saw me and decided it would be “fun.” I heard a “crack” and instantly felt searing pain engulf my body. I think you thought I would just die instantly, like on Gunsmoke, like when Matt Dillon shot the “bad” men. Pain seared through my body, pain like I had never felt before, even birthing my new litter, my eight joeys, hidden in my pouch.  What would happen to them?  I realized they will die too, after suckling the last of the milk from my dead body.  Please take care of my babies!

I was still playing dead when you poked my hairless stomach with the barrel of your rifle. I squirmed with the intense pain. You shot me again, you evil monster, with your weapon of destruction, towering over me with your testosterone-laden teenage body. Your power was absolute. As life seeped from my body, my spirit rose, and, for an instant, hovered over my lifeless body, and over you~~you heartless boy.  Don’t you know that creatures suffer too?   What have I ever done to you?  Why? I have always done my duty in life, eating ants and ticks and taking care to offer balance to the environment.

As I watched you from above, I saw that you had tears in your eyes. You had seen my babies when you poked me in the stomach. I could see guilt and remorse on your face as you realized that they would die too, from starvation or prey to another of God’s creatures. I heard you moan, “Oh, no! What have I done?”  I believe that you felt badly for taking my life for no good reason. But, why didn’t you bury me? You just left me to rot… I hope that my death will influence you to put away your rifle and live peacefully in this world with all of God’s creatures, and that we will meet again someday.

God told me I will be resurrected when you are, just at the right time, the same time as you, and I will be your pet possum, with my little babies again too, and with Pal, your boyhood dog, and Ossie, the cat you loved, and all your ancestors, your father and your mother, your brothers and sisters who have died, Faith, Hope, Paul, David, all of them, and we will live in peace in a Peaceable Kingdom, for evermore.

In Love,

Your possum, Mercy

p.s. Don’t think yourself better, dear Reader, you who pay other people to do your killing for you.  You who go to Church and pray to your God. Your God is my God.  He is in you, Brother or Sister just as God is in all things, and in me too.

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I was that teenager who thought shooting animals was “fun,”  whose  life changed forever that Fall day, as I stood over Mercy’s lifeless body and heard her pups mewling for milk. I have confessed my sin to others. Mercy was one of my greatest influences. I am thankful that Mercy had some little part in my putting my gun up for good.  Mercy had a little part in my becoming a Conscientious Objector to killing and war. I am satisfied Mercy had some influence in changing my life. Thank you, Mercy, for all you have done for me. I think of you often and will always remember you, Mercy!

In Love and Mercy,

John Cooper

Inner Peace and the Encyclical

I am inspired today to say something about the need for deep inner peace in relationship to Pope Francis latest Encyclical, Fratelli tutti. See: https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2020-10/fratelli-tutti-pope-fraternity-social-friendship-short-summary.html for a brief summary which contains a link to the original document.

In conjunction I would like to share a Spiritual Exercise one can pray by themselves or with others written by Fr. Michael Hansen, S.J. of Australia. I have been sharing these Exercises on my Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/Let-God-In-One-Ignatian-Journey-108638330545262. I credit Fr. Hansen and the FSE Field Hospital for the adapted picture and text.

Praying this Exercise will help you breathe in deep inner peace which is needed to understand Pope Francis’ Encyclical.

John Cooper, Tuscaloosa, AL

THE CPR OF PEACE                            First Aid

As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts. Col3:12-16

See, Open my mouth; the tongue in my mouth speaks.

My words declare the uprightness of my heart, and what my lips know they speak sincerely. The spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life. Job 33:2-6

I touch the Heart of Peace.

I take a slow breath, in and out-a breath in to receive the Spirit of Peace, and a breath out to breathe out all the anxiety, agitation, fears and burdens I carry within me. This breath of body and Spirit, is life in every sense. I repeat, feeling peace settle in me.

I remember a small story of someone who gave me deep peace when I was afraid and lost in the demands of ever-changing distress. If praying alone I hold that memory, if I am praying in a group, I share it with them, listening in turn to their stories, feeling touched by the Spirit of Peace … I begin to understand how such peace

is so desirable in these unsettling times.

I desire the Gift of Peace.

I slowly and prayerfully read the prayer texts above.

I name all the places in my life where I desire the gift of peace …

I ask the Spirit for peace, serenity and harmony in my heart, and for the breath that gives me Life.

I breathe in the Spirit of Peace.

