So that’s Latin. Since I sure as heck didn’t study Latin, here’s what it means:
“To the Greater Glory of God…”
A noble motto from Saint Ignatius, the founder of the Jesuits (literally followers of Jesus) whose feast day we celebrate 31 July (today!)
I am a groupie of Saint Ignatius (1491-1556) a Spanish noble who made major life changes after a mystical experience during convalescence from a battle wound. He totally devoted his life to Jesus and then enlisted buddies to join him in a new way of living, thinking and doing. Approved by the Pope at that time, the fledgling order founded universities, sent missionaries (ever wonder why so many schools are called “St. Xavier’s?”) and prayed while being the hands and feet of Jesus to those around them.
The Jesuits and the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius have lasted (not without a bit of turmoil along the way.) Today Jesuits still serve Jesus the world over in so many ways – running universities, assisting refugees (Jesuit Refugee Service), through churches (Holy Trinity in DC a favorite), facilitating spiritual growth (retreat centers, Spiritual Exercises workshops, books and more), sharing faith in Jesus, providing social commentary (America Magazine) and well, too much to list.
Father Timothy King was the first Jesuit I met while taking an evening class on Teilhard de Chardin at Georgetown University in D.C. That was 23 years ago. I still remember his humble spirit as he unpacked his fellow Jesuit’s spiritual writings (that were not allowed to be published during the life of Teilhard de Chardin – a great scientist – although his writings had major impact on Vatican II!) The thing is, Evangelical Me was so impressed how Father King loved Jesus. Big-time.
I also appreciated going to Holy Trinity weekday mornings (they had 7:00AM & 8:00AM masses as I recall? or maybe it was 6:45? Whatever, easy to zip in and out to work.) All this to say, I have always liked the Jesuits: special place in heart and all that. Then, since returning from Africa I have been blessed with two week-long silent retreats at the Jesuit Spiritual Centre in Wernersville, PA.
The first time I picked the place from online options to seek discernment regarding Ph.D. programs. Many Jesuits are total braniacs, so go figure it would be wise to consult their input in a structured manner during a directed silent retreat using the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius.
God has a BIG sense of humor. Instead of getting a brainiac Jesuit, Sister Maria was assigned my spiritual director for the week. A few internal pouts later, her strategic direction turned out to be a gift from God – lots of restorative healing. Sister Maria gave me 2 Corinthians 4, the jars of clay verses, to contemplate. Humph! I memorized those verses as a child and put them on my office wall in the Middle East. But at the end – eight days of praying is lots of work – I realized yes, we may be cracked clay pots (Virginia to our Tanzanian staff, “isn’t it grand that as our cracks get wider there’s more room for the light of Christ to shine through?”) But guess what??
THERE’S TREASURE INSIDE OF US: RUBIES, EMERALDS & DIAMONDS OF THE HEAVENLY REALM….
…and diamonds are hard to crush.
YAAAY God, and thanks to Sister Maria for her persevering spiritual guidance. The next year I zoomed back for another week-long dose of silent prayer with a dear friend who was blessed with Sr. Maria’s direction. That week I had a blast praying with Sister Sarah. Literally. Lots of Holy Hilarity and serious prayer. She confirmed my earnest prayers about becoming a nun. (‘Twas a ‘No.’) Sister Sarah affirmed that I am far too independent (which sense since I’ve had a hard time in that commit to one guy for life thing; to join an order you kinda commit to lots of folks in that community living thing.)
But there were other prayed-for truths:
“Receive My Love anew, to BE My love anew…”
“Study My Words. Know My Words. Be My Words.”
That may not seem like much after eight days of prayer, but the last 3 years I have asked Jesus every day to pour out His love anew into this (valuable) clay pot, so that I may BE His love anew. I also ask every day that His words permeate my life. That involves studying His words to know them and then do them.
Eight days of prayer – silence, meditation, listening to God – the Spiritual Exercises. Faith is a process, a daily-take-up-your-cross and follow Jesus deal. I highly recommend silent retreats for spiritual growth. For my Evangelical/Protestant this is freaking me out buddies, both times I went on this adventure there were many traditions represented in the retreatants: Lutheran, Episcopal, Evangelical, and some folks I’ve never heard of.
There’s also the Trappist Option. I made my first week-long silent retreat 22 years ago at Gethsemane Abbey where Thomas Merton was a monk. But that will have to wait for another posting as dinner is now becoming a very hasty scallop stir-fry (minus the must-bake-an hour butternut squash.)
So, today as we celebrate the life of St. Ignatius and the continued Jesuit faith-builders around the world —
…Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam…
grace, peace & God’s Glory
Virginia : )