St. Ignatius and His First Principle and Foundation

Today the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of the saint who has had the greatest influence on my spiritual growth – St. Ignatius of Loyola.  As I have shared before many times, doing the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius was one of my most life-changing experiences.

The first consideration Ignatius invites those doing the Spiritual Exercises to spent time with is titled the First Principle and Foundation.   Ignatius viewed the Principle and Foundation as the key to the spiritual life, a statement of human meaning and purpose that could be accepted by people of any faith.   I have come more and more to believe he is right.

I encourage both those who I have directed in the Exercises and anyone formed by Ignatian spirituality to go back to the Principle and Foundation from time to time.   And I would encourage you to make today’s feast of Ignatius by doing the same.

There are many translations and interpretations of the Exercises.  Let me share two here.  First, is  David Fleming’s rendition 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.

Here is another, this one by Sister Marie Schwan, CSJ, who ministered for many years at the Jesuit Retreat House in OshKosh, a place I now call home.

Lord my God, when your love spilled over into creation You thought of me.
I am from love, of love, for love.
Let my heart, O God, always recognize, cherish, and enjoy Your goodness in all of creation.
Direct all that is me toward Your praise. Teach me reverence for every person, all things. Energize me in your service.
Lord God may nothing ever distract me from your love…neither health nor sickness, wealth nor poverty, honor nor dishonor, long life nor short life.
May I never seek nor choose to be other than You intend or wish. Amen.

As you sit with the Principle and Foundation, you might ask yourself:

What difference does it make in my day-to-day life when I remember that the goal of my life is the praise and service of God?

In what ways do I tend to control my life and treat it as my possession rather than to embrace it freely as God’s gift to me?

Who or what do I need to surrender in order to entrust my life freely and completely to God?

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


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