Thursday, March 25, 2010

Patience is a Virtue

Principle #8: Be Patient!

It is one of the enduring insights of Saint Ignatius of Loyola that he saw God working intimately and personally with each human being. Saint Ignatius writes:

"...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 with love, inciting it to praise of himself, and disposing it for the way which will most enable the soul to serve him in the future." (Annotation #15)
When any one of us risks the adventure of discernment, he or she should do so confident that God will speak to us. The fruit of this speaking, as Ignatius writes, is a stirring of the heart, a growth in love, and a desire to serve God in the world.

Nevertheless, it is easy to for well-intentioned Jesuits who are interested in promoting a vocation to the Society of Jesus to get in God's way! Take note of Ignatius' advice:

"...the one giving the Exercises ought not to lean or incline in either direction but rather, while standing by like the pointer of a scale in equilibrium, to allow the Creator to deal immediately with the creature and the creature with its Creator and Lord."
The job of anyone who wishes to promote vocations is, ultimately, to facilitate an encounter whereby the candidate comes to know God intimately and personally. We must resist putting undue pressure on the candidate or trying to convince the candidate of what he must do.

We need, in other words, to trust that God will do what needs to be done.

It is good to remember that we are facilitators of God's grace: we can help a person see where God is leading, where God is active, where God is inviting deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. Yet we do not initiate God's grace and cannot control it.

Father Howard Gray, SJ (the original "Abba") brilliantly expresses what should be the fundamental stance of any who wishes to promote vocations:

  1. Be Attentive: Learn to recognize the movement of God's Spirit in the lives of others. As you become sensitive to discerning God's desires for you in your own life, you will develop your abilities to be sensitive to God's activity in the lives of others.
  2. Be Reverent. When you encounter the "holy desire" of an early vocation, show reverence for God's presence. Treat this person as one who is graced by God's Spirit: this person is holy ground! Show the respect and reverence that is due any person who discerns honestly and sincerely to know just what it is that God wants for him.
  3. Be Devoted. Offer your entire self to this process. Pray for the man. Answer questions. Listen to him. Devote yourself to clarifying what it is that stirs in the depths of the man's heart and helping the man offer himself wholly to God's invitation to friendship. You cannot, of course, do this for him.
The ministry of vocation promotion is like being a midwife. We must become "attentive" to the signs of pregnancy and take any steps necessary to ensure a healthy discernment process. Be "reverent" for the grace that stirs within, a grace that can start out so fragile but one that, with time, will grow and become stronger. Finally, we must be "devoted" to this process: we must continue to grow in our own spirituality so that we might help others grow in their love for God. We must give of ourselves generously - as prayers, counselors, listeners, and friends - to help bring to fruition all that God desires for this person.

Undergirding these, however, is a simple principle: be patient. Trust that God is doing spectacular things in this person's life. Trust that God is working even when it seems like nothing is happening. Trust that God's Spirit is drawing this person deeper into friendship and that your patient presence provides more of a support than you realize. Be a patient companion, one who listens, loves, and prayers that those who express interest in our way of life be so moved as to pledge themselves to the service of God's Kingdom as Companions of Jesus.

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