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

2/5 'REMEMBER': Saint Ignatius of Loyola Speaks About The Five Elements Of Ignatian Prayer

St Ignatius In A Prayer Under the Stars
Icon by Fr William McNichols SJ


n the Confessions, St Augustine describes in the first half of Book X the contents of his memory in his attempt to find God’s dwelling place. “Why do I ask in which area of my memory you dwell, as if there really are places there? Surely my memory is where you dwell because I remember you since first I learnt of you, and I find you there when I think about you” (Book X, no. 36). Memory for St Augustine is not only a matter of recording past experiences, it powerfully holds in mind the present together with future realities both natural and supernatural. In Ignatian prayer, a deep appreciation of this kind of memory is very important. “Great is the power of memory, an awe-inspiring mystery, my God, a power of profound and infinite multiplicity. And this is mind, this is I myself. What then am I, my God? What is my nature? It is characterized by diversity, by the life of many forms, utterly immeasurable” (Book X, no 26). Because of this profound and infinite multiplicity, St Ignatius writes in the First Principle and Foundation of the Spiritual Exercises a sort of mnemonic to the retreatant, lest he or she gets lost in the multiplicity. “The human being is created to praise and serve God alone. All other created things on earth are to be used as means in pursuit of this end. We are to use them in so far as they lead us to our last end, and be rid of them in so far as they hinder us in the pursuit of the end for which we were created” (Spiritual Exercises 23).


What is within every human longing? Human beings long for more than the physical and natural realm. We also long for the spiritual and supernatural realm. Human beings did not develop the immense power of memory for no underlying reason. Throughout five thousand years of recorded human history, the world has been charged with innermost human longings and deepest needs which find their source and satisfaction only in a supernatural being, the God of truth, beauty, love, eternity, and virtue. In a nutshell, St Augustine put all human longings as a longing for a happy life. “When I seek for you my God, my quest is for the happy life” (Book X, no 29). Happiness is everyone’s goal, although pursued in different ways within the vast realm of memory. For someone who has truly recognized from memory the joy he or she is looking for, there is great rejoicing when what has been lost or forgotten is found. This does not mean though that the happy life is simply the sum of our past, present, and future experiences. It is not as simple as that. Happiness could come only from God who is beyond past, present, and future. St Augustine says, “Let me not, Lord, in this my heartfelt testimony to you, accept as happiness every joy that I encounter.” In other words, as we seek happiness in this life, we may have joyful and good recollections; however, these are not the total fulfillment that we seek. “This is true happiness in life,” St Augustine says, “to take joy in Thee, for Thee, because of Thee—this, nothing else, is happiness. Those who do not know this pursue their joy elsewhere, and though it is no true one, yet they cannot wrench their desire entirely free from some representation of that joy.”

English mystic, Julian of Norwich, writes in the same vein, “God, of your goodness, give me yourself; for you are sufficient for me. I cannot properly ask for anything less, to be worthy of you. If I were to ask less, I should always be in want. In you alone do I have all.” We should exhaust all of our energies in desiring God alone because this pursuit is really the only pursuit in life that is worthwhile. It is the only goal we can set for ourselves that will fulfill our infinite desires and never leave us empty-handed. If this is not the case, the opposite alternative is this: every effort in desiring something greater or deeper is really a total waste of human energy and time. Proponents of this worldview begin to feel more and more shut out from a universe that is viewed as meaningless. Worst, they start to identify as freaks or abnormalities of nature, overbuilt for a world that some humanists, e.g., the atheistic existentialists, have labeled as "absurd." But it may be difficult if not impossible to argue along these lines of thought considering the mystery and richness of all human endeavors found in literature, the arts, and sciences. CS Lewis writes in Mere Christianity, quote, "If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probably explanation is that I was made for another world."


People are held back on the road to finding and remembering God when they become so preoccupied with the means and lose clarity of the end in the process. St Ignatius, in his letter to Francis Borgia in 1548, talks about a way to seek God in prayer: “[T]hat level [of prayer] is best for each particular individual where God our Lord communicates himself more… He sees, he knows, what is best [for each one] and, as he knows all, he shows [each one] the road to take. What we can do to find that way with his divine grace is to seek and test [the way forward] in many different fashions, so that an individual goes ahead by that way which [for him or her] is the clearest and happiest and most blessed in this life.”

