Halfway through The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius last week, I wrote that I was still too nervous to accept “the call” and do whatever Christ asks. Suppose he asks for something totally heroic — like moving to a leper colony — or too selfless for a flawed, still living-in-the-material-world seeker — like giving up plans for a renovated kitchen with stainless steel and granite countertops.
Not going to happen, my spiritual director then corrected me, and assured me. Christ doesn’t ask us to do what we don’t want to do. I reread the “the call of Christ” part in Kevin O’Brien’s “The Ignatian Adventure,” his guidebook to the exercises and yes, it was right there: “For from being imposed from above, God’s will — or God’s desire — for us is found in our own deepest, truest desires.”
What a relief.
Perhaps I can reconsider.
Then Crux readers further along the journey than me e-mailed to say they have accepted the call themselves. Far from its being scary and onerous, it has been transformative.
Ed e-mailed about the call to poverty of spirit (as opposed to material poverty), where Ignatius asks us to embrace “utter dependence” on Christ for our happiness and fulfillment. “This is my third time through the Exercises but the first time I have thought about what this means in an intensely personal way. And I must say it is joyful and liberating and transcendent to learn to ‘utterly’ depend on Jesus when there is fear, uncertainty, or just too many demands.”
Another e-mailer said it took her much time, first, to even understand that certain things she clung to in fact left her empty, and second, to actually be able to give those things up. “Whether that is granite countertops, clothes, bills, keeping up with society,” whatever. It also took years of commitment, patience, “spending time with God/Jesus in prayer, contemplation, reflection,” she said, “to begin to see God’s personal influence in my life. How no matter what injustice I may suffer, personal desires that go unfulfilled, uncertainty and setbacks, God is in control. Now I have accepted that and know that through His love I need not worry. My life and its value no longer depend on the whim or the exercise of power from others.”
Then there is “Do Not Worry” from the writings of the late Walter Ciszek, a Polish-American Jesuit priest and missionary in the former Soviet Union. He spent nearly 20 years in jail there doing hard labor or in solitary confinement.
God asked him “to let go of the reins and place myself entirely at his disposal. He was asking of me an act of total trust,” Ciszek wrote, “a complete gift of self, nothing held back. It demanded absolute faith in God’s existence, providence, his concern for the minutest details, in his power to sustain and protect me. It meant losing the last hidden doubt, the fear that God will not bear you up, like the eternity between anxiety and belief when a child first lets go of all support — only to find that the water truly holds him up and he can float, motionless and totally relaxed.”