Yesterday, July 31, was the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the Spanish spiritual master who gave us the Spiritual Exercises and was the founder of the Society of Jesus, also known as the Jesuits. As a young man, Ignatius served as a page for the treasurer of the kingdom of Castile and would later become an officer in the Spanish army. In 1521, Ignatius was struck in battle by a cannon ball which landed him in the hospital for a year. While in the hospital, Ignatius began to read about the life of Christ and the lives of the Saints, and he experienced a profound conversion. After years of prayer and further education, Ignatius took vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience and, along with other men including Peter Faber and Francis Xavier, formed the Society of Jesus in 1534. Ignatius was ordained in 1538 and the Society of Jesus was officially recognized by Pope Paul III in 1540. Additionally, Ignatius led the Society as its Father General until his death in 1556.
Among the many great things that St. Ignatius gave the Church including the Society itself, which has produced many great Saints, and the Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius also gave us a prayer called the Suscipe. As short and simple of a prayer as the Suscipe is, it is equally as powerful. Essential to Ignatius’ spirituality is the fact that all human beings are creatures created by God and are in need of his great mercy and love and that everything we experience in our lives is a gift from God. The Suscipe is, in my estimation, the perfect product of this essential factor of Ignatius’ spirituality. Ignatius’ prayer goes like this:
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will, All I have and call my own.
You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace, that is enough for me.
As creatures, everything that we are and everything that we have is from God, our creator. Our liberty, memory, understanding, will, possessions, gifts, and talents — every good thing in our lives is a gift from God. The problem is that we, as humans, tend to think that we have done all the good things in our lives. While we certainly have to cooperate with God’s grace, all things are still reliant on his grace. Everything in this world will eventually pass away. Our good looks, quick wit, great intellect, ability to play an instrument, cook great food, or hit a golf ball 350 yards will pass away at some point in our lives. What do we do when we can no longer rely on our physical or mental ability? We can certainly shrivel up into a proverbial ball and pout that our life is over. But life in Christ leads us another direction, the direction of the Suscipe. This direction points us to grace and the necessity of grace in our lives. Even when all the other good things in our lives are gone, God’s grace will remain. God’s grace will sustain us when nothing else can and will be there when everything else fades away. Let’s have the courage to rely solely on God’s grace which is all that we need.
St. Ignatius of Loyola, pray for us!