Who knew that St. Ignatius, aside from being a battlefield warrior, a prolific letter-writer, and a spiritual genius, also left wisdom for financial situations? Of course, in his day and today, many would say that a man who came from the wealthier class only to deny it all and end up begging on the streets must not be too financially savvy. However, after a bit of moderation, Ignatius seems to have found the true key to financial success.
In practicing a daily Examen, I look back over my day to find God’s presence, both in the moments I missed it (Hindsight is 20/20!) and in moments I wallowed in it. Taking that same process, I can look back over my day to see what role money played in my experiences of consolation and desolation, moving me towards God or away from God. I see moments I was frivolous, buying that $5 chai tea that I could have just brought from home for one-tenth of the price. I see times I was protective of my money, not giving as generously as I could. I see times my heart soared to be able to help someone in need and share her or his relief. I see times I took for granted my security. I see times my fear of going without kept me from fulfilling a calling. And from all these moments, I learn.
I learn that just as Ignatius taught, God is very much in all things. In both my financial consolations and desolations, I can easily see when I accepted God’s invitation to grow closer to the person I was created to be and when I missed it, just completely missed it. And after doing my Money Examen again and again, I finally hope to get to that place of non-attachment that Ignatius speaks of in the Principle and Foundation: to see money as a gift only insofar as it helps me be more loving, and yet never to allow it to be the center of my life or prevent me from loving another. Financial success in the Ignatian world doesn’t mean to strive for wealth (or poverty), but to know when the pull of money is stronger than the pull of God on my heart.