I imagine and feel the Spirit of Peace breathing deep, harmonious peace into me. I breathe it in deeply, wait, then breathe it out to into my agitations and worries, into my spiritual life, desires and relationships. And I pray this peace spreads far.

I repeat as desired – breathing, peaceful, in harmony …I conclude in thanks, considering two questions. Firstly, if possible, how might I make contact and reconnect with the one who brought me great peace? Secondly, to whom and how do I pass on this exercise – who urgently needs peace now?         ·

PRAYER TIME: Go gently, using the generous time you have put aside for this prayer.

The three dots … indicate the places to pause.

If you are specially moved at any of the steps, remain there for the rest of the prayer.

 

FSE FIELD HOSPITAL © Michael Hansen SJ

Contact: field-hospital@fsecloud.life    •  www.fsecol ud.life  •  JISA ministries www.jisa.org.au

19th Annotation Spiritual Exercise

Painting by Peter Paul Rubens

Warning: Taking this Exercise effectively requires your willingness to give up everything to live only in God’s love and grace. One must commit to 34 weeks of prayer and discernment each day for about one hour or more each day. Do not undertake this matter lightly. You are likely to suffer loss, even of the self. You may need Spiritual Companionship. To join a small group to take the 19th Annotation or to arrange for monthly Spiritual Companionship via Zoom, email jcooperforpeace@gmail.com

(This Exercise is available in Spanish, Arabic, and other languages. See links for details.)

To preview the 19th Annotation 34 week Spiritual Exercises review the links below: https://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/RetreatintheRealWorld/

https://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/cmo-retreat.html

Contemplation on Woundedness

Pix: Public Domain


Contemplation on Woundedness

(A Spiritual Exercise)

  1. I make a gesture of reverence like a bow, folded hands in prayer, or the Sign of the Cross.
  2. I enter a period of silence and meditation.
  3. I think about what I desire, that I desire to discover and be healed of my woundedness.
  4. I remember how God has always been with me, helping me and healing me.
  5. I read the Prayer Texts below:

Hebrews 13: 5 Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, “I will never leave you; I will never abandon you.” 6 Let us be bold, then, and say:

“The Lord is my helper,

I will not be afraid.

What can anyone do to me?”                    

John 20:26 A week later the disciples were together again indoors, and Thomas was with them. The doors were locked, but Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands; then stretch out your hand and put it in my side. Stop your doubting, and believe!.” (GNBDK)

1 Cor 12:12 Christ is like a single body, which has many parts; it is still one body, even though it is made up of different parts. 13 In the same way, all of us, whether Jews or Gentiles, whether slaves or free, have been baptized into the one body by the same Spirit, and we have all been given the one Spirit to drink. (GNBDK)

I meditate in silence, thinking about the prayer texts above.

Are there any physical, mental, or spiritual wounds God can help me with today?

I wonder why Jesus kept his wounds when he could have been resurrected in a perfect body.

I wonder if my wounds are a part of Jesus body and his a part of my body.

6. I enter into silent meditation, touching my healed wounds and scars and if I am in a group. I show my scars and allow others to touch them and touch others’ wounds and scars if appropriate.

7. If doing this exercise in a group, I gently share my thoughts in confidence, and whether alone or in a group, I verbally forgive any who have wounded me. I will write these matters down in my Journal when I am finished for future reflection and action.

8. I am silent again, this time hoping to enter a state of thoughtless contemplation, allowing God to heal any remaining wounds in my heart, body, and mind in the way he chooses.

9. I resolve to share in the sufferings of others, of the world, of those who are dying and the poor, of those alone, and the sufferings of Jesus whom I and others disappoint when we sin.  

10. I recite the Lord’s Prayer myself or in my group together in communion with others.

11. I smile because I know I am healed and forgiven, as wide and long a smile as appropriate, and maybe I laugh because now I know God is big enough to take care of me solve my problems.  I can’t believe I perhaps thought he was not big enough to solve all my problems.

12. If anything is still unresolved I will share the matters with my Spiritual Director, Pastor, or counselor, or friends. I resolve to take this exercise again as often as needed. I will share this exercise with others as appropriate.

John Cooper

Tuscaloosa, AL

Contemplation on the Mystical Roots of Unconscious Prejudice

(Pix: John Cooper)

(A Spiritual Exercise)

  1. I make a gesture of reverence like a bow, folded hands in prayer, or the Sign of the Cross.

2. I enter a two minute period of silence and meditation.

3. I think about what I desire, that I desire to discover and be healed of prejudice.

4. I take an item or symbol of my ancestors and hold it in my hands.

5. I enter into silent meditation for two minutes, holding the item and if I am in a group, sharing the item I am holding with others.

