My 84-year-old father, a former Air Force fighter pilot who traveled around the world, now spends his days mainly confined to his recliner. His liberty to get up and walk to the refrigerator, let alone travel or even run an errand, is gone.
He has lived in the same room for three years now, yet every time he enters it he asks if that is the place he is staying tonight. The voice and memory that used to regale us with stories again and again can only cryptically be understood.
Many things he sees on TV become instant sources of confusion to him, as he’s unable to understand they are not real or happening hundreds of miles away.
About the only choice my father has left to make for himself is whether to eat or not.
The only possession that has any real value to him is his walker, which enables the 20 or 30 steps a day his legs can still muster.
Liberty, memory, understanding, all his possessions, and most of his will have been taken.
I see this day in and day out and am baffled at anyone who would freely choose such a state in life. Most of us, if given the choice, would likely spend everything we had to prevent living in such a state or would even prefer death if God would be so generous.
And yet, somehow, in his Contemplation to Attain Divine Love, in reflecting on the unfathomable love and generosity God has shown him, St. Ignatius is brought to a point of practically begging God to have such a life as my father’s. It is not out of guilt over sin, nor is his petition coming from a place of self sacrifice and desire to experience suffering. Instead it comes as nothing other than a response to being loved; to knowing he is so infinitely loved by God that nothing short of his liberty, memory, understanding, possessions, and even his entire will would meet Ignatius’s own desire to respond in kind. To give all of his identity was the only way Ignatius could express the, “Thank you, Lord. I love you, too,” that was in his heart.
Perhaps Ignatius realized that at some point, for most of us, whether freely given or not, all we think comprises our identity will be taken from us anyway, as it has been from my father. Perhaps Ignatius realized that the only true identity any of us have is as one who is loved by God.