Ignatian Insights in a Context of Global Crisis and Uncertainty
Since the COVID-19 disease outbreak last December and its rapid spread from Wuhan all over the world we have been experiencing fear, sorrow, and desolation. Watching with tears the catastrophic consequences of the COVID-19 disease, we realized our vulnerability. Nobody can predict how tomorrow will look. We are living in a time of uncertainty and profound change. Our “boat” is sinking and we cry: “Lord we are lost!”
In such a context of global crisis and uncertainty, how can St Ignatius of Loyola’s spirituality inspire us? St Ignatius, whose feast is celebrated on July 31, the founder of the Society of Jesus, is the Father of the so-called Ignatian spirituality. Not only Jesuits but a large number of men and women all over the world, regardless their origin, culture, religious tradition, social position and affiliation, have rooted their lives in this spirituality since the 16th century. Spiritual masters or mystics do not give answers to our problems. They give us insights. They enlighten our views, feelings, and understanding of realty. Their life and experience always help us to renew our way of looking at and feeling about what happens within and around us. In fact, the Ignatian way gives us four insights: to be contemplative in action, to find God in all things, to look at the world through the Incarnation, and to seek freedom and detachment. These four insights are the pillars of Ignatian spirituality.
To be a contemplative in action: Being “busy” is one characteristic of our society. Most of the time we are overloaded with work, meetings, reports, business trips, etc. to the point of losing our peace of mind. But during this time of global crisis and the remote style which circumstances impose on us, we come to realize that another style of life is possible: Stay home, rush around less, focus on what is essential, spend more time with the family, have time to pray and meditate. Work can ennoble us. But at the same time, there is a need to realize that our job, our business is not the final purpose of our existence on earth. The Chinese character of the Japanese word isogashii (忙しい) meaning busy, suggests that whenever we are busy, we lack contemplation, meditation on the awareness of God’s presence even in the midst of a busy life,. We “lose our heart.” In that sense, Ignatian spirituality and Zen meditation are close: both underline the important central place of awareness in our life.
To find God in all things: We can ask why this pandemic happened. We could also ask why it should not have happened. We cannot find answers to these questions because it’s not a part of the Christian vocation to be able to explain what happened and why, but to show how everything can be a way to experience God. So, this global crisis is an opportunity to return to God and find God not in architectural infrastructures, or ceremonies, but deep inside our heart, and in the banality of our existence. As Jesus said it: “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth.” (John 4: 23)
To look at the world through the Incarnation: According to St Ignatius, God dwells in real things, real places, and real people. He believes that God is not only “up there,” but he is also “all around” (J. Martin), and that Jesus Christ is his incarnation. However, there is no need to be a Christian to have an incarnational view. Incarnation is, first of all, a manifestation of compassion and the love of God for us. So, to look at the world through the Incarnation means to look hard at each reality with God’s eyes, with compassion and love, to figure out what the world needs more and to act accordingly. In this time of global crisis and uncertainty, to look at the world through the Incarnation means not to “stay home” in comfort but to be able to make sacrifices as God did for our redemption by surrendering his only Son. We make sacrifices by being more attentive to those who are most in need, and by doing concrete acts of charity: prayers, donations, and protection of our common home.
- To seek freedom and detachment: Ignatian spirituality is a way of freeing ourselves from all kind of “disordered attachments,” to seek and find the divine will in regard to the disposition of our life for the good of souls. To seek detachment means to free ourselves from attitudes and habits which do not help us grow in our relationship with our self, with others, with nature, and with God.
The Ignatian way teaches that each situation is an opportunity of encountering God, an occasion for learning and getting profit for our good. On the other hand, Ignatius was a champion of paying careful attention to experience (awareness), reflecting on its meaning (discernment), and deciding how to act (action), Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam (for the greater Glory of God). In short, Ignatius believes that devotion is to find God in all things, because God dwells in concrete things, concrete places, concrete events, concrete people. That was a conviction which made Ignatius a contemplative in action, a man who seeks and finds God active in all things, through the Incarnation, and a man who seeks detachment from anything which prevents him from praising, reverencing, and serving God our Lord.
Mukadi Ilunga Christian is a Jesuit scholastic from the Democratic Republic of Congo and missionary in Japan serving his Regency as a Campus Ministry Officer at Sophia University in Tokyo.