6. I read the Prayer Texts below:

Gen 1:31 God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. (NRSV)

Gal 3:28 So there is no difference between Jews and Gentiles, between slaves and free people, between men and women; you are all one in union with Christ Jesus. (GNBDK)

1 Cor 12:12 Christ is like a single body, which has many parts; it is still one body, even though it is made up of different parts. 13 In the same way, all of us, whether Jews or Gentiles, whether slaves or free, have been baptized into the one body by the same Spirit, and we have all been given the one Spirit to drink. (GNBDK)

Lev 19:32 “Show respect for old people and honour them. Reverently obey me; I am the LORD.

33 “Do not ill-treat foreigners who are living in your land. 34 Treat them as you would a fellow-Israelite, and love them as you love yourselves. Remember that you were once foreigners in the land of Egypt. I am the LORD your God. (GNBDK)

Deut 5: 9 I bring punishment on those who hate me and on their descendants down to the third and fourth generation. 10 But I show my love to thousands of generations of those who love me and obey my laws. (GNBDK)

“…so much is hidden in the unconscious…Below all this is the vast unknown world of corporate memories inherited from our families, our culture and our race…However there is a time for amassing information and a time for letting it go into the hands of God to allow him to illuminate, draw out and bind together what we already know…the works of the memory become in some way divine if they are controlled by the Holy Spirit.” (Door Through Darkness: John of the Cross and mysticism in everyday life, pp. 104-105, 133, Sister Eileen Lyddon, New City Press).

7. I meditate in silence, thinking about the prayer texts above.

8. If doing this exercise in a group, I gently share my thoughts in confidence and confess my sins of prejudice and unconscious inheritances I may have received of which I am now aware.  I speak aloud my pain, my grief, how I have been hurt and how I have hurt others.  If I am privileged, I resolve to give something back, love, prayers, money, or what I may be inspired to pay forward for my future generations.  If I am exercising privately, I write these matters down in my Journal when I am finished for future reflection and action.

9. I am silent for two more minutes, this time hoping to enter a state of thoughtless contemplation, allowing God to do His work silently and passively in my heart and mind.

10. I and others, if I am in a group, moan as if we were dying, perhaps even crying out loudly, AGHH! I grieve. I moan…

11. I recite the Lord’s Prayer myself or in my group together in communion with others.

12. I enter silence for 3 minutes and 29 more seconds, making a total of 9 minutes and 29 seconds of silence and resolve to pray in silence about these matters at other times and the exercise ends without comments or additional discussion, but I will discuss what I have experienced with my Spiritual Director, Pastor, or counselor or friends and I resolve to take this exercise again as often as needed. I also resolve to share this exercise with others as appropriate.

John Cooper

Tuscaloosa, AL

Breath of Life

Our prayer is living our lives in your Presence, oh Lord, every breath in, every breath out, given in all places and at all times for Your praise and glory. Breathe on us, holy Spirit; ignite our hearts with Your love, grace, and mercy that we may be  one with You!

John Cooper

From Formation to Action

From Formation to Action

I came to Ignatian Spirituality via the 19th Annotation of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.  The 19th Annotation and my Jesuit based studies for a Certificate in Spiritual Direction at Spring Hill College have formed who I am.  I came as I was, with prior life formation already in place.  Although new formation has occurred, I also bring to the equation and to the Catholic Church to which I returned who I was and who I am.  One of the prior formation events that I brought to the table was my prior formation in nonviolence.  I became a conscientious objector to war at about 20 years old and left the Catholic Church to join an historic Peace Church.  I did not know at that time that Vatican II allowed for such matters of conscience.  In my studies of Ignatian Spirituality I have found links to nonviolence and social action.  See note 98:

(098)

Eternal Lord of All Things

Eternal Lord of all things, in the presence of Thy infinite goodness, and of Thy glorious mother, and of all the saints of Thy heavenly court, this is the offering of myself which I make with Thy favor and help. I protest that it is my earnest desire and my deliberate choice, provided only it is for Thy greater service and praise, to imitate Thee in bearing all wrongs and all abuse and all poverty, both actual and spiritual, should Thy most holy majesty deign to choose and admit me to such a state and way of life[1]

 

The bearing of all wrongs, all abuse, and all poverty is the heart of a nonviolent lifestyle.  Seeking to align our personal desires and discerning our choices only for God’s service and praise is the heart of Ignatian discernment.

