Saturday, March 19, 2011

Some Lenten thoughts

I was reading a book on Ignatian spirituality recently – St. Ignatius Loyola being the founder of the Jesuits. The discussion that stuck with me was the one dealing with our creature comforts. I have always found this fascinating in Ignatius. He was a big proponent of the virtue of ‘indifference.’ By this he means neither seeking nor avoiding, neither wishing nor refusing, anything in life that is not evil in itself. The list includes health, wealth, and even long life. As I recall, the author of the book was talking about reviewing our modern life, and the great range of comforts Ignatius could not even imagine. He asked the question, what is it that you really need, on your own personal list? What could you do without?

The question puts a new perspective on giving things up for Lent. It could be that we approach Lent not as doing a self-punishment, but rather as practicing what indifference really feels like. I am far from indifferent to everything I possess, including Ignatius’ original list. I know I feel rather strongly about most things I have, from my ability to think, to my car, to my lifestyle. I do realize that as good as they all might be, they have a way of confining me. Giving something up for Lent will help me practice freeing myself up for God. That is all that Ignatius wanted, this was the whole point. It was not about the things, it was about our disposition towards them. We are hanging on more tightly than we realize. Lent gives us a chance to test that a bit. And as I see it, it does not have to be a really big thing, it only needs to happen.

I also came across a saying of Mother Teresa that I do not recall hearing before. It follows nicely on the above. Here is what Mother Teresa said:

The fruit of silence is prayer,
The fruit of prayer is faith,
The fruit of faith is love,
The fruit of love is service,
The fruit of service is peace.

Join those thoughts to a little practice of ‘indifference’, and you arrive at what Ignatius was striving for, too. Increase in faith, increase in love, increase in actually doing things for others, increase in peace. That is a remarkable promise. Start it off as Mother Teresa suggests – with a little silence.
Have a good Lent. Be ready, really ready, for the triumph of the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus.

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