“Let us give thanks for the great treasure of Ignatian spirituality.”
Fr. David Ayotte, SJ, led us in prayer, but I didn’t hear the rest of it. I was captured by the image of treasure.
Have you seen the underground fortune in the pirate ride at Disneyland? When I was young, I could easily imagine that the underground cavern with its enormous pile of coins, golden objects, and jewels was real.
And now in my mind’s eye, it was Ignatian spirituality. No way could I carry away all of that vast treasure in a single trip! It was quite a repository, full of richness and golden light. The Examen! The Principle and Foundation! Prayers using imagination, and on and on! Yo-ho! How can I ever absorb it all?
In my imagination, I scooped up all the pirate booty that I could fit in two hands. I was overwhelmed with gratitude. So rich am I! Even though I can only carry away (and understand) a portion of this treasure, I am blessed. Beyond measure is God’s love for us, revealed in so many tenets of Ignatian spirituality.
Next thing I knew, I was thinking about earthen vessels. We hold this precious, valuable treasure, St. Paul says (2 Corinthians 4:7), in fragile pottery—easily cracked, broken, overlooked, or devalued. We seem to be the least valuable items in the treasure trove—but not to God. To God we are the treasure. I am loved beyond measure. It boggles my mind.
It’s also true that the pirate’s treasure in the thrill ride is fake. And obviously so. As I imagine those paste gems, I can almost hear St. Ignatius saying, “Watch out for evil cloaked as something good.” The temptations I encounter in life are not always obvious. They look awfully good at the outset because, “it is characteristic of the evil angel…to enter by going along the same way as the devout soul” (William A. Barry, SJ, in An Ignatian Spirituality Reader) and then to pull me out a side exit that is where the enemy, not God, wants me to go. “That is, [the evil one] brings good and holy thoughts attractive to such an upright soul and then strives little by little to get his own way, by enticing the soul over to his own hidden deceits and evil intentions” (Barry).
Yikes. When St. Ignatius discovered this principle, he made a promise with great determination to, if I might paraphrase, empty his chest of distracting trinkets.
My imagination looked again at the bogus hoard; I noticed that it is guarded by a skeleton. An image of hell from the first week of the Spiritual Exercises popped into my brain.
I snapped back to the present moment. I wondered what Father Ayotte had prayed about.
My God, you will give me all that I need. I need not hoard or fear. A handful of genuine treasure will see me through this day. And I know where to go to access the deep wealth of your love again. Wherever I am, I find you.
Living water, I float in a boat on your underground river. You are my hiding place.