A Lesson from a Homeless Man

Something to think about | The purpose of the Exercises is both freedom from inordinate attachment and union with God and God’s way. . .  Facing “disordered affections” and “ordering one’s life with God at the center” are two sides of the reality, much like a coin. The energy absorbed in compulsive, obsessive, disordered, fixated behavior is energy unavailable for authentic relationship with God, with one’s true self, with others.

I had studied and preached this twofold purpose for years, but only when I began to give the Exercises in Annotation 18 form to homeless men, did I learn how inextricably linked are disordered affections and ordered relationships. One very intelligent, well-educated 30-year old man, on the streets for several years, addicted to cocaine, alcohol and sex, sought me out as he attempted to find sobriety. His repeated failures at becoming sober without explicitly asking God for help finally led him to a spiritual path, to the Jesuits and to the Spiritual Exercises. He learned that he did not have the strength to sustain sobriety without daily reliance on God. He learned that he could not stay with the recovery process in a twelve-step program without daily prayer, without claiming his own goodness and purpose.

Eventually, after several years of sobriety and practicing the twelve steps, after growth in prayer through spiritual direction, he made the Nineteenth Annotation full Exercises. The Exercises helped him identify how embedded were those attitudes of mind and will and heart which had led him to addictive behavior on the streets. The Exercises opened him to the mystery of how deeply God loves him and wants him to join Christ in serving others. As he became freed from the external and internal disordered attitudes and behaviors, he was able, not only to retain employment, but was sought out for advancement. He was also able to sustain and commit to authentic relationship. His choices became more congruent with his purpose in life.

Bill Creed, SJ


  1. Thank you for this article. Our family is experiencing our genetic predisposition to addiction and the the terrible toll and fear which this dis-ease has on the affected person and their loved ones. Finding a way to introduce Ignatian Spirituality as part of a recovery process is challenging. This article encourages me to continue with the introduction and suggestions are always welcome.


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