"Remember, I am with you always to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20)

1/5 'DESIRE': Saint Ignatius of Loyola Speaks About The Five Elements Of Ignatian Prayer

St Ignatius of Loyola in La Storta Chapel

FIRST ELEMENT: DESIRE AS A BASIC DISPOSITION

Saint Ignatius hoped, in writing the Spiritual Exercises (SE), to leave the way open to the action of the Spirit in preparing men and women, who have been called by the same Spirit, to receive "God's most holy gifts." Let us draw an analogy between prayer and flying. The secret to flying is the invisible air which must be present first before anything could be lifted above. Likewise, there is no prayer if it is not moved by the Spirit which alone fills and satisfies human desires to be lifted up to God. Without the Spirit, not only is one indisposed but the act of prayer, i.e., prayer as a relationship, is not bound to happen. Prayer is a constant daily invitation in desiring to relate to God, who first desires and longs for us more than we desire and long for Him. We are always already responding to God's invitation through our many daily choices and desires.

DESIRING AS FINDING GOD FIRST FREELY BEFORE OTHER CREATED THINGS

First, we say we want to find God in all things, yet all too often we just stop at the things. Second, we say we beg God to grant our desires, but, unawares, we are too attached to our desires. In both cases, we get the things and impure desires but lose God in the process. Because of this St Ignatius, in the Jesuit Constitutions, kept reminding about the need for "a thoroughly right and pure intention."

The basic disposition to receive grace for St Ignatius calls for a purified or mortified desire, that is, with "holy indifference." Someone who is not disposed is being misled through his or her own impure desires and is not free. St Paul says it beautifully in 2 Corinthians 3:17, "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." The Spirit of the Lord frees and inspires the love of the person. St Ignatius says, "The love that moves and causes one to choose must descend from above, that is, from the love of God, so that before one chooses he must perceive that the greater or less attachment for the object of his choice is solely because of his Creator and Lord" (SE 184). Fr James Martin, SJ says, "desire is a key part of spirituality because desire is a key way that God's voice is heard in our lives. And our deepest desire, planted within us, is our desire for God" (The Jesuit Guide to [Almost] Everything). 

Since any encounter with God has to do with desire, St Ignatius made it clear that "where I find what I desire, I will there remain quiet and reposed" (SE 76). When we start to get in touch with our deepest desires, that is, desire for God, we start to know when to fall silent and allow the Spirit to lead us in the prayer encounter. This is what St Ignatius calls the "open door" that is better discovered after entering it rather than just talking about it.

DESIRE GOD TO RECEIVE GOD; BUT IF THERE IS NO SUCH DESIRE YET THEN DESIRE TO DESIRE OR TO AT LEAST WANT IT

There are two statements in the Spiritual Exercises that should embolden and hearten our desire for God. One is "to ponder how the same Lord desires to give himself to me" (SE 234). The other is "When a person is seeking God's will, it is more appropriate and far better that the Creator and Lord himself should communicate himself to the devout soul, embracing it into his love and praise… allowing the Creator to deal directly with the creature and the creature with its Creator and Lord" (SE 15).

According to St Ignatius desire for and of God is already a consolation received at the outset of every encounter. It is a consolation of friendship with, in and through God's holy desire that we remember being immersed in during prayer. In the third rule of the discernment of spirits, he says, "I call it consolation when an interior movement is aroused in the soul, by which inflamed with love of its Creator and Lord, and as a consequence, can love no creature on the face of the earth for its own sake, but only in the Creator of them all" (SE 316).

Fr. JM Manzano, SJ

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