Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Spiritu, Corde, Practice

After Saint Ignatius had completed the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus, he faced a task equally as daunting as its composition: communicating the document to the early Jesuits. This task he entrusted to Jeronimo Nadal who went from community to community, sharing and explicating the Constitutions as he went. Apparently a master teacher, Nadal developed a simple triad - the Latin spiritu, corde, practice - to explain how the Jesuits were to live out their mission: in the Spirit, from the heart, practically.

Spiritu: God's Spirit is active in the world, inviting ongoing, everyday response. Sometimes, I think, we are too quick to compartmentalize our spiritual lives as though the "Spirit" only mattered when we prayed or went to Church. For Ignatius, however, God's Spirit is at play within the world at all times and our lives, our entire selves, can be lived in response to this presence. Spirituality isn't something we have, as we might have a preference in wine, but rather is the very style of our lives. Life in the Spirit gives us to live a life of the Spirit: God's joyful presence in the world, more mighty than death, rejoicing in the light that conquers darkness.

Corde: If God's Spirit cannot be confined to a Church, if it is always at play in our world, we are summoned to make a total, heart-level, offering of ourselves. Better than any Tom-Tom or Garmin, the human heart is a natural GPS: God Positioning System. God's will stands not outside of us but, rather, within the very depths of our hearts. Living in the Spirit involves setting one's heart on what truly matters, it means that regardless of what we do in our lives - moms or dads, doctors or teachers, custodians or direct care workers, lay or ordained - the way we do it gives testimony to the power and glory of God.

Practice: God's tugging at the human heart calls forth the best of who we are and what we have to offer. This life is lived out practically, in the world. The Holy Father has recently said that there are no "part-time" Christians: it's something we do, something we practice! A few moments of quiet contemplation in the morning or before bed, small acts of kindness done quietly and without thought of recompense, an attitude of quiet patience, a willingness to sacrifice on behalf of others.

Recent articles, such as Russ Douthat's "All the Lonely People," call attention to the tragic consequences of personal and social disintegration. So much of our social identities are wrapped up in what we do or accomplish. When the external benchmarks are challenged or lost, one's sense of self-identity is threatened and eroded.

The threat of our age is one of disintegration and alienation. Thus it is that the wisdom of our ancestors calls out to us, inviting us to return not to a past age but, rather, to a Wisdom that remains ever fresh and new. The life of faith isn't a self-help program but a program of salvation, a way of being authentically human and fully alive because the center of our lives is not some thing or object but the One who gives life and invites us into the adventure of discipleship. 

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