Giving Someone a “Plus Sign”

I mentioned previously that during my retreat I used Louis Savary’s book, The New Spiritual Exercises in the Spirit of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, for my prayer material.  The prayer exercises and text of that book produced many powerful religious experiences and both broadened and deepened my understanding of Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises.

As I continue to bemoan the lack of real dialogue on so many issues on which there is disagreement in our society, I am reminded of something Savary writes in the introduction of his book.

Ignatius always taught his fellow Jesuits that, when presented with ideas or behaviors that are strange, unusual, questionable, or appear to be wrong, they should always begin by trying to find what might be good, useful, or inspiring in that person’s ideas, rather than to criticize them or condemn them outright.  Jesuits call this approach giving someone a “plus sign,” that is, to look first for the positive in what is being offered and to assume the person offering it wants the best and is operating with good intentions.

Although Savary’s purpose in writing that was to ask his readers to give him a “plus sign” in their reaction to his book, this seems to me a good approach in our general dealings with each other.


2 thoughts on “Giving Someone a “Plus Sign”

  1. Just read TM’s commentary on Gaudium et spes, recruited by Tom Burns of Burns & Oates in G.B. and published only in England in REDEEMING THE TIME, in which Father Louis nicely references Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J. twice in the body of the text.

  2. “By all means, do what you can . . .”

    Though our Lord’s message is delivered gently, much is requested. . . And his promise, “I am with you always,” is a truth reinforced, “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:30).

    In time, I pray the recent Supreme Court decisions that affect contraceptive use and marriage will help heal and bridge divides that separate too many of God’s children. Our personal God given gifts, passions and energies could be offered up towards so many more worthwhile and pressing family, community, regional, national and worldly issues than worries about what happens in the bedrooms of others.

    “As I continue to bemoan the lack of real dialogue on so many issues on which there is disagreement in our society, . . .” – Susan 07-02-15

    Morgan Guyton, director of the NOLA Wesley Foundation – United Methodist campus ministry at Tulane and Loyola University in New Orleans, LA, posted a respectful and balanced article (Are you open to an LGBT-affirming Biblical perspective, 06-26-15). You can google: – mercy not sacrifice – to access his blog and article. . .

    May longings and prayers converge resurrecting days when ‘proactive’ purpose once again follows discussion and consensus (similar to early Christian communities) supplanting the malaise of clinging to ‘mine’ and ‘reacting’ too often to life unfolding. . .

    Susan continually encourages a new evangelism of the faithful (of all faiths). After the latest Supreme Court decision, as the Roman Church restated truths and teachings – and EWTN equated the significant decline in Episcopal membership to their tolerance and acceptance of divorce, contraception, female ordination and gays & lesbians, John 21: 15–17 came to mind. John recounts Jesus questioning Peter three times, and with each of Peter’s answers Our Lord replies, “Feed my lambs.” Then, “Tend my sheep.” And finally, “Feed my sheep.”

    I am sure most of us know a number of couples who have used contraceptives, have one or two children of their own (family planning), have adopted one or more children – and/or – remain active in charitable organizations that are devoted to children in need.

    Paul VI in ‘Humanae Vitae’ proclaims that the marriage act has both unitive and procreative aspects, which cannot be separated. “[A]n act of mutual love which impairs the capacity to transmit life . . . contradicts the will of the author of life.” We acknowledge God’s design by “respecting the laws of conception,” which allows us to be “the minister of the design established by the Creator.” Therefore, artificial birth control, sterilization, and abortion “are to be absolutely excluded as lawful means of regulating the number of children.”

    Could not a case be made that the family described above is doing as much, if not more, to feed the Lord’s lambs than the parents of four or five. God’s plan will never be ‘one size fits all’ . . .

    Further in ‘Humanae Vitae’ the Holy Father tried to ‘thread the needle’ by offering natural family planning as the only acceptable alternative to artificial contraception – while promoting self-discipline and chastity, whereas artificial contraception ‘could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards.” Paul VI further warns there is also the danger that a husband might come to regard his wife as “a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires,” since artificial contraception removes any need to be aware of his wife’s biological cycles.

    How many Roman Catholics, with a clear conscious, could (should) pledge complete fealty to the Pope and his bishops? Under specific and limited circumstances – contraception, divorce, remarriage and the Sacraments, and celibacy need to be presented for discernment and discussion to the guidance of the Holy Spirit of more than only the teaching office, Cardinals, select Bishops and the Pope (discussion also including claims of papal infallibility).

    As urgent is the need to reinvigorate the reconciliation of Eastern and Latin Catholics, Protestant and Jewish faiths (which also resonates with many of no denomination) envisioned as Vatican II convened? The history of doctrine sheds light on the wisdom of the early church and their practice of council to discern and direct the influence of the Holy Spirit. The past 50 years seem to have offered more ‘lip service’ to ecumenical reconciliation than building up of God’s Kingdom on earth as His Son initiated, taught and commissioned His followers.

    Has most everyone not been so commissioned? How long the time before an aging rural America is without pastor or priest to tend to Our Lord’s flocks?

    Easter morning (2013) when a 4.9 mile drive to sunrise Mass became an unexpected (Holy Spirit inspired) 229 mile ‘woman of Jerusalem journey’ to a small Lutheran parish to help a mother and daughter (whose husbands were scheduled to work) serve Easter brunch before the Worship Service and Eucharist, became an ecumenical moment of celebration that helped initiated the community’s first inter-faith service and picnic later that summer. Imagine the blessings of ecumenical reconciliation and multiple Masses / Services offered on the weekend that would allow the Eucharist to be celebrated and shared – and shift work, family gatherings, scheduled sport commitments and much more to coexist.

    Most Catholics and a majority of non-Catholics are respectful and inspired by Pope Francis’s papacy. Last year he courageously initiated an Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on topics related to the family and evangelism that will be followed by an Ordinary General Assembly this fall.
    Should not the laity lend its support and voice to Pope Francis’ vision to openly and transparently discuss the topics from last fall’s synod, the agenda topics for this fall – and hopefully to revisit the doctrines (lightly discussed or passed over from Vatican II) that divide the faiths?

    We continue to celebrate the feast days honoring the martyrs of the early Christian church who gave their lives to spread the Good News. Have we not been continually called in similar fashion, a call that is more urgent now, to build up and bring about God’s Kingdom on earth?

    All Christians are members of the Body of Christ, a body that, with each passing year, more closely resembles the temple elite during Jesus’ ministry and ‘their’ vision of a lost, sickly, and sinful flock that only ‘their’ guidance will save from itself and a selfish secular world that is relentlessly attacking their position and authority.

    Within His flock, as brothers and sisters, we are also called to lay down our lives – for each other. Through the Gift of Original Sin, and with humanity as our birthright, God became Man – and through Jesus’ teaching, His passion, His crucifixion, His resurrection, and His New Covenant, each new life is filled with God’s unconditional love and Gift of the Holy Spirit – at birth, our earthly existence is not a lifeless soul awaiting Roman Catholic Baptism and the conferring of the Holy Spirit to bring life to our soul. Christian confirmation is not a ‘coming’ of the Spirit, but our commissioning of the Spirit.

    The Holy Spirit dwells within while guiding and inspiring our thoughts and actions during the trials, tribulations, accomplishments and celebrations of our earthly journey.

    “But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.” (Galatians 3: 25). With our God given voice and the Spirit within, we are encouraged to “By all means, do what you can . . .” to, “Feed my lambs.” “Tend my sheep.” “Feed my sheep.”

    The ‘new evangelism’ requires listening, silence, prayer, discernment and – at all cost, our voices be heard. . .

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