School of Sanctity
the Rules for the Discernment of Spirits, it is now time to examine and
study the foundation which St. Ignatius gives as the preparation to do his actual
beginning to give the actual exercises, St. Ignatius gives an introductory
meditation in which he expounds to the exercitant the true purpose of life. Because
St. Ignatius knew that in order for the purpose of life to be deeply rooted
into the soul, a person must generously ponder the very reason why man was
created. This pondering naturally includes understanding more about the Creator.
Hence, St. Ignatius intends that this particular meditation has such an impact
on the soul that it is never forgotten. Consequently, this meditation on the
purpose of man’s existence is meant to give the exercitant a firm foundation
that he can use for the remainder of his life. Indeed, this meditation sets
the tone for all of his actions.
calls this meditation the Principle and Foundation. Every
retreat or setting out to do all of the Spiritual Exercises begins with
this meditation. It is such a fundamental and rich meditation that this one
lends itself to be done frequently even outside of a retreat per se. It
could be done as a meditation even as often as once per week as a means to keep
one working out his salvation with the intense, necessary seriousness we need
in this work.
In other words,
this meditation on the Principle and Foundation is a powerful way
to humble the soul and firmly cement the virtue of humility in the soul. This
is mainly true because this meditation helps a person grasp exactly where he
fits in God’s plan of creation. He sees how crucial it is to fulfill God’s
plan for man’s existence and how our entire eternity is determined by how well
we love and obey God’s plan for us.
As the reader
may recall, Lesson #2 in Mary’s School of Sanctity explains
how to do a meditation. So here we give the “meat”, as it were, of the
meditation which one can use for this introduction meditation of St. Ignatius
First, we give
the text of St. Ignatius and then expound on the various points one can use for
his considerations in his actual meditation. St. Ignatius says:
Man is created to praise, reverence,
and serve God Our Lord, and by this means to save his soul. All other things
on the face of the earth are created for man to help him fulfill the end for
which he is created. From this it follows that man is to use these things to
the extent that they will help him to attain his end. Likewise, he must rid
himself of them insofar as they prevent him from attaining it.
Therefore, we must make ourselves
indifferent to all created things, insofar as it is left to the choice of our
free will and is not forbidden. Acting accordingly, for our part, we should
not prefer health to sickness, riches to poverty, honor to dishonor, a long
life to a short one, and so in all things we should desire and choose only
those things which will best help us attain the end for which we are created.
actually two parts here which one must consider. The first part regards man’s service
to God, and the second part is man’s proper use of creatures when serving God.
Therefore, we will divide this beginning meditation into two parts, only
considering the first part now. In our next lesson, we will take the second
of God – the reason God created man
God made us to
praise, revere, and to serve Him. We often think of our catechism answer to
the question of why God made us, “God made me to know, love, and serve Him in
this life so I can be happy with Him in the next.” Although this is true, it often,
unfortunately, makes us focus too much on ourselves. St. Ignatius would have
us direct our main focus on the service of God. Ad majorem Dei gloriam was
St. Ignatius’s motto, which means “all for the greater glory of God.”
tells us that it is God Who must come first in our lives. We owe
Him praise, homage, and our service. We must give Him all our
praise. We owe and ought to give Him all of our homage. We owe
Him our complete service.
meditation St. Ignatius wants us to think deeply of all the aspects of what it
means to say that “Man is created”. There are many consequences of God
creating man. Let us try to penetrate the most obvious ones.
1) “Whence am I?
I am from God.”
God made man
out of nothing. God made man in His Image and likeness. This means
that God made man rational. Man can think and reason things out.
Indeed, man has the obligation to use his reason.
This use of reason is what makes a man’s action moral.
I owe to the Almighty all that I am and
possess: my body and soul, my intellect and will, my five senses, my talents
and my powers, my health and my life…What gratitude do I not owe to Him? “What
shall I return to the Lord for all the things that He hath rendered to me?” Ps.
should ponder each and every benefit that God has given to us as creatures and
be very grateful. Hence, “I can attribute nothing to myself, to my own
merits; not the least thing did I give to myself. I must, therefore, be humble
and not presumptuous.”
must think about the fact that:
I am the property of God, [and] that I
belong entirely to Him. He that makes a thing has also a claim to it. As I am
the property of God, I must keep myself holy! I must not desecrate the
property of God. I must keep myself holy, my will, my heart, my imagination,
my eyes, my ears, my tongue. Hence the warning of St. Paul: “Or know you
not that your members are the temple of the Holy Ghost, Who is in you, Whom you
have from God, and you are not your own? Glorify and bear God in your body.” [I
to ponder about being owned by God is the fact that God can do what He wills
with His own property, namely, me. He has given me everything to be used for
His service and He can take everything away if He wishes. “He can exalt me and
lower me. I must be entirely submissive to His holy will, and be disposed as
Knowing that we
are the work of God’s Hands we must marvel at the honor that He bestows
on us as being His highest material creatures.
What an honor, what a joy to be able to
glory in having such an originator, such a Creator! With what confidence in
God’s help and assistance ought I not to be filled! The Almighty will not
forsake the work of His Hands: “For thou lovest all things that are, and
hatest none of the things which thou hast made: for thou didst not appoint or
make anything, hating it … But thou sparest all, because they are all thine, O
Lord, Who lovest souls.” [Wisdom 11:25, 27].
2) “Why am I
here? I am for God.”
“For what end
did God create me?”
