Tuesday, January 31, 2006

St. Ignatius' Autobiography, Part 5: Imagine

In reading the Life of our Lord and the Lives of the Saints, he paused to think and reason with himself. “Suppose that I should do what St. Francis did, what St. Dominic did?” He thus let his thoughts run over many things that seemed good to him, always putting before himself things that were difficult and important which seemed to him easy to accomplish when he proposed them. But all his thought was to tell himself, “St. Dominic did this; therefore, I must do it. St. Francis did this; therefore, I must do it.” These thoughts also lasted a good while. And then other things taking their place, the worldly thoughts above mentioned came upon him and remained a long time with him. This succession of diverse thoughts was of long duration, and they were either of worldly achievements which he desire to accomplish, or those of God which took hold of his imagination to such an extent, that worn out with the struggle, he turned them all aside and gave attention to other things.

My mind is often filled with a rapid succession of ideas of many worthwhile things I could do, write, or propose. At that moment, such ideas can so capture my imagination that they seem a direct inspiration of God. “What’s to prevent me from doing this now?!” I ask myself. Then reality intrudes, and I remember all the immediate responsibilities that need to be taken care of. There are papers to grade, classes to prepare for, an event to attend. My brilliant idea will just have to wait. Maybe I should write it down, so I won’t forget it? Or maybe I shouldn’t write it down? If it’s an inspiration from God, won’t it stay with me, not be forgotten? If only it were that simple.

Suppose that I should do what St. Ignatius did? Pause, to think and reason with myself. Turn aside, and give my attention to other things. And, later, recall these ideas when it is time to pray, and ask: is this something that God wants, or that I want?


Blogger Jennifer said...

This is something we have to ask, over and over, isn't it? Separating the will of God from our own will so that they can become one again.

4:36 PM  
Anonymous Pedro Juan Cavallero said...

hmm, this stands in stark contrast to what we say in Communion and Liberation. Don Giussani's way is to say that all desire is one--there is no "good desire" and "bad desire". There is only one dynamic, one force that propels the human person to want more and more, that keeps us restless. The point is that ultimate fulfillment comes only with Christ, wherein the method and the goal coincide. Man is, according to Don Giu, "Tension towards the Infinite." God reveals Himself through our desires, through the reality that we live in. Betraying our own desires is not the way to God. It is the way to stagnation. Desire for God is not supernaturally inspired. Rather, it is the condition that we are born into naturally. We naturally hunger for God.

Did not Jesus ask his disciples, "What do you want?" I attend a Jesuit college, and I always hear the Jesuits talk about Jesus as the model of perfect love, of compassion, all that. Someone we should imitate. This is all well and good, but what about Jesus as the fulfillment of our desires? As the ultimate answer to the mystery of life? Not "answer" in the finite, ideological, or Baltimore-Cathechism sense, but "answer" as the resolution of a drama, a drama that does not end but at the same time can be fulfilled.

So I never ask the question, "Is this what God wants, or what I want?" I want a lot of things, and God put this desire in my for a reason.

6:20 PM  
Anonymous Pedro Juan Cavallero said...

email: causa_belli@hotmail.com

8:04 PM  
Blogger Mark Mossa, SJ said...

As Jennifer implied, I think sometimes our desires are God's desires, and sometimes we have to do a little interior work and prayer in order to make them one. Knowing how off track my desires can be at times, I would never presume that my desires are always the same as God's desire for me. Discernment is required to achieve what I most desire--that my desire is the same as what God desires for me. Maybe, but not quite in the same way, this is what Pedro's saying as well?

10:52 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

I think also saying that our desire propels us and that the perceived object of our desire can impede us are two different things. I can lust for something that is not good for me...yet the lust can clue me into the underlying desire, which ultimately is a desire to be intimate with God.

And there were no need to disentangle our will for earthly fulfillment from God's will for us...why would the Lord himself have prayed, "BUT Thy Will Be Done" in Gethsemane? Why the BUT?

3:49 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Thanks for keeping these Ignatius autobiography posts on you blog, Mark. I'm trying to read one a night and they're really intersting.

4:16 AM  

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