Why are we here in this world? All
people have a philosophy of life, even though most are unaware of this
truth! Too many today can be compared
to a chicken with his head cut off. Still others like sailors tossed in the
midst of the storms at sea with no port in view. Then there are those like a dog running madly
after his tail, barking frantically and never able to catch his fleeing tail!
Individuals that are like the archer, bracing his arm, aiming the arrow and shooting
but with no target in view. Finally, there is the driver speeding along the
Freeway, moving at an accelerated pace but totally oblivious as to his
destination. He has no thought as to
seeking out a map, a Thomas guide or a GPS.
All of these individuals, so ubiquitous in the modern scheme of things,
have one thing in common—confusion as to what their philosophy of life really
In the United States of America today,
there are many reigning false philosophies embraced by huge numbers. The “Utilitarianist” who measures importance
by economic productivity. Following is
the “Materialist” who measures happiness by what he acquires in material gain.
Closely related is the “Consumerist”.
He wants to buy and consume with the money he has in his pocket. This easily paves the way to the “Hedonist”
whose end all in life is pleasure, the more pleasure and the more intense the
pleasure the better life is. If you like, “Let us eat, drink, and be merry;
live it up; it is Miller time! One life to live, let us go all out!” All too often the net result of the above
philosophies terminates in ATHEISM--- God simply does not exist. He is simply a figment of one’s weak
Having portrayed the erroneous
philosophies of life circulating far and wide, now it is time to present a true
philosophy of life, offered by the basic catechism as well as by the Founder of
the Jesuits, St. Ignatius of Loyola.
“Man is created to know God, love,
God, and serve God in this life so as to be happy with Him forever in
heaven.” As a child, this was one of
the first catechetical truths that I learned, and it has stuck with me more
than fifty years. It has influenced my thought process, decision making,
actions as well as habits that I have formed in my life.
It is said that one is what he
eats! This is indeed true! However, even
more important, one is what he thinks.
The thought is the father of the deed. Actions follow a thought process
and a decision. Bad actions are preceded by bad thoughts; good actions are
preceded by good thoughts. Jesus says that we can know the tree by the fruits
that are produced.
St. Ignatius of Loyola, who has
bequeathed to the world the spiritual masterpiece of the “Spiritual Exercises”,
starts off with a basic foundational statement, termed “Principle and
Foundation”. The word “Principle” means
beginning. Foundation refers to the
structure on which the rest of the Exercises will be solidly constructed. In other words the totality of the Spiritual
edifice must be constructed on this first short but indispensable statement.
Following is only the first sentence
of Principle and Foundation that sets the tone for all that follows! “Man is
created to praise God, to reverence God, to serve God, and by means of this to
save his soul...” (Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius # 23). From this short statement of St. Ignatius of
Loyola, in his Principle and Foundation, all of the rest of the Spiritual
Exercises flow as from a source!
In my life these two succinct and to
the point spiritual gems have motivated me in my thoughts, decisions and
actions and will be a motivational force for me until my dying breath! Indeed every person who God brought into this
world as an act of His generous self-giving love should have this motivational
God has given me life. He is the
author and origin of life. God has sustained my life. “In Him we live and move and have our being.”
God has protected me in ever circumstance, activity movement and moment. “The Lord is my Shepherd there is nothing I
shall want.” (Psalm 23).
However, God waits patiently for me
to correspond to His love. How is this done?
Very simply by praising Him in word and deed. As St. Augustine reminds us: Be sure that our
praising the Lord with our lips will not be contradicted by the way we live!
REVERENCE GOD. Our God is a holy God, actually a three
times holy God as portrayed in the vision of the Prophet Isaiah in the
temple. Moses was beckoned to take off
his sandals as he stood before the burning bush because he was standing on holy
ground. These are mere symbols of the
three times holy God that we encounter in the Blessed Sacrament, the “Real
Presence” of Jesus--- Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. This becomes a reality in the sublime moment
of Mass that we call the “Consecration”.
Man is called to reverence God like the prophet Isaiah and like the humble
Moses. However, the climax of reverence is related to Jesus really and truly
present in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and waiting for us to visit Him in
His earthly temple, the Blessed Sacrament.
O come let us reverence and adore Him--- Emmanuel, God is with us in the
SERVE. Our adoration and reverence for Jesus cannot
limit itself to our contemplative life, but it must overflow to our active
life. Therefore, Ignatian spirituality must move us to action; we should be
“Contemplatives in action”. The Thomistic concept also applies here: “What you
have contemplated in the quiet of prayer share with others. Better to shine on
others, then to be simply shone upon!”
One of the key Ignatian contemplations that bridges contemplation
leading to action is the “Call of the King”.
The grace we beg for is not to be DEAF to the call of the King. We meditate the temporal king who wants to
conquer the world to himself as a springboard to contemplate the Eternal
King—Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ—who has a very ambitious spiritual
enterprise—to conquer the whole world to Himself. In concrete, this means to conquer and save
immortal souls for heaven for all eternity.
The essence of true prayer is praising God, but also loving what God
loves most--- the salvation of immortal souls.
SALVATION OF SOULS. The conclusion of the first part of
Principle and Foundation is “Salvation of souls”. Our praise and reverence of God must bear
fruit in a hunger and thirst for the salvation of immortal souls. St. Thomas Aquinas states that one immortal
soul has more value than the whole created universe. St. Ignatius’ last words
as he sent St. Francis Xavier off to India and eventual Japan was ignited by
the fire of Principle Foundation and apostolic zeal----“Go set all on
fire!!!!” The great Saint John Bosco,
who manifested his praise and reverence for God by loving and saving the youth,
summarized his apostolic thrust with these few but poignant words: “Give me
souls and take all the rest away.” In sum if we love God then we should love
what God loves most—the salvation of the immortal souls that He created to be
with Him in heaven for all eternity.
CONCLUSION. According to Ignatian tradition, in the cave
of Manresa, St. Ignatius was granted a keen mystical experience! While absorbed in profound prayer, the
Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to him and communicated to him the blueprint of
the Spiritual Exercises. Therefore, the
Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Exercises that have radically
transformed thousands of lives, transforming sinners into great saints, is
permeated with the presence of Mary, the Mother of God, the Mother of the
Church and our Mother in the order of grace.
She who is the “full of grace”, the model of contemplation translated
into action, the model of a soul absorbed in adoration and reverence for God,
can definitely lead us to deep sanctity in this life to the contemplation of
the beatific vision of God for all eternity. “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray
for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen. “