I spent this past week at a hermitage doing a (mostly) silent retreat. The weather was gorgeous, the hermitage was comfortable, and I had brought simple but nourishing food with me.
After spending much of the first day or so walking through the wooded paths on the property where the hermitage was located, I found a tick behind my ear. My first reaction was a somewhat panicked, “oh no, Lyme Disease! What will I do?” I pulled out my phone and started looking up pictures of ticks on the internet, carefully saving the one I had found in a plastic bag.
Then I took a deep breath and went back to what I had been praying with earlier in the day: Ignatius’ First Principle and Foundation: “on our part, we want not health rather than sickness, riches rather than poverty, honor rather than dishonor, long rather than short life, and so in all the rest; desiring and choosing only what is most conduicive for us to the end for which we are created.”
I got a tick bite. Maybe I will get ill, maybe I won’t. (I actually probably won’t given that people in that area get tick bites all the time without incident and I got to the tick pretty quickly.) The point is Ignatius invitation is to strive for active indifference in all things, and that means recognizing that it wouldn’t be the end of the world if I got sick. God is in the sickness, as well as in the health. And everything – the things we label good as well as the things we label bad – “has the potential of calling forth in us a more loving response to our life forever with God.” (from David Fleming’s rendition of that Principle and Foundation).