Principle and Foundation

Today the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, one of the saints who holds a very special place in my heart. When I visualize the Communion of Saints, Ignatius is one of those who stand front and center.

St. Ignatius has been a very influential figure in my spiritual growth. One of my most life-changing experiences was doing his Spiritual Exercises.

A foundational element of the Spiritual Exercises is a reflection called the Principle and Foundation, which is prayed with very early in the Exercises. There is little better I can offer you on this day than an invitation to spend some time reflecting on wha Ignatius considered to be the key to the spiritual life; for Ignatius the Principle and Foundation epitomizes the entire message of the Spiritual Exercises and contains a skeletal summary of the inner journey.

Here is David Fleming’s translation of the Principle and Foundation:

The Goal of our life is to live with God forever.
God, who loves us, gave us life.
Our own response of love allows God’s life
to flow into us without limit.

All the things in this world are gifts from God,
Presented to us so that we can know God more easily
and make a return of love more readily.
As a result, we appreciate and use all these gifts of God
Insofar as they help us to develop as loving persons.
But if any of these gifts become the center of our lives,
They displace God
And so hinder our growth toward our goal.

In everyday life, then, we must hold ourselves in balance
Before all of these created gifts insofar as we have a choice
And are not bound by some obligation.
We should not fix our desires on health or sickness,
Wealth or poverty, success or failure, a long life or a short one.
For everything has the potential of calling forth in us
A deeper response to our life in God.

Our only desire and our one choice should be this:
I want and I choose what better leads
To God’s deepening his life in me.

Happy Feast Day to all of my Jesuit friends and all of us formed by Ignatius’ vision.