Let us find God in all things
Year by year, the world over, Jesuit priests and brothers come together on 3lst July to celebrate the feast day of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. The community here at Farm Street is no exception and as Jesuits we are always delighted to share the Eucharist and this celebration with you all and we thank you for being with us this evening.
The Pamplona war wounds in the form of a shattered leg and a lengthy and very painful convalescence were the start of a life changing experience for St. Ignatius. Recently I have been researching the early history of Mount Saint Mary's College in Derbyshire and I was intrigued to find that today's feast in that school, for a number of years, in the early twentieth century, was referred to as 'broken leg day'!
St Ignatius' journey of making a total lifelong commitment to praise, reverence and to serve Almighty God is well documented in his collection of notes made over the early years of that life changing experience. Those notes came to be known as the Spiritual Exercises.
What do you want? Choose life! Do everything for the glory of God are the themes of today's readings at Mass. They give us a beautiful miniature portrayal of the mind and heart of the saint whose feast day we celebrate this evening.
I am sure that many of you here this evening will have more than a passing acquaintance with what is often referred to these days as Ignatian spirituality. Good guidance in the Ignatian way of life and prayer is continually on offer at the Mount Street Jesuit Centre and at a number of centres, Jesuit and non-Jesuit, the world over.
Ignatian prayer has been very much alive throughout the month of July. For the last thirty days many people have been introduced to the mind and heart of St Ignatius though the shared experience of people from very different backgrounds who are trying to walk the pathway to God. These people have offered their experiences in the “31 days of St Ignatius” series through the Jesuits’ Pathways to God website based here at Mount Street. An estimated 21,000 people have visited this site in the last month.
The Ignatian way of living and praying is, like the title of the novel 'A many splendored thing'. I would like to share with you one insight of St Ignatius that has always been meaningful for me and I hope will be helpful for you.
St Ignatius wrote many letters, many of which we possess. Time and again in most of those letters he would remind the reader "to find God in all things". All things - note the language. Activity and involvement either in the material world in which we live or in the world of the spirit to which we aspire are for St Ignatius, of equal value in the eyes of Almighty God, if the activity in question is the correct thing to be done at any particular time.
It may come as a surprise to many people when they realise that the Almighty is just as much honoured and glorified, for example, by driving the car to work, by taking children to school, by cooking a meal, by having a holiday, by helping someone in need as by being present at Mass or spending time saying one's prayers.
Probably during his theological studies St Ignatius would have come across the famous dictum of an early Christian martyr, St Irenaeus the bishop of Lyon in France. The great war-cry he proposed for his diocese "Gloria Dei vivens homo” - The glory of God is that we live our lives. St Ignatius speaks about doing all things "for the greater glory of God, Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam," AMDG - the acronym that all Jesuit pupils write at the top of their daily homework. St Ignatius might have come across the saying attributed to that great early Christian theologian, St Augustine of Hippo, 'Laborare est orare -working is praying.”
St Ignatius would certainly have noted the words of St Paul in the first letter to the Thessalonians: "to pray without ceasing".
In the final pages of his book of Spiritual Exercises St Ignatius shows us his total commitment of every fibre of his being to the Lord. His prayer begins: "Take O Lord and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding and my wiII......” He manifests his commitment to the reality of finding God in all things.
So how can this wonderful reality of finding God in all things or in St Paul's language of being able to pray without ceasing, become part of our daily living? It is easy to reflect on these insights of Saints lrenaeus, Paul and Ignatius but how can we bring them down to earth? How can we make them tangible reality so that they actually become part of our daily living? May I offer you two simple ways that can help all of us to walk along this authentic pathway to Almighty God?
At the beginning of the day on awakening give the Lord a couple of seconds and say: "Lord God, today is your day". Then quite simply get up and get on with the day and so long as I am not consciously breaking his commandments then every single thing I do is giving honour and glory to God, I am finding God in all things.
At the end of the day make a quick review and in the presence of the Lord, say 'thank you' for the nice things that have happened and 'sorry' for any faults or failings and then perhaps, I could ask myself : Where did I find joy today ? Where did I find sadness? What do I ask from God? St Ignatius put very high store on this evening exercise which he called examen.
On the Jesuit Pathways to God website mentioned earlier I discovered the following quotation: "Between the difficult passengers and the bad drivers sometimes my days can be very stressful." A bus driver finds God in an ordinary working day.
Let me finish with a story that is attributed to St lgnatius. One day in the Jesuit house in Rome St lgnatius was sweeping the corridor when a young aspirant who wished to join the Society of Jesus put to him the following question. "Father Ignatius, if you knew that the world would come to an end in fifteen minutes time what would do? Ignatius leant on his broom, looked down his nose at this young man and replied: "I would go on sweeping the corridor".
May the prayers of St Ignatius of Loyola, on this his feast day, inspire all of us to keep on sweeping the corridor and to strive to find God in all things.