A reader wrote and asked: How does Ignatian spirituality address the human need for happiness and fulfillment of the whole person?
Dear Ignatian Friend,
Thank you for this question! While I know I do not have all the answers nor the space to give as thorough an answer as I would like, I do want to offer a few ideas on how I believe Ignatian spirituality helps us address our human need for happiness and fulfillment.
- God loves us first. We do nothing to earn God’s love. It is freely given to us.
- God raises within us our desire for God. Often, this manifests itself in the restlessness we feel or in a feeling like something is missing in our lives.
- We are built for God. Or as a dear friend of mine says, “We are like donuts. We have a big ol’ hole in us that only God can fulfill.” The core of our identity and our ultimate fulfillment is found in being loved by God and accepting this love.
- We choose to act on the desire for God or not. Do we acknowledge this yearning and restlessness, or do we attempt to numb it, stuff it down, or fill it with something/someone else?
- God calls and we respond. This call and response is the ongoing act of creation in our lives.
- Our response to seeking to fill the “big ol’ hole in us” is not a one-time deal. However, once we begin on our path to relationship with God, we often find a deep peace in response to our restlessness that helps us stay on our path to growing in God.
- God—out of love for us—continues to raise new desires within us that call us into a deeper relationship with God. These desires awaken us to our unique contributions to God’s work in the world today. As Fr. Joseph Tetlow, SJ, says in his article The Fundamentum: Creation in the Principle and Foundation, “God raises in us desires to do the next good thing.”
- Our ongoing response and choice is, as David Fleming, SJ, states, “what better leads to God’s life deepening within me.” (Draw Me into Your Friendship) Of all the choices put before us, which one most leads us into a deeper relationship with God?
- By continuing on the path of hearing God’s call and responding to it, we take another step in deepening our relationship with God, which brings us a sense of fulfillment, purpose, and peace.
I hope this offers some help in answering your question. I know I did not address the myriad of things that get in the way of us growing in relationship with God. Perhaps that is a post for another day or another blogger.
I do look forward to hearing what our dotMagis community might add as responses to your question so that we might both learn more. I am on this journey still with you!
What a wonderful string of comments. I find the examen to be another aspect of Ignatian Spirituality that touches our very human desire to be happy. When I stop to check-in with myself mid-way through my day, I begin by expressing gratitude and this alone often bolsters my happiness factor. During the examen (some great resources on Ignatianspirituality.com) I look at my feelings. Among those might be happiness, and if it’s not there, I can ask God about it.
Trying to share our love for God sometimes meets such persistant resistance that the whole scenario feels just too heavy.
I forget that God does the heavy lifting. I forget that, indeed, the whole conversation belongs to God.
Like so many people, I love Saint Peter. I love how Caravaggio shows him on his cross looking at the nail that is about to be hammered into his hand as two other people prepare to raise the cross that will place him upside down.
Your wonderful article today redirects me to the facts I need to shoulder the “burden” in joy. Thank you.
Great tips. Love the bit about the rocket; if you trust, you do not worry; and sin as spiritual cholesterol.
I guess I start with the Principle and Foundation and particularly Active Indifference. I am very happy and tremendously relieved that I don’t have to worry about anything. If I fall into the hands of a loving God and leave the driving to Him, then whether I am rich or poor, healthy or sick, successful or failing, even in consolation or desolation, I can ultimately be at peace and happy that God is with me and that I am doing right now whatever He has placed in my life to help me achieve my greatest happiness, being with Him forever.
In addition, Ignatius has given me all sorts of neat stuff to help me on my journey, a spiritual survival kit. There’s “seeing God in all things,” aka a GPS to God. And so that I am never bored, a spiritual chess game called For the Greater Glory of God. There are even the spiritual equivalent of a video game where I have to discern the spirits in my life. What’s not to enjoy and keep me busy till He blows the ending whistle?
Becky, you said so much of depth and worth in such a short space that I am amazed. Thank you for addressing this fundamental human question with such grace. You have given me much to reflect on and, hopefully, put into practice in a real way in my own life. Thanks!
I find the ideas in your blog so true to life. Thank you. As you say, we are all journeying ever more deeply into the mystery that is God’s love. I recall an old man reflecting on his long happy marriage, and he described falling in love as holding onto the tail of a rocket: you don’t know where it will take you but you do know you must not let go! I think the journey towards our fulfilment and happiness in God is also like holding onto the tail of a rocket; the more we respond by trusting in divine love and living in the present moment, the more secure our grip becomes on our rocket to God. Another old man once said if you worry you do not trust, and if you trust you do not worry. Worry, like all sin, is spiritual cholesterol: it obstructs the flow of God’s love to us and through us to others. We all have a rocket to God where happiness and whole person fulfilment is found: and I think we can all find it by simply learning to trust in divine love; hold onto it, don’t let go, smile, enjoy the journey, and wave to others as you fly on by!