Monday, January 30, 2006

St. Ignatius' Autobiography, Part 4: The Lure of Romance and the Allure of God

He had been much given to reading worldly books of fiction and knight errantry, and feeling well enough to read he asked for some of these books to help while away the time. In that house, however, they could find none of those he was accustomed to read, and so they gave him a Life of Christ and a book of the Lives of the Saints in Spanish.

By the frequent reading of these books he conceived some affection for what he found there narrated. Pausing in his reading, he gave himself up to thinking over what he had read. At other times he dwelt on the things of the world which formerly had occupied his thoughts. Of the many vain things that presented themselves to him, one took such possession of his heart that without realizing it he could spend two, three, or even four hours on end thinking of it, fancying what he would have to do in the service of a certain lady, of the means he would take to reach the country where she was living, of the verses, the promises he would make her, the deeds of gallantry he would do in her service. He was so enamored with all this that he did not see how impossible it would all be, because the lady was of no ordinary rank; neither countess, nor duchess, but of a nobility much higher than any of these.

Nevertheless, our Lord came to his assistance, for He saw to it that these thoughts were succeeded by others which sprang from the things he was reading.

I must admit that I’m a romantic at heart. I remember having many such dreams myself as a younger man. But when it came to dating I was shy, and my insecurities got the better of me. Even when I was fortunate enough to fall in love, and be loved in return, still my insecurities would cause me to question whether it was possible for me to be loved by such an extraordinary woman. I nearly married once, but other ambitions drew me away for a time, and the opportunity was no longer there when I returned.

Now, eight years a Jesuit, it seems, anyway, that God had other plans. Yet, still, even now when things get a little rough, or I meet someone whom I attracted to, my imagination can get the better of me. What if we were to fall in love? What if I were to marry this or some other woman who fell in love with me, and I with her? My romantic side tells me how wonderful it would be! Yet, soon the Lord brings other thoughts. It is as a Jesuit that I have found peace in God’s will for me, though such moments bring me face to face with what I have given up for it—that deep love with one other, children of my own. I also realize that if someone were to fall in love with me, they would be falling in love with Mark, the Jesuit, the Mark who by means of the commitment I have made is freer to strive to be all that God wishes me to be. To abandon that for someone’s love, even if I also shared that love for her, would to become somebody other than the person she fell in love with. Indeed, at least insofar as I understand my vocation at this point in my life, it would be to ignore God’s will for me and choose to be something other than my best self. Such mysteries are the stuff of all vocations whether to religious life, priesthood or married life. We hold to our commitments so that we might someday be all that God wishes us to be.


Blogger ShadowMayhem said...

Also I would wonder if they were falling in love with Mark or the idea of who they THINK you are. Because too a degree, everyone of us religious/clergy and layity alike, all of us put 'faces' of ourselves forward sometimes intentionally sometimes not. Or we only percieve the best parts of someone and fall in love with that, not really knowing all of them because of some reason they or we are "untouchable".

4:05 PM  
Anonymous Jesuit John said...

Just some thoughts...
Humankind was created in the image of God. For the millennia before the birth of Christ, this meant understanding what was revealed as God the Father, the God of creation and providence. The Father is the wellspring of life and goodness, the procreative animator who sets up a covenant between Himself and His people, to the exclusion of others. The family images this in its procreative activity and exclusive family bonds. The work of the family is to continue God’s work as they “Increase and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it, and rule over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and all living creatures that move upon the earth.” The love of a wife for her husband and a husband for his wife is one of reciprocal love, freely given and freely received and the bond between the two is stronger for the love and the procreation that follows.
With the revelation of the Son, a new image of God is revealed. It is one that heralds the Reign of God in which marriage will be obsolete. Christ’s own celibacy is an outcropping of this, making real what is to come. It is the kind of love that does not demand reciprocity and offers forgiveness and redemption in the face of the most sinister and horrible rejection. It is a love that lives in solidarity with the lonely and the barren. It is a love that defies understanding.
Just as the mother of Jesus bridges the chasm of the revelation of God the Father and the new revelation of God the Son, she also bridges the procreative nature of the first and the celibate nature of the second as she bears in her womb the child, Jesus, yet retains her virginity, even in her marriage to Joseph. With the co-eternal nature of the Father and Son, both vocations have always been present and praiseworthy, if not understood.
OK, maybe I am just rambling here, but thinking about it this way helps me, at least. I am a Companion of Jesus and I take comfort in knowing my life closer models that life of Christ...

1:56 PM  

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