I thought that the “Almost” in Fr. Jim Martin’s The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything was only a clever word in catchy title, but it turns out that the book really doesn’t cover everything. The author had to drop a whole section on some of his Jesuit heroes for space reasons (St.Aloysius Gonzaga, St. Jean de Brébeuf, and St. Alberto Hurtado, to be exact). And he wishes he had written more about the Ignatian concept of agere contra. He explains:
The term means “to act against.” Ignatius often advises that when you find yourself confronting an “unfreedom” you should act in the opposite manner so as to free yourself. For example, when I was in the novitiate, I told the novice director that last ministry I wanted to do was hospital work, because I was afraid of the sights and smells. So he talked to me about agere contra, and of course, assigned me to work a hospital! This helped me to move past some of my unfreedoms in that area. But the key here is discernment. You have to ask yourself: Is this simply something I do not desire for good and healthy reasons? Or is it an unfreedom, and should I use some agere contra to, in a sense, move past it?
Fr. Martin explains all this in a very useful reading and discussion guide for the book. Download it here. If you’re interested in Ignatian spirituality, get yourself a copy of the Jesuit Guide.