Although some might attempt to change who they are to fit the constituency of a particular organization, Church, government, or group in order not to offend that group, or to be popular, the giving of the self (kenosis) to live only in the love and grace of God requires one consider what is the most loving thing to do and what will bring greater glory to God regarding one’s own birth, formation, life, burial, and resurrection.  To be popular, approved of, to value in essence riches, honor, and pride is diametrically opposed to the discernment which leaves one absolutely free to choose and do only what God wants and do what brings God greater glory.

The third degree of humility of which Ignatius speaks allows for one’s recognition of particular gifts, although not for one’s own conceit, pride, and vanity, but for service and praise to the Lord our God. See note 167:

(167) The Third Kind of Humility

This is the most perfect kind of humility. It consists in this. If we suppose the first and second kind attained, then whenever the praise and glory of the Divine Majesty would be equally served, in order to imitate and be in reality more like Christ our Lord, I desire and choose poverty with Christ poor, rather than riches; insults with Christ loaded with them, rather than honors; I desire to be accounted as worthless and a fool for Christ, rather than to be esteemed as wise and prudent in this world. So Christ was treated before me.[2]

 

Fr, Joseph Tetlow has this to say about the Third Degree of Humility:

The lover in this case is made greater by love. The Beloved chose to empty himself, taking on the ways and characteristics of a servant. He did not mind being told that he was seriously mistaken about God and the people. He did not mind being considered mad. And his way led to great suffering and death. The person who wishes to be meek and humble as Jesus was can say to the Father honestly, “Treat me as you treated your own Son.” Such a prayer has nothing to do with negative self-image or despising the gifts of the Spirit. On the contrary, heroic love is meek and humble, but it is also glorifying. Just look at what happened in the end to Jesus of Nazareth.[3]

 

It is possible one might be considered a little crazy, a little radical, and that one may be viewed simply as mistaken, but sometimes one’s particular gifts may not perfectly fit the spiritual needs of others.  In this case, it is better to let the Creator deal directly with the creature. In the end, all will be well.

In my case, I am not led to accept everything as is in the Catholic Church.  I am somewhat of an activist who desires change in some areas of the Church, like Women being Deacons, like Communion shared especially with non-Catholic mates of members, like something being done about the sex abuse scandal, like perhaps a married Priesthood, like a commitment to non-violence in Catholic cultures all around the world.  No more war. No more Catholics killing and bombing fellow Catholics because Catholics will be encouraged not to kill at all. I am feeling the most loving thing to do, and what will bring greater glory to God, is to not accept everything as is in the Church and try to “fit in,” but to promote Ignatian Spirit led change and improvement in the Church.  I have been able already to effect some minor changes.  I don’t think I am being prideful; I think I am being realistic that this may make me looked down upon by some.  Good.  I have made some mistakes already on this path, and I am sure to make more, but I am willing to submit to correction and supervision and to realize that the time may not be right yet for such changes.

I am writing this essay as part of my discernment process concerning what to do with my CSD (Certificate in Spiritual Direction) degree.  I am led back to one of my Consolations without prior cause, which was to write a book which is now titled Let God In: One Ignatian Journey, and is soon to be published.  For Consolation without prior cause, see note 330:

(330)

God alone can give consolation to the soul without any previous cause. It belongs solely to the Creator to come into a soul, to leave it, to act upon it, to draw it wholly to the love of His Divine Majesty. I said without previous cause, that is, without any preceding perception or knowledge of any subject by which a soul might be led to such a consolation through its own acts of intellect and will.[4]

 

My consolation without prior cause was to write this book and to promote Ignatian Spirituality.  I think I need to stick with that consolation for now, and to wait to see what happens and where these matters lead.  If other consolations arise, and are like water dripping on a sponge, I remain open to considering them.  If they splash like on a rock, then no.  Getting too many things going, too many balls bouncing at once, could be thoughts of my own after the consolation without prior cause and such thoughts need to be carefully discerned.