“We were not created for this world; He created everything else in this world
but us He created for Himself, to praise Him, to honor Him, and to serve Him.” Then it
is clear that God determined what we must do and what our role in His Creation
exactly is, namely:
1. “To honor
God in His infinite majesty, in His house, in His Church, in the
representatives whom He has placed over us.
2. “To praise
God, not only with our tongue, but with our heart also; that His sharp rebuke may
not strike us: ‘This people honoreth Me with their lips, but their hearts
are far from Me.’ [Matt. 15:8]. We must praise God by our good works, by
our good example; for the glory of parents are their virtuous children: ‘Let
your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify
your Father Who is in heaven.’ [Matt. 5:16].
3. “But our
principal duty to God is to serve Him, for He is Our Lord and we
are His servants. Now what does it mean to serve? It means to do the will of
the superior, to submit oneself to him. But how can we know the will of God in
order to serve Him?
a. “From His commandments.
b. “From His holy Church.
c. “From our conscience,
through which He speaks to us, to warn us against evil and urge us on to do
d. “From our parents
and superiors, who take His place in our regard.
e. “From the vocation
which He has given us; for quite often very definite duties come along with it.
f. “From evils permitted
by God, that strike us even against our will. In spite of all
precautions, you get sick –– the permission of God. It is His holy will
that you accept this sickness patiently from His Hands. You are unjustly
slighted, accused and calumniated –– the providence of God. It is His will
that you do not complain and murmur, but humble yourself under the hand of God.
‘Be humbled therefore under the mighty hand of God.’ [I Peter,
5:6]. The time for you to die arrives: submit yourself; it is the will of God.
‘Whether we live we live to the Lord, or whether we die, we die to the
Lord. Therefore, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s’ [Romans,
3) “Whither am
I going? We must go back to God.
happen if we do what we were created to do? We shall go back to God for He
Himself is our reward. Yet if we do not do what we were created to do, we
shall receive the eternal perdition that we deserve. The following points are
crucial to penetrate in this aspect of the meditation:
a. “How important
then our destiny is: this business of which we, here upon earth, have
charge and care, –– the glorification, the praise, and the service of God. On
it depends our whole eternity of bliss or misery.
b. “It is our only
business, because for it alone we are here on earth.
because this business is so important and our only one, all other business to
which we must attend must be made subordinate to this, so that it [the
other business] does not interfere, but supports and promotes our destiny. [The
purpose of our existence in the first place]. We must ask ourselves, with St.
Stanislaus: ‘What has this to do with eternity?’ Is this or that business
conducive to my salvation?
d. “This is a personal
business. I can let friends and servants take care of all other business,
but of this I must take care myself.
e. “It is a constant
and everyday business, because I am always the servant of God, and He is always
f. “Furthermore, I
have this business on hand but once, as a concern of my present life.
Should I neglect it, I can never repair it, not even in eternity.”
All of these
points are extremely serious and help one to have a proper perspective of life
and look on all of life decisions as important in direct reference to pleasing
God and eternal salvation. Each point should be considered and when the
exercitant is struck by any of the points and finds himself saying something to
God, he should feel free to express what is in his heart at that moment.
Whether these be words of awestruck wonder and amazement or words of contrition
for past ingratitude, or words of overwhelming love and thanksgiving, the
exercitant should not hold back his heart from speaking to His Creator. This
is the colloquy that St. Ignatius speaks of. This colloquy is a heart-to-heart
talk with God and the fruit of the careful considering of the points. Namely,
we want these acts of the will to arise in us so that we can express them to
points in concerning our service of God should be taken. These points foster a
healthy self-examination of how one has viewed God and God’s intended purpose
of one’s life. These points are also very striking and tend to make the
exercitant be shaken with the awesome responsibilities that we creatures have
in owing God praise, honor, and service.
1. “Which is the pivot
of my life, upon which everything turns, I or God?
2. “Which is my most
important business here on earth: my honor, my praise, my service, the
gratification of my passions; or the honor, praise, and service of God?
3. “Is my life a
constant service of God, a continuous hymn of praise, a continuous
‘Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost’?
“In the light
of this meditation we now understand our destiny [God’s plan for us]. Let us
repent of our many deviations from our course, and give back to our life its
right direction to God. ‘Come let us adore and fall down and weep before the
Lord that made us. For He is the Lord Our God and we are the people of this
pasture, and the sheep of His hand.’ Ps. 94; 6-7.”
certainly a very striking examination of one’s priorities in life. How full of
shame we find ourselves because God is not high enough in our estimation! The
distractions of life are continually tugging us away from this crucial center
of our existence. Even if we think we are trying very hard to have a
God-centered life, when doing this meditation, we always find ourselves
ponder this topic as much as possible in the time period of the meditation,
trying to draw fruits and humbling himself by seeing how little he is within
the plan of God and what he owes to God. Two strong conclusions that one
should take away with from this meditation are that the purpose of life is
our service to God and that our goal in life should be to serve God to
our maximum capacity. After the meditation, it is good to jot down some notes
of the insights that especially struck one so he can keep these inspirations in
mind and truly appreciate them. Also, it is a good idea to say some prayers in
thanksgiving after the meditation to thank the Holy Ghost for His assistance in
the meditation. And it is important to examine the meditation to see if one
was generous in his efforts to cooperate with the Holy Ghost in giving glory to
God and drawing fruits from the meditation.
In our next
lesson we will consider the second half of St. Ignatius’s Principle and
Foundation and how we can do a meditation on our proper use of
creatures in our service of God.