Pastor’s Corner for the Solemnity of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Year A, by Fr. Bruce Botha SJ

The feast day of St Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, is on Monday 31 July. One of the very first prayer reflections in his Spiritual Exercises he calls “The Principle and Foundation.” The reflection challenges us to examine who or what we have placed at the centre of our lives, and what we have or are building our lives on.


God, who loves us, gave us life, and wants to share life with us forever. Our own response of love allows God’s life to flow into us without limit. All the things in this world are gifts of 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 develop as loving persons. But if any of these gifts become the centre 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 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.


Note that the very purpose of our life is sharing life with God. God’s deepest desire is to be united with us. There are days on which we don’t feel very loving or loveable, days in which we feel completely unworthy of God’s love. We forget that we don’t need to earn that love, and we can’t buy it either. God loves us and wants to be united with us. That is the principle by which we should live our lives.


Ignatius then says all that is given to us by God are gifts that ought to help us to that end. Fleming beautifully describes these gifts as “presented” to us, as if God is saying, “Here, I’m offering you these things, these gifts. Use them in ways that help you love better.” We know humanity sometimes has the tendency to treat these gifts as things to be used carelessly. We can fall into the trap of loving the gifts of God, but not God. As the author Andy Otto says, “Do I substitute the good of creation for the God of creation?”


Then Ignatius calls us to an indifference before all created things, in other words, not clinging to one gift or another. We can see ourselves sometimes clinging to things like health or money or status or power as if they are what define our lives. David Otto gives a wonderfully concise definition of Ignatian spirituality when he says “Ignatian Spirituality is all about a recognition of God’s gifts, a loving response to these gifts, a freedom that doesn’t allow any particular gift to take the place of God, and how all our choices are informed by our life’s purpose…”  which is ultimately to know, love and reverence God.

Fr. Bruce Botha SJ