Today we celebrate the Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola. I first learned about St. Ignatius when I began going to Spiritual Direction . If you have not read about his life I encourage you to do so. In Spiritual Direction I was encouraged to do the 19th annotation which is the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius in daily life. I started in September of 2011 and finished in July of 2012. It was quite a commitment to daily prayer for at least an hour a day and meeting with your Spiritual Director once a week to review my experiences in praying the exercises. Through all of it I came to love prayer more .Entering into imaginative prayer was new for me and it took some time to be vulnerable and open to that way of praying .
St. Ignatius also developed the rules for Discernment of Spirits as he struggled through many decisions big and small on his journey of faith. The 14 rules of discernment have guided me through the many invitations and calls to serve the church, my family, and my community. My favorite rule is make no changes when in times of desolation. If you forget any of the rules never forget that one, because when you are down or troubled you want to stay the course and wait for consolation to return so you do not make a big mistake.
St. Ignatius also showed me how to notice things, everyday ordinary things. I started to notice the beauty of creation, where God is everywhere, in the flowers, in the beautiful tapestry of the sky, in the cool breeze across my face. No matter how bad a day it has been I can always find God by noticing. God is in all things, St. Ignatius was very clear about that!
St. Ignatius also believed and lived that everything we choose to do should be for the greater glory of God. He taught me how to be indifferent to accept God’s will and surrender my will for God’s plan. It’s not easy when you think you are in control and you want to hold on to your ideas of how things should be. I still struggle with it but at least I am more self-aware now when I make that mistake.
I titled this blog “All is Gift” because that is the one of the best things I learned from him. Even in difficult times if we trust in God’s plans for us it is a Gift. Every encounter with another soul is a gift, every drop of rain, every mountain we climb to holiness , every disappointment, every victory, it is all Gift.
One more thing before I close, St. Ignatius instructs us that we should pray the Examen prayer everyday and never miss it, even if we miss our other ways of praying. I have done that since I began Spiritual Direction, it helps me notice things in my day, it helps me notice what God wants me to notice, it guides me to see my faults and strengths and where I need his grace going forward. It also keeps me grounded, helps me to apologize when I have been wrong, lifts me from laziness, and keeps me from thinking too much of my self . St. Ignatius taught me I have accepted this after many years that I am a “loved sinner.” I will continue to make mistakes but God loves me anyway and he will continue to take be back in his loving arms and give me infinite chances .
St. Ignatius started the Society of Jesus. the Jesuits in the 16 th century.To this day the Spiritual Exercises and his Rules for discernement are still being used and studied by not only Catholics but many denominations to this day. Thank-you St. Ignatius for taking to bed after your cannonball injury and studying the Lives of the Saints and the Life of Christ while in rehab and choosing to follow that path that led you to share your pilgrimage towards holiness with all the world.