St. Ignatius gives us Principle and Foundation
What is your philosophy of life? We all have one even though we may not be aware of it! These key words express the “Philosophy” of life of many: Materialism, Hedonism, Agnosticism, Atheism, and Moral Relativism.
In his consideration at that start of the Spiritual Exercises ( # 23) known as “Principle and Foundation”, St. Ignatius expresses clearly a philosophy of life in the first sentence: “Man is created to praise God, reverence God, serve God and by means of that to save his soul…” Put concisely, man’s existence must praise and glorify His Creator and culminate in the salvation of his immortal soul for all eternity.
The last part of Principle and Foundation has been termed classically as “Ignatian Holy Indifference”. By “Indifference” Ignatius does not mean apathy, a “who cares”, “I don’t give a darn”, “whatever…” attitude or interior disposition. On the contrary, “Holy Indifference” really means a total openness to the will of God in one’s life. In other words, whatever God wills for me, I will strive with all of the energy of my will and the proposition in my intellect to conform my will to His Almighty will. As the poet Dante expressed it: “In God’s will is our peace.”
With respect to Ignatian Holy Indifference, St Ignatius divides it into four separate categories. “Therefore, we must make ourselves indifferent to all created things, as far as we are allowed by free choice and are not under any prohibition. Consequently, as far as we are concerned, we should not prefer health to sickness, riches to poverty, honor to dishonor, a long life to a short. The same holds for all other things.” (Spiritual Exercises # 23)
To arrive at this lofty spiritual disposition requires extraordinary grace, limitless patience, as well as firm purpose and determination of the will. However, if understood, willed and assumed as an interior disposition of mind and will, the fruits of striving for “Holy Indifference” in one’s life are innumerable! Among the most important blessings is that of peace of mind, heart, soul, and an unreserved trust in God’s loving and constant guiding Divine Providence. As St. Paul reminds us, “If God is with us who can be against us.” Jesus Himself calls us to trust with the comforting words: “My Father has you in the palm of His hand and nobody can snatch you from His hand.” Let us offer a few examples of Holy Indifference taken from those who strived to live it out best--- the saints!
St. Alberto Hurtado joyfully works with the youth
First category: “Not to prefer health over sickness.” A modern saint, a Jesuit Chilean priest, SAINT ALBERTO HURTADO. Involved in a whirlwind of activity—Catholic action, retreats to young, vocational presentations, radio-ministry and an apostolate designed to help the poor of Chile, in his early 50s he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. When the news was brought to him by his Vice-Provincial as he lay suffering in a hospital bed, his response was, “Contento Señor Contento!!!” (Content Lord, content!!!!) “Now I will have time to prepare myself to meet my Maker!” Saint Alberto did not despise life; rather he loved life and lived it to the fullest! Through Holy Indifference he recognized God’s will clearly. If indeed his life was given to him by God as a gift, then God had a right to take his life when He best deemed fit. Now he is SAINT ALBERTO HURTADO living forever with God in heaven!
Blessed Jacinta Marto, Lucia de los Santos and Blessed Francisco Marto
Second category: “Not to prefer long life over short.” BLESSED FRANCISCO MARTO. He was one of the three shepherd children that Our Lady of Fatima appeared to from May 13, 1917 until October 13, 1917. Once Our Lady of Fatima made the announcement that both he and his sister Jacinta would soon die, little Francisco rejoiced! The reason for his rejoicing was this interior attitude of Holy Indifference. The abundant joy that overflowed from his little heart was motivated by his faith in God and ardent yearning to be with Our Lady of Fatima and Jesus in heaven forever. Indeed not long after Our Lady of Fatima’s apparitions both Francisco and his sister Jacinta died and were taken to heaven. They were both Beatified by Blessed Pope John Paul II, among the youngest saints in the Church Calendar! This attitude of Holy Indifference teaches us that what is important is not a long life, but a holy life. (Imitation of Christ, Thomas Kempis).
St. Francis of Assisi embracing the leper
Third category: “Not to prefer riches over poverty.” One of the common hallmarks of the saints is a detachment from wealth as well as material possessions in general. Religious, both men and women, make a vow of Poverty. Among the many saints that lived out intensely and authentically the attitude of holy indifference with respect to poverty was SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI. Being bred, brought up and raised by a father who was a wealthy clothes-merchant, as a youth Francis felt drawn to vanity and luxurious dress, the party-life and worldliness. Once converted, Francis gave up all he had and even had to cut ties with his father and with a total confidence in God said, “From now on I will say only Our Father who art in heaven..” The final proof of this detachment and total embracing of holy indifference was the famous encounter he had with the leper in rags and Francis still in his elegant clothes. Overcoming himself, Francis returned to the leper and exchanged his elegant and expensive clothes for the rags of the leper. From that moment on Francis lived out to the fullest extent Ignatian Holy Indifference renouncing all attachments to riches to embrace what he termed, “Lady Poverty”—the wife that he would be espoused to the rest of his life!
Fourth category: “Not to prefer honors over dishonors.” Humility indeed is a very difficult virtue to acquire in life. Once we think we have it, circumstances in life quickly prove the contrary! Nonetheless, the royal path to arrive at humility is through the narrow and difficult path of humiliations. Indeed humiliations humble us. Once again we find ourselves in the schema of Holy Indifference.
The Mystical Doctor, St. John of the Cross +
SAINT JOHN OF THE CROSS. With Saint Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross was called to the exceedingly difficult task to reform a decadent, declining and worldly state of affairs in the Religious life—specifically the Carmelite Order. Neither the men nor the women took a liking to someone rocking their comfortable boat of complacency! God chose these two saints to disrupt their comfortable status quo!
The anger which led to fury leveled against Saint John of the Cross was so intense that violent persecutions descended upon the saint like an unending tempest! John was kidnapped, locked in a small cell in a Carmelite convent. He was scourged, deprived of saying Holy Mass, barely given enough food to eat so as to survive, nor even a bath to take for hygiene purposes. Through Our Lady’s intercession St John escaped.
After all of this unjust abuse both verbal, physical, mental and spiritual, the great mystical doctor of the Church Saint John of the Cross, never uttered an unkind word against any of those who plotted and carried out against his person such unjust and uncharitable actions!
At the end of his life he was asked where he would like to end his days--- in a convent where he would be loved and appreciated to end his days or in the convent of a Superior that detested him. St John of the Cross preferred the latter so as to conform his life more and more to the passion, suffering and humiliations of his Lord and Master Jesus Christ.
In conclusion Principle and Foundation teaches us who God is, where we come from, where we are heading and how to get there. An essential component of Principle and Foundation is “Ignatian Holy Indifference”. A key means to attaining Holy Indifference is a constant and dynamic prayer life, which leads to a total confidence in God, which is translated and manifested in a total willingness to give one’s whole self to God as a sacrifice, offering and oblation.
Jesus in the Garden conforming His will to "Abba" Father
Of course Jesus is our Way, Truth and Life and best example. In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus battled with this Holy Indifference in His human nature and conquered with these words of total and absolute Holy Indifference--- conformity to the will of the Heavenly Father. “Father if it is possible, remove this chalice from me; however, not my will but yours be done.” (Mt. 26:39)
Mary's "yes" to God's will brought us the Savior.
May Our Lady’s “Fiat” (total and willing consent to God) motivate all of us to strive to understand, pray over and embrace “Holy Indifference” in our lives. “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your will.” (Lk. 1: 38) In God’s will is our peace. (Dante)