R e f l e c t i o n
Ignatius understood that he was standing on Holy ground.
He took off his shoes and he knelt.
Today, as we celebrate St Ignatius feast day, you may wonder about ‘Saint’ and
think ‘I am just in the pews, his way above anything possible for me’.
But this was not Inigo’s way.
We have many experts about everything, even in Theology, so much so that a
simple confidence may be lost to believe that we too can have the intimacy with
God that we desire. Ignatius advises the director accompanying the pilgrim “For
it is not so much knowledge that fills and satisfies the soul, but rather the
intimate feeling and relishing of things.” (Sp. Ex:1)
‘Inigo’ as he was known as a young man, recounts his story with God in a series
of prayers that he called ‘exercises’, a progression of steps, a series of unfolding
dispositions that he learned as a ‘student’ in God’s classroom of love. They are
not for reading about but living through. Inigo’s path is experiential, lived, and
that is the wonderful gift, they are not for fitting into but becoming, discerning
where is God now?
We ask to open our hearts to ourselves, paying attention to the
shifts/movements that are arise, the simple feelings of irritation, hurt,
peacefulness, the ‘desolations’ and ‘consolations’. There are always voices,
nagging, corrupting, usually concerned with our self-image, but what is the after
taste, are you consoled or dejected? Pay attention, ‘listen, what is happening
now, where is God?’ Stay close, where is relish, the intimate feeling?
Let God be our ‘expert’… the director ‘should leave the Creator to work directly
with his creature, and the creature with the Creator and Lord.’ (Sp. Ex:15)
Ahh… what is your heart saying now?
To talk of prayer, we talk of the life-blood of everything. It is the conversation of
the spirit moving amongst us today, in each heart and in each particular way we
We are in times of disturbance in the church, which is healthy, much about the
functioning of the church body must change. But for the faithful, or for those
called to this, we want to know ourselves, we want to be known by God, we
desire the intimacy, the lived deep faith of our experiences to live on the path
which is God’s way.
Suscipe, Ignatius radical prayer, ‘Take Lord receive…’ reflects God’s breath
living in Ignatius. How intimate is this love, how close and tender. We can know
that the Shepherd does come for each of us, in our ordinary day, in our
brokenness. In each decision, in each moment surrendered.
Very early in Ignatius’s conversion, in fact on his recovery bed with his life
shattered, he was surprised to find unexpected thoughts, desires arising in him,
‘movements,’ that were not the usual, and he took notice.
We are capable of taking notice when we are broken. When we suffer we are
helpless but available, ‘what is the way out?’ we wonder. Ignatius’s self image
was shattered, his pain tremendous, the pathway he had expected for his life
blocked. A book describing the lives of Saints appears in his life, and now he
finds a roadmap, something that he may become. His heart is awake.
The initial chaos. Upward and downward forces, conflicting impulses, stains,
clots, dense marks that need to be removed, ‘Ask for the internal knowledge of
my disorders and the disorders of the world’ (Sp Ex. 62)
His (and our) relinquishment is neither easy nor comfortable. It is done in
response to a longing, a ‘call’. Ignatius falls into a kind of madness as he
encounters himself. Don’t we all when we so want to be different and yet we are
as we are? Slowly, in time, we can understand that this is exactly how we are
loved, not because of our mad ‘disturbances’ of gaining love by doing and
Ignatius says in modern language ‘pay attention’. Our days and our entire life
are filled with openings and closings, expanding and contracting, defending or
yielding. But now, in this moment, where is God? Where are you invited, what
strange and difficult part of yourself must you know and relinquish to be with
Discernment is to weigh these movements; which is from God; which is from
oneself? By discerning we learn indifference, to know our closed and
Preferences are about us.
In the darkness and night, we lose our way. At the same time, they allow us to
go far beyond ourselves and away from situations where we might stop
progressing: “Contemplate how the divinity is hidden” (Sp. Ex.196)
Many things will assault us, knock us to our knees, disable us entirely, but it is
here in our utter vulnerability that we find small or larger things of greater value.
We ask for the interior knowledge, where is God now, in us and in the world
around us? Is our heart beating…?
Caroline Coggins 26th July 2018
Caroline made the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius and spiritual direction training at St Beuno’s in Wales. She is an analytic psychotherapist, and a long-time yoga teacher in the Iyengar tradition. She is a convert to Catholicism and closely involved with St Canice’s Parish at Elizabeth Bay. She has experienced the power of Ignatian spirituality to form people, bringing those who are touched by it into a personal relationship with God.