Sunday, March 24, 2013

St. Ignatius, Pope Francis, and the Devil.

For the past week, I have been meaning to produce another post on the new pope. This is not that post, which will have to wait until the demands of the academic and liturgical calendars subside enough to give me time to synthesize my thoughts in a form that I'd be willing to share on the Internet. For now, I'd like to share what I believe is the best item that I have yet read on the influence of Ignatian spirituality upon Pope Francis.

A Cistercian monk of Heiligenkreuz Abbey, Father Edmund Waldstein blogs at Sancrucensis; his thoughts on Newman's Apologia as a spiritual Aeneid were featured in this space a number of years ago. In some reflections posted earlier today, Father Edmund notices something that I've also picked up on but perhaps took too much for granted to consider commenting upon, namely, the classically Jesuit structure of the Pope's 'three-point' homilies. More significantly, Father Edmund also discusses the impact of the Spiritual Exercises on the substance of Francis' preaching; noting that "[s]ome persons have been surprised by the Holy Father’s repeated mention of the devil in his sermons," Father Edmund suggests that such an emphasis "ought not to be surprising at all in one formed in the order of St Ignatius of Loyola." Why should this be so? Consider what Father Edmund says here:
Bishop Juan Antonio Martínez Camino, S.J., once said, in a retreat he gave in Heiligenkreuz, that one can summarize the famous Principle and Foundation of the Spiritual Exercises with the simple question Do I really believe in God? If I really believe in God, that He exists, and holds me in existence, that He has redeemed me by the blood of His Son, and wills to give me a share in His own infinite goodness – then it makes sense to be perfectly indifferent to all other things. As long as I hold on to my "own" I am a slave of sin. In John 8, after the Judeans protest at this teaching, our Lord tells them that they are children of the devil. There is, our Lord seems to be saying, no alternative, if one does not serve God then one does not serve oneself, but becomes a slave of the Father of Lies. He who wishes to preserve his life will lose it. To turn away from the living God is not to become free, but to become enslaved– to one’s own passions, to the objects of those passions, to the things of this world, and finally to the most powerful of those things "the ruler of this world" (John 12:31).

In the second week St Ignatius presents this alternative in the famous Meditation on the Two Standards. He has the exercitant imagine a huge war in which the devil on the one hand enslaves souls through pride, and our Lord on the other hand frees them through humility. This is the meditation that I thought of when I heard Pope Francis’s first sermon: "When one does not profess Jesus Christ, one professes the worldliness of the devil." To profess Christ is to humble oneself, give up one’s own will, and embrace the Cross as "the only glory." To profess "the worldliness of the devil" is to find one’s riches not in God, but in something else, to receive one’s glory not from the Cross but from men...
For more, click here. As I wrote at the start of this post, I may share more of my own reactions to this pontificate once I've been freed of other burdens. In the meantime, I hope that you will appreciate my endorsement of a Cistercian's thoughts on a Jesuit pope. Prayers for all in these days of Lent, Passiontide, and Holy Week. AMDG.


At 3/24/2013 10:39 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

I was struck by the same thought about the Two Standards when I read that sermon as well, perhaps primed by my own recent experience? Thank you too for the pointer to the blog, which I've marked to skim further when the semester eases a bit.

My nieces were baptized by a monk of the Abbey (my first husband's family is from Vienna...) so I always feel a connection when I read about it!

May you have graced Holy Week and celebration of the Triduum!

At 3/25/2013 11:46 PM, Blogger Lynda said...

I have also noticed the reference to the Devil and thought of the Two Standards. It is fresh in my mind from some of my Lenten readings and reflections.

I have been waiting for you to post your thoughts on Pope Francis but know that there are other pressing matters for the next few weeks.


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