Pray for me,

John Cooper

Tuscaloosa, AL

 

[1] The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Louis J. Puhl, SJ translation

[2] Spex, 167

[3] https://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/the-spiritual-exercises/the-third-degree-of-humility/

[4] SpEx, 330

Grace and the Middle Voice of Spirituality

Grace and the Middle Voice of Spirituality

 

As a little cradle Catholic boy, I think the first prayer I learned was “Bless us oh Lord, and these thy guests, which we are about to receive, Amen.”  I thought I used to hear that around our farmhouse table.  I always wondered, for a long time, “When are the guests coming?”  We did not have any guests yet, but we were about to receive them.  They never seemed to come.  We called this saying Grace.  Those who know me know that I am very hard of hearing.  I began to wear hearing aids in my early 40’s.  I don’t think God disparaged my prayer of blessing the way I understood such a “simple” prayer.  Actually, the words are “Bless us oh Lord, and these thy gifts, which we are about to receive, Amen.”  Either way, the prayers we do, whether “simple” “verbal” payers in the Mass or at your worship service, or even deep contemplative prayer, should never be disparaged.  God receives us where we are, and loves us as sinners as he gazes upon us as a mother gazes upon her nursing child at her breast, or as an eagle takes its babies under its wings.

Whether we are “saying” grace before we eat or are receiving the “gift” of the Eucharist, we are all in God’s grip of grace.  Grace has a lot to do with Spirituality of any type, whether one is Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, etc.  Even Atheists have to face Grace, although they may deny it or call their spirituality “mindfulness.”  Still, grace is involved.  My intention for linking the two, grace and the middle voice of spirituality, comes from my studies of Ignatian Spirituality during the Fall Semester of 2018 as I study for a certificate in Spiritual Direction via Spring Hill College.  One of the statements that got my juices flowing is from the book, Candlelight, by Susan K. Phillips.[1] Dr. Phillips states:

Linguistically, we have lost the middle voice that lies between the active and passive voices.  In using the active voice, one speaks of initiating an action.  In the passive, one receives the action that another initiates.  … In the middle voice, the person actively participates in the results of an action that another initiates.[2]

 

In Spirituality in the terms of the English language, one thinks of contemplation as “active” contemplation where we mentally think thoughts about God, Scripture, etc. actively in our minds.  We think this contemplation can slip into what is called “passive” contemplation whereby we are supernaturally given thoughts to think by God, or perhaps given no thoughts at all and slip off into a thoughtless state of unknowing, or a state of union with the Divine Presence.  What if we thought of spirituality and contemplation in terms of the middle voice, which we do not possess in the English language?  This spirituality would be a participation in a gift that God has already given to us, a gift of Grace.  Referring to Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address at the looming of the Civil War where Lincoln urged Americans to heed the “better angels of our nature,” Phillips states:

 

It is, rather, siding with the “better angels” of a person’s nature, his or her middle-voice willingness to participate in God’s grace.[3]

 

I think back to the creation story, where God made mankind in His image and likeness, placing in mankind a Divine essence, a spirit in man that was the action of God, that gave mankind a receptor, a sixth sense, or a taste for God.  This image came from God and is set to autopilot back to God upon our death.  It is in fact, eternity set in our being.  It is an act of God’s grace with which we should long to participate, in a middle-voice way, the action that another, God in us, in whom we live and breathe and have our being, initiated.

Another book we have read in our studies, Moving in the Spirit, by Richard J. Houser, S.J.,[4] refers to this grace and essence of God within us from an Eastern point of view:

The Western or Pelagian model is clearly at odds with Scripture, misunderstanding the origin of our inner desires and movements toward good.  In this model all inner experiences moving toward the desire to love and serve God and others are seen to flow from ourselves apart from the grace of God within us.[5]

 

Below is a wonderful illustration that pictures what Hauser is speaking of:

 

Scriptural Model: Self in God:

Houser Divine Union cropped[6]

God initiates: Self Responds

Grace and the middle voice of our participation in the gift of the Spirit that God has initiated are absolutely critical to beginning to understand Ignatian Spirituality.  Let us keep the illustration above in mind as we proceed.

Hauser states:

Those of us living with this Western understanding of the self and God will never appreciate the all-pervasiveness of the presence of grace in our life. … they do not acknowledge that the initiative toward the good comes from the presence of grace.[7]

 

Ignatius was a product of the period in which he lived.  The Western Church as a whole may have understood grace in a proper manner but errored in some parts of the Church concerning Pelagianism.[8]  An attempt, at the Council of Trent, in the general period of Ignatius’ lifetime, tried to solve the problem of Pelagianism, or semi-Pelagianism.[9]  Ignatius himself speaks of the grace that is crucial in Ignatian Spirituality:

 

When one is in desolation, … He can resist with the help of God, which always remains, though he may not clearly perceive it.  For though God has taken form him the abundance of fervor and overflowing love and the intensity of His favors, nevertheless, he has sufficient grace for eternal salvation.[10]

 

Even from the very start of Ignatius’ Exercises, it is very clear that the crucial understanding is that it is God who first calls us and it is God’s grace that first initiates the acts of God in us, in which we participate.  The human Spiritual Director is to keep his or her “teaching” short and allow God’s grace to work directly with the directee.

