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Joe Laramie, S.J.July 30, 2021
Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

A cannonball blast cripples a young soldier. He falls to the ground in agony, his knee shattered along with his dreams of glory. In the weeks ahead, his leg heals. More dramatically, he picks up the pieces of his broken ambitions and God reorders them into something far more meaningful—a life lived Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam, “for the greater glory of God.”

Five hundred years after that cannonball blast, we honor that man, Ignatius Loyola, as a visionary and saint on his feast day, July 31. Today so many of our lives have also been broken in ways we did not expect. As we work to find our own ways forward, how can this saint guide us? Let’s reach into the toolbox of his Spiritual Exercises for three Ignatian gadgets to help us.

1. “Pray for the grace.” In the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius asks us to always start with an intention: What am I hoping to get out of this experience? What do I want? This could be a deeper knowledge of Christ or an awareness of my own sinful habits. Or it might mean God’s guidance to finish an important project or to be patient with my crazy boss.

Before heading off to school, work or summer camp, we can pray for that grace: “Lord, here’s what I’m asking for today...”

Today so many of our lives have also been broken in ways we did not expect. As we work to find our own ways forward, how can this saint guide us?

2. Look back on this day with gratitude (and sorrow). St. Ignatius invites each of us to take ten minutes at the end of each day to prayerfully reflect on what we’ve experienced and done in the day. The prayer asks us to start with gratitude: “Give thanks to God our Lord for the benefits that I have received.”

It then urges us to ask: What graces has God given me? Maybe a quiet cup of coffee in the morning, or a good conversation with my spouse at dinner. Note these and “give thanks to God.”

Then, “ask for the grace to know my sins and rid myself of them.” What didn’t I do well today, through my own impatience and selfishness? Yes, the guy at the lunch counter was rude to me, but I was rude back. Name these failings; then “ask pardon of God for my faults and resolve, with his grace, to amend them.”

Try this practice for two weeks and see if you are more grateful, more peaceful, and less selfish.

St. Ignatius invites each of us to take ten minutes at the end of each day to prayerfully reflect on what we’ve experienced and done in the day.

3. Be “indifferent.” You might think: Wait, aren’t Jesuits hard-charging, steely eyed, always striving for the magis? But in Ignatian spirituality indifference is not the same as apathy. St. Ignatius writes, “It is necessary to make ourselves indifferent to all created things... we ought to choose only that which is more conducive to the end for which we are created.”

Ignatian indifference urges us to focus on discovering and pursuing what God thinks is important, not on our own little agendas and preferences. How is God leading me and calling me now, today, in this moment?

My kid’s soccer coach is late for everything and it bugs me. But, she’s a great coach and my kid seems happy—so maybe I need to let go of my frustration. What is for God’s greater glory?

“The end for which we are created” is to “praise, reverence and serve God our Lord and by means of doing this to save [our] souls.” Keep that end in mind at the beginning and in the middle of our lives, too. Give God the glory and the rest will fall into place.

 

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