Many years before St. Ignatius Loyola dedicated his life to the service of the faith, he was a battle-injured soldier, laid up in his family’s castle for months on end. Probably like many of us in these unexpected days of quarantining and illness, he never expected or planned for this life of solitude, let alone facing such an uncertain future. Ignatius’s experience offers us a challenge today.
Unlike us in the age of the Internet, Ignatius had little to read to occupy his mind. What he discovered, however, was that when he read or used his imagination to occupy his mind with tales of chivalry and knightly adventures, the aftermath left him empty inside. Coming back to reality reminded him of his injured leg and all that had been lost of his future. But upon reading about the lives of Christ and the saints, Ignatius’s thoughts morphed into something new and inspiring inside of him, a call to reflect those lives in his own and to more closely and intimately come to know Christ. Recognizing the difference in feelings left by focusing on the different desires of his heart, Ignatius came to name and slowly come to know the work of the Spirit of God and the Spirit Not of God.
Today, in our own quarantine, self-isolation, prayer, or even time of illness and recuperation, we can observe the effects of these spirits in our own lives. Think about the typical time we spend surfing the Web, following the links and stories that compound the negativity in our lives by giving more fear and disgust rather than useful information leading to action. Ask yourself, “How did I grow by spending time reading that news or those stories? What do I feel churning inside me in their wake?”
Then think about the time you read and reflect on the daily Gospel, the story of Ignatius or other saints, articles from this blog, or a new book on growing in your spirituality. Then step back and be aware of what is moving inside of you. Does the burden of the day feel a bit lighter? Do you have a greater hope of being able to move forward and being part of a greater movement of life? Do you feel new desires for growth calling to you?
If God is indeed in all things, times, and experiences, calling out to us to grow, to open our hearts, and to respond in love rather than fear, then God is most definitely in this time of global pandemic, offering each of us a challenge to discern how to spend our time and which spirit to follow to achieve God’s loving desires for us.