The one who explains to another the method and order of meditating or contemplating should narrate accurately the facts of contemplation or meditation.  Let him adhere to the points, and add only a short or summary explanation.  The reason for this is that when one in meditating takes the solid foundation of facts, and goes over it and reflects on it for himself, he may find something that makes them a little clearer or better understood.  This may arise either from his own reasoning, or from the grace of God enlightening his mind.[11]

This may remind us of one of God’s first intentions for mankind, spoken of us in the Garden of Eden, that we are to be dressers and keepers of the earth, which by extension would include each other.  We are like a tree, planted in the garden, planted by the water.

 

7“But I will bless those

who put their trust in me.

8 They are like trees growing near a stream

and sending out roots to the water.

They are not afraid when hot weather comes,

because their leaves stay green;

they have no worries when there is no rain;

they keep on bearing fruit.[12]

 

We are to bear the fruit first nourished by the water of God’s image and Spirit, given us by God, not of our own doing, it is by grace.  We are created by God’s grace, we are sustained by His grace, and we are renewed by His grace, bear fruit by His grace, and are saved by His grace for good works.  We take of God’s grace, of his sustenance, and give back the fruits of His grace.

 

In the season of fruition, there may be the experience of enhanced night vision.  Suffering may render the world dark, and certain forms of suffering include losing the sense of God’s presence.  …  We are to bear fruit by loving our neighbor, setting the captive free, giving food to the hungry, sheltering the homeless, loosing bonds of injustice, clothing the naked.  By doing so, we will be light in the darkness, well-watered gardens, and pilgrims guided by the Lord.[13]

 

As we consider our years, what we have done, and what we have failed to do, we think back to the Sabbath, also initiated by God in the Garden, when God rested.  Are we not called to rest with God too, to rest our egos as he works by grace in us?

 

28 “Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke and put it on you, and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit; and you will find rest. 30For the yoke I will give you is easy, and the load I will put on you is light.”[14]

 

Are we not called to give up our ego, to reject the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, to be a tree of life, to bear fruit for our fellow humans, for God, and all the angels and saints?  We are pilgrims on this earth.  We are just passing through. We are aliens to earthly kingdoms and citizens of a Kingdom to come.  This Kingdom lives in us, a Kingdom for and in which we participate by bearing fruit, by grace, the middle voice of spirituality.

So… Why should we be concerned about this matter?  See:

 

3I thank my God for you every time I think of you; 4and every time I pray for you all, I pray with joy 5because of the way in which you have helped me in the work of the gospel from the very first day until now. 6And so I am sure that God, who began this good work in you, will carry it on until it is finished on the Day of Christ Jesus.[15]

 

Try doing a computer search of an online Bible, using the words, “Christ in you,” and you will soon find that any spirituality we may claim to possess was because God began the work in which we participate.  In other words, I may serve my friend, or I may have been served by my friend, but I also take service in a middle-voice way as I share actively in the service that another, God, first initiated.  He placed His Image in us, and continues to sustain this image.

Even a little Catholic boy or girl can receive and participate in this grace.

 

John Cooper

[1] Candlelight: illuminating spiritual direction, by Susan Phillips, Morehouse Publishing, 2008, ISBN 978-0-8I92-2297-8 (pbk.)

[2] Ibid, p. 168

[3] Ibid, p. 169

[4] Moving in the Spirit, Becoming Contemplative in Action, by Richard J. Hauser, S.J., Paulist Press, 1986, ISBN 0-8091-2790-3 (pbk.)

[5] Ibid, p. 26

[6] Ibid, p. 27

[7] Ibid, pp. 26,27

[8] https://www.britannica.com/topic/Pelagianism

[9] http://pauliscatholic.com/2009/07/canons-of-the-council-of-trent/

[10] The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, a New Translation Based on Studies in the Language of the Autograph, Ludovico Puhl, S.J., Loyola Press, 1951, ISBN 978-0-8294-0065-6. P. 143, – 320. 7. (emphasis mine)

[11] Ibid, p. 1, 1. 2. (emphasis mine)

[12] https://www.bible.com/bible/431/JER.17.GNBDK

[13] Candlelight, p. 172

[14] https://www.bible.com/bible/431/MAT.11.GNBDK

[15] https://www.bible.com/bible/431/PHP.1.GNBDK