Tuesday 14 July 2015
A hallmark of a true Jesuit, whether priest or lay member, is detachment. Lately, God has been leading me down the path, again, of detachment.
As some readers know, I have things in storage ruined and stolen. Then, I moved my few things,(mostly books and photos of a certain seminarian), into, the house of a friend of mine. After five weeks of feeling a bit "at home" and having some of my little red wagon of things around me, my friend's house incurred a flood. Many things were ruined, including almost 1000 USD worth of books.
As the basement still is wet after two weeks, I had to move my things back into storage, with the chapel things, which I had to wrap up and store.
Sitting in my little room, which is full of my and other people's stuff, (like a real English box room), I pondered the missionary like life of yours truly. Detachment includes, for me, at this time, not having the joy of my things, or the access to my smallish library. Loved icons were repacked, (the ones remaining), and off things went into storage, the great American symbol of our mobile and comparatively wealthy lifestyles. Of course, half the things belong to that certain seminarian in England, but I have not been able to afford to send him his own things.
Detachment means not grieving over soaked and ruined books, It means thanking God for trials regarding possessions. It means realizing that, really, all things belong to God and not me.
All I have are gifts from God, all.
A freak chemical accident of bug spray in the last storage facility ruined some things when the owner had to get rid of wasps. Scarily, the chemical ate through about six or seven boxes, destroying an expensive guilt given to me by the mother of a priest years ago,which I called my St. Therese's quilt, as it was covered with gold roses. That same mother just replaced that for me with a red one. God bless her.
She is as poor as I am and gave her only son to God to become a priest. One is blessed more in friendship than in goods.
But, that is what detachment for the Jesuits, and for us, is all about--priorities and making room in one's small heart for God.
Things cause worry, anxiety, time, space....the lack of things is truly freeing. I think some of the most peaceful days of my lift were those last four and a half years when I lived out of two suitcases and wandered about the West meeting fantastic people and praying.
I wonder is St. Paul had a knapsack or a large duffel bag. St. Ignatius carried practically nothing on his journeys, and was criticized by the Catholics in Paris for his rude clothing. (I look at my old jean jacket and wonder if I should carry this around....as my black jackets are not suited for outside work. I wonder what Ignatius would advise?)
The sadness which I offer to the Lord, and it is not a crushing sadness, is not to have a place where I can again set up the little blog chapel and have the books on shelves.
For now, God denies me this to teach me to be even more detached and to live in greater simplicity.
As I look at the beautiful Our Lady of Mt. Carmel statue given to me by a faithful blog reader, I think of St. Teresa of Avila's well-known story of losing all her things and her donkey in a flash flood when moving from one convent to another. This prompted her famous saying, "God, no wonder you have so many enemies the way you treat your friends."
She shares this incident with us to help us carry on.
St. Ignatius, like St. Paul, after his conversion, went off to pray with practically nothing. St. Ignatius' life was one of a series of trials, failures, abandonment, false accusations, set-backs, illness, and the working out over a relatively long period of time the form of his order. Sometimes people think saints figure out God's Will immediately, but each person has a different path and some are quite rockier than others. I suggest looking at the shorten biography of Ignatius here.
St. Ignatius' life was one trial leading to detachment after another. He worked out his call through the events of his life, as well as through the deep prayers and insights given to him by the Holy Spirit, which make up his Spiritual Exercises.
If St. Ignatius had been attached to home, family, status, fame, things, the order would never have been founded. If he has been attached to his own reputation or false peace among his members, the order would never have been founded.
Many times in his life, he had to decide to plunge forward with the insights given to him by God. He was even examined by the Inquisition, as was St. Teresa of Avila.
We can see that Ignatius, as well as other saints experienced many years of unsettled life.
What kept him focused was, simply, prayer and the evangelical counsels.
As lay persons, one can decide as well, like St. Ignatius, to follow Christ daily despite upsets, and to be obedient to the call of our lives, working out our salvation with the "stuff" of life.
Detachment creates peace and an inner stability.
to be continued..
While some orders have a day of discipline, by setting aside certain hours for prayer and some for work and necessities, such as eating and sleeping, the Jesuit must organize his own day according to his work.
In this way, the day of the Jesuit, especially in the missions, would resemble a lay day. And, if the Jesuit teaches at one of the many colleges or universities, his day would be similar to that of a college professor--with a huge difference.
I assume that most readers do not know that the patron of the Jesuit order is Our Lady Mary, under the title of Madonna Della Strada, Our Lady of the Road.
St. Ignatius chose this devotion to Mary as she interceded for him under this title. But, for me, this name of Mary evokes the peripatetic nature of missionary work and the movement of the Jesuit order across the world. In addition, such a patron would help a lay person realize, in his or her busy life, that Mary is with him or her on the way.
Like the popes before him, Pope Francis has a great love for Mary, especially Our Lady Undoer of Knots. But, this love of Mary has been a mark of the Jesuit order from day one. This image of Mary may be found in the Gesu, the main Jesuit Church in Rome. I was there twice.
Other chapels are dedicated to Our Lady of the Road, like the one at Loyola in Chicago.
Mary calls each one of us to follow her to Jesus, to take up a "way", a life, which includes prayer and discipline. One of the readings for the Feast of Our Lady of the Way, or Road (May 24th) follows. In this selection from Proverbs, the reader is exhorted to become wise, become just, and then, perfect.
St. Ignatius writes this: “We should not fix our desires on health or sickness, wealth or poverty, success or failure, a long life or a short one.” Detachment is the hallmark of any serious Catholic who wants to be a saint, but for the Jesuit who chooses poverty as a vow, it is a keystone of the approach to God, having nothing in the way for meditation or contemplation to bear fruit.
For the lay person, this ideal can be met by getting rid of superfluous distractions. So how can we tell if we are attached to something? Use the imagination and think of your life without this thing, person, place.
A lay person can easily find time to employ the Daily Examen of the Jesuits. I suggest what the Jesuits do, a morning and evening evaluation and reflection on your life. If one adds this to morning and evening prayer, it becomes a habit. And, as I noted in another post earlier this year, one can each this message to children as part of Confirmation preparation.
The examen is not merely an examination of conscience, a review of one's sins and imperfections, but a tool for discerning how the Holy Spirit is working in one's life. Discernment, from the gift of knowledge given in Confirmation,
Why this should be a daily examen is that one cannot perceive the movement of God unless one is "on" daily. Obviously, one cannot do the Examen outside of prayer. This would be falling into the new age technique of self-consciousness outside of God. When one does the Examen daily, it is a habit which is carried out throughout the day. One can stop one's self from sinning, see patterns of weakness and learn what is temptation and what is an imperfection.
In order to be in union with God, this habit of reflection, which only needs to take seconds after awhile, helps one through the purgation of the senses and the spirit.
Remember that it is God who gives the grace for such an Examen and the habit of reflection leading one through the Dark Night to Illumination. How wonderful is very young people can learn this early on in life.
Finally, the two daily examens end in gratefulness, in thanks for the graces of the day. Discernment is listening, and then acting on what is heard. The virtues of faith, hope and love grow daily through this easy method of daily conversion. One does not have to be self-absorbed to do this, and in fact, self-denial is really the reason for recognizing sin.
to be continued....