No wonder St Ignatius sees “all things new.” He appreciates native beauty and worth because, the God whom he loves, is both active and present there. He contemplates the world and every creature as God sees it with love and compassion and not with the eyes of condemnation. Joseph Veale SJ in his article St Ignatius Speaks About “Ignatian Prayer” (Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits, 28/2 March 1996) writes, “‘To have God always before one's eyes’ was to be given the grace to desire God in all things and in whatever situation. It was to desire God so much that there was no situation or circumstance or conversation or relationship in which he was not to be found; to have such a constant desire for him, for the end and purpose of the whole of created reality, that everything else fell under the heading of ‘means’. It followed that if one was to be free to be led interiorly by the Spirit in a great variety of situations, to be able to be flexible in occasions that were unplanned and unforeseen, then one had to sit lightly to the means and to be ready to use them or leave them unused in the light of this God who was always before one's eyes.” Let me end by quoting from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

"The Beatitudes respond to the natural desire for happiness. This desire is of divine origin: God has placed it in the human heart in order to draw man to the One who alone can fulfill it: We all want to live happily; in the whole human race there is no one who does not assent to this proposition, even before it is fully articulated. How is it, then, that I seek you, Lord? Since in seeking you, my God, I seek a happy life, let me seek you so that my soul may live, for my body draws life from my soul and my soul draws life from you. God alone satisfies" (CCC 1718).

"Eternal newness" (Evangelii Gaudium 11-13)

11. A renewal of preaching can offer believers, as well as the lukewarm and the non-practising, new joy in the faith and fruitfulness in the work of evangelization. The heart of its message will always be the same: the God who revealed his immense love in the crucified and risen Christ. God constantly renews his faithful ones, whatever their age: “They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not be faint” (Is 40:31). Christ is the “eternal Gospel” (Rev 14:6); he “is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb 13:8), yet his riches and beauty are inexhaustible. He is for ever young and a constant source of newness. The Church never fails to be amazed at “the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God” (Rom 11:33). Saint John of the Cross says that “the thicket of God’s wisdom and knowledge is so deep and so broad that the soul, however much it has come to know of it, can always penetrate deeper within it”.[7] Or as Saint Irenaeus writes: “By his coming, Christ brought with him all newness”.[8] With this newness he is always able to renew our lives and our communities, and even if the Christian message has known periods of darkness and ecclesial weakness, it will never grow old. Jesus can also break through the dull categories with which we would enclose him and he constantly amazes us by his divine creativity. Whenever we make the effort to return to the source and to recover the original freshness of the Gospel, new avenues arise, new paths of creativity open up, with different forms of expression, more eloquent signs and words with new meaning for today’s world. Every form of authentic evangelization is always “new”.

12. Though it is true that this mission demands great generosity on our part, it would be wrong to see it as a heroic individual undertaking, for it is first and foremost the Lord’s work, surpassing anything which we can see and understand. Jesus is “the first and greatest evangelizer”.[9] In every activity of evangelization, the primacy always belongs to God, who has called us to cooperate with him and who leads us on by the power of his Spirit. The real newness is the newness which God himself mysteriously brings about and inspires, provokes, guides and accompanies in a thousand ways. The life of the Church should always reveal clearly that God takes the initiative, that “he has loved us first” (1 Jn 4:19) and that he alone “gives the growth” (1 Cor 3:7). This conviction enables us to maintain a spirit of joy in the midst of a task so demanding and challenging that it engages our entire life. God asks everything of us, yet at the same time he offers everything to us.

13. Nor should we see the newness of this mission as entailing a kind of displacement or forgetfulness of the living history which surrounds us and carries us forward. Memory is a dimension of our faith which we might call “deuteronomic”, not unlike the memory of Israel itself. Jesus leaves us the Eucharist as the Church’s daily remembrance of, and deeper sharing in, the event of his Passover (cf. Lk 22:19). The joy of evangelizing always arises from grateful remembrance: it is a grace which we constantly need to implore. The apostles never forgot the moment when Jesus touched their hearts: “It was about four o’clock in the afternoon” (Jn 1:39). Together with Jesus, this remembrance makes present to us “a great cloud of witnesses” (Heb 12:1), some of whom, as believers, we recall with great joy: “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God” (Heb 13:7). Some of them were ordinary people who were close to us and introduced us to the life of faith: “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice” (2 Tim 1:5). The believer is essentially “one who remembers”.

Fr JM Manzano SJ