One of St. Ignatius’ primary aims is helping us to grow in the interior freedom necessary to make good life decisions. But that statement alone is an insufficient explanation of what Ignatius is concerned with, as it doesn’t address the obviously question of what it means to make good life decisions.
The context in which life decisions are made is key. For Ignatius, the context is established by the First Principle and Foundation consideration, which I wrote about the other day. The first line of the Principle and Foundation, recall, states the human purpose: we are created “to praise, reverence and serve God.”
The Kingdom Exercise that opens Week 2 of the Spiritual Exercises, provides further content as to what it means to serve God, that is, by hearing and responding to God’s invitation to us to participate with him in his plan of salvation, to co-labor with Christ in the building of god’s kingdom.
The aim of the Ignatius, therefore, is not helping us to make good decisions in accordance with our own goals, or our personal articulation of values, but rather in accordance with God’s will and God’s standards. Pedro Arrupe once observed that Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises provide “a method that does not limit us to any particular option, but… opens up for us a sweeping vision embracing many possibilities, to the end that God himself, in all his tremendous originality, may trace out our path for us.”
In other words, they seek to equip us to discern how we are being called to follow Christ. Thus, understanding and embrace of call – and the movement to response – is the central feature of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Everything else is in service to helping us to develop the interior freedom to respond as God is calling us to respond – and to respond from a place of freedom, not out of compulsion.
What we are looking for is a state of mind of being completely available and willing to serve God; Ignatius wants to help move us toward that ability – to more and more respond, as Mary did, “I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” To more and more respond as Jesus did, “not my will but yours be done.” To respond as Samuel did when he heard God calling him, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.”
You might take some time today reflecting on what inhibits your ability to answer God’s call as Mary and Samuel did.
Note that this is a the sixth in a series of posts in celebration of the Ignatian Year, which began on May 20.