To Fight and Not to Heed the Wounds

In celebration of our fifth anniversary, we’ve invited our dotMagis bloggers to reflect on the individual lines of St. Ignatius’s Prayer for Generosity.

St. Ignatius's Prayer for Generosity: To fight and not to heed the wounds

In his book Open Mind, Faithful Heart, then-Cardinal Jorge M. Bergoglio (now Pope Francis) describes the temptation to work only for results:

Vainglorious is the person who prefers to be the general of defeated armies rather than a simple soldier in a squadron that continues to fight on even when it has been devastated.

Seldom in recent memory has a line captured me the way that this line did. How right he is, I thought, that too often I measure my work by the obvious signs of success, especially the praise of others.

“Vainglory” is the transliteration of a Latin phrase, vana gloria, “empty praise.” Mother Teresa saw through this tactic of the enemy, reminding us that we ought not seek success, but rather faithfulness. More recently, the inimitable Greg Boyle, SJ, reflecting on his work with former gang members, pointed out that “if our primary concern is results, we will choose to work only with those who give us good ones.”

Ignatius did not live in the age of metrics, cost/benefit assessments, SWOT (strengths/weaknesses/opportunities/threats) analyses, and so on. But he intuited something radical at the heart of the missionary life: that authentic discernment rests not primarily on foreknowledge of success, but rather on the willingness to go exactly where Christ leads us. For him, it was the cross. Am I willing to go there too?

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About Tim Muldoon 110 Articles
Tim Muldoon, Ph.D., is the author of a number of books, including The Ignatian Workout, Longing to Love, and Living Against the Grain, as well as many essays. He is the Director of Mission Education at Catholic Extension Society.

10 Comments on To Fight and Not to Heed the Wounds

  1. I have this prayer above my workspace and read it frequently as it speaks deeply to me. This series of reflections has been incredibly powerful. Thank you to all those who have contributed for there has been much food for thought and I look forward to the remaining posts. Blessings.

  2. I don’t know….I don’t think Christ leads us to the cross. This is where I would say I love my faith, but think it is in need of reform. Catholicism has for many decades conveyed a stoic austerity and “holiness through misery.” Christ came to give us abundant life and Jesus went about healing everyone and blessing people. Nowhere do we see Jesus zapping people with illness or sending them to die. Life, sin, evil in the world present many opportunities for “crosses”. It is not God’s will that we suffer and it’s not God’s will that we neglect, abuse or ignore ourselves and be doormats or go to our crosses, but we live in a fallen world. Remember to always love your neighbor AS YOU LOVE YOURSELF. Both are necessary and important. I would say one without the other is impossible.

    • Stephen, to follow Christ does not mean signing up to be a masochist. It means signing up for whatever love demands, and often love demands that we accompany people who suffer. Unwillingness to suffer means being unwilling to really love.

      • Right, my point is that suffering just happens as a part of living in this world and living in relationship to others. It’s not God’s will. God never leads us to a cross. Crosses are given by the world. Some a mystery….but God is trying to free us, help us, heal us as we see in Jesus. We need to be doing things and teaching things that help that process along for ourselves and others. Meaning help to heal, liberate, free people. Not imply or make suffering a gift from God.

  3. I have a disease known as cerebellar ataxia – the slow deterioration of the cerebellum. I know without the suffering that I go through I would not be the Catholic person I am.

    • God bless you and heal you and help you. I just hope you know that this is not sent by God. I suffer from depression, anxiety and digestive disorders. I do not believe I am a better person or Catholic because of it. I think God brings good out of evil and sickness and yes, I have compassion for the suffering.

      • I have ADHD. It’s not a serious disease, it isn’t life threatening, but it can be difficult to be unable to focus on necessary tasks without medication. Yet the difficulties I go through in enduring this have made me a better person, because I now understand what it means to do the difficult task, even when you don’t want to. I feel more sympathy for those who suffer from truly devastating conditions, not just minor annoyances like mine. So I think the small amount of suffering I go through is a gift from God. Our souls are what matter in the end, and some physical suffering on the way to that end is not such a bad thing.

        • I assure you illness, disease and disorders are NOT in any way, at all, ever, never, from God. If you are a father, imagine giving you child a disease….contaminating them or poisoning them or disabling them in order to teach them a lesson or make them a better person. Is that the God you worship? Scary. If you have more compassion or understanding….that is a gift from God. That is God blessing you in the midst of illness. Illness he did not cause.

  4. I agree with Stephen – I have complex Post-traumatic Stress disorder and Borderline Personality disorder due to childhood neglect, and I don’t believe that God meant me to be like that. I believe it saddens him just as much as me (maybe more) that I was shattered to pieces instead of becoming an emotionally whole person. I believe I was meant to be stable and consistently able to help others, not needing so much help myself.
    I don’t think my disorder has made me a better person though. It has probably brought me closer to God, out of sheer dependency and need, but I am hard to like and sometimes hard to deal with, and that is partially due to Borderline.
    Back to the prayer though: I think that Ignatius probably thought about him and people like him when he wrote this prayer, people who help others. That he thought of the “fight” as a fight in support of others. Which makes me sometimes feel a bit excluded, because my most intense fight is against my own inner demons. But then – from Gods point of view, it probably doesn’t make much of a difference. He doesn’t look at someone and think “Ah, there’s Dick, fighting hard in helping people with mental health problems, I like that” and then “And there’s Karen whom he supports, I better don’t waste my time one someone with so little potential.” He cares about all fights of all people.

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