Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Finding God, Made Easy

Saint Ignatius' Autobiography, part 58

(Comments by DeCamara, who wrote down the Autobiography as Ignatius dictated it) That same day he called me before supper. He seemed to be more recollected than usual. He made a kind of protestation, the sum of which was to show the intention and the simplicity with which he had narrated these matters. He said that he was certain that he did not tell me anything beyond the facts, and that he had frequently offended our Lord after he had begun to serve Him, but that he had never given consent to a mortal sin. His devotion always went on increasing, that is, the ease with which he found God, which was then greater than he had ever had in his life. Whenever he wished, at whatever hour, he could find God. He also said he still had many visions, especially that in which he saw Christ as a sun, as mentioned above. This often happened to him, especially when he was speaking of matters of importance, and came to confirm him in his decision.

I have to admit to being a bit jealous when I read this. It seems as if Ignatius has reached a point in his life, as he’s narrating this story, in which it’s easy for him to find God. I don’t exactly need to have visions like Ignatius did, but some days it seems like I can’t find God at all! My prayer is like a stalled car that refuses to start up again, and the oncoming traffic of distraction easily overwhelms me. Yet, I find it helpful to acknowledge that Ignatius is saying this after having just had a close look at his past. And, having done so, he can see the progress he’s made.

Sometimes when prayer is dry, or when everything seems to be going wrong and I can’t see God through the mess, I have to remind myself to look back. Despite the fact that I have always been a “religious person,” my awareness of God in my life has not always been so acute. I can look back to my childhood days and wish for a return to that innocent awareness of the wonder of God in my life, but I can’t capture that again. Nor would that be desirable, because, well, I’m an adult! However, I can console myself by looking back on my early adult life when I was too busy doing things for God—and, in large part, honestly, for myself—that I frequently failed to see God, much less communicate with God.

Things are different now, even despite my frequent frustrations. It all began to change when I made a conscious decision to start asking God what to do with my life, and really waited for God’s answer, not my answer, what seemed like what God would want. That led me in the direction of realizing God’s desires for me, and eventually to choosing to explore priesthood and religious life. All the lessons I’ve learned since then—in my novitiate years, in my studies, in my ministry work as a Jesuit, have all occasioned changes in the ways in which I experience God in my life. God is easier to find in the everyday for me than was the case 10 or 15 years ago. I am less prone to forget God in my busyness, and more apt to remember God in my quiet moments. I sometimes can mistake the frustrations of my spiritual life as a step backward, but what I realize when I take the time to reflect is that the frustrations come because I’m constantly trying to move forward, to make my relationship with God better. But that progress is made only in fits and starts because, like Ignatius acknowledges, no matter how far I progress, I sadly still manage to offend God in my sinfulness. But it helps to be more aware of that too.


Blogger angelmeg said...

Right now I am in that waiting phase. I am waiting for God to let me know what I should be doing with my life in the future. I pray and I do the daily tasks that are demanded of me by my station (husband, children, gradual school) and I wait. I know that when the time is right I will know that God is leading me to the next thing I am supposed to do, but it can be very impatient, this waiting and laying fallow when I have been so active for so long.

somehow though, at this point this seems like the right thing for me to be doing, even if I can't feel God's gentle nudge every day.


9:18 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

It is a weird-good thing to be more sensitive to our sinfulness. Sometimes we catch it before we do something singularly awful, other times the need to avail ourselves of the Sacrament of Penance becomes urgent for a change.

The idea is to make progress, even if the rate of that progress varies mildly/wildly.



8:04 PM  

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