I love the Jesuits. I’m quite outspoken about this love, in fact. I often refer to myself as a “Jesuette,” a Jesuit cheerleader.
I’ve always liked the idea of taking something on during Lent (in addition to giving something up), and this year, I decided to both give up Facebook and take on deepening my relationship with God. Given my deep love for the Jesuits, it comes as no surprise that when I decided to work on my relationship with God during Lent, I turned to a dear friend, who is a Jesuit. After hearing where I’m at with God and where I’d like to be, my friend lent me his copy of the Spiritual Exercises. To be honest, I was quite touched. For a Jesuit to lend his personal copy of the Spiritual Exercises — that’s a pretty big deal, at least to me. I know he did it because he’s my friend, but still.
I’ve been working through the exercises each day, and in a way, I feel as if I’m going through them with my friend, too. His notes in the margins, his underlining, his stars for emphasis all make me feel as if I am on the road to God with Ignatius, my friend, and myself.
My favorite passage so far has been the “Principle and Foundation,” which is the start of the Spiritual Exercises. It’s straight and to the point, and really, that’s why I like it so much. The passage also has particular relevance to Lent. The beginning speaks about our main purpose in life, which is to praise, reverence, and serve God, and goes on to say:
“The other things on the face of the earth are created for human beings, to help them in the pursuit of the end for which they are created. From this it follows that we ought to use these things to the extent that they help us toward our end, and free ourselves from them to the extent that they hinder it.”
It’s as simple as that: if something is helping us grow closer to God, then keep it; if it’s hindering our path to God, then get rid of it. All things in life must be held to this same test.
In a way, it’s like cleaning out a house: if we use it, keep it; if not, donate it. How much simpler our lives would be if we kept this standard in all things. How less stuffed our houses would be. How less crowded our minds would be. How much closer we would be to God.