Sunday, April 13, 2008

How the devil fools people...and how people fool themselves...

Over the years, I've always found the spiritual exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola to be excellent for spiritual health.

They dispel myths by which we fool ourselves or by which the devil fools us.

Perhaps the most gripping meditation of the spiritual exercises is the one given on the 4th day of the 30 day retreat: Meditation on the Two Standards.

This meditation makes it very clear that there are ONLY two standards on earth; that of Our Lord Jesus Christ, our Commander-in-chief, and that of Lucifer, mortal enemy of our human nature.

There are not 10, 15 or 20 standards -- there are ONLY two. There is no such thing as the standard of the "nice" people party, the "comfort-zone" party or the "smile to get along party."

Saint Ignatius has us meditate on how Christ calls and wants us all under His standard. Then he asks us to think about how Lucifer, on the contrary, call people under his standard.

The saint helps us see things in our imagination. He tells us to imagine a great field of all that region of Jerusalem, where the supreme Commander-in-chief of the good is Christ our Lord.

He then says to imagine another field in the region of Babylon, where the chief of the enemy is Lucifer.

Saint Ignatius tells us to ask for what we want; to ask for knowledge of the deceits of the bad chief and help to guard myself against them, and for knowledge of the true life which the supreme and true Captain shows and grace to imitate Him.

Then, to imagine as if the chief of all the enemy seated himself in that great field of Babylon, as in a great chair of fire and smoke, in shape horrible and terrifying. To consider how he issues a summons to innumerable demons and how he scatters them, some to one city and others to another, and so through all the world, not omitting any provinces, places, states, nor any persons in particular.

To also consider the discourse the devil makes them, and how he tells them to cast out nets and chains; that they have first to tempt with a longing for riches -- as he is accustomed to do in most case -- that men may more easily come to vain honor of the world, and then to vast pride.

So that the first step shall be that of riches; the second, that of honor; the third, that of pride; and from these three steps he draws on to all the other vices.

So, on the contrary, you imagine the supreme and true Captain, Who is Christ our Lord. Consider how Christ our Lord puts Himself in a great field of that region of Jerusalem, in lowly place, beautiful and attractive.

Then, consider how the Lord of all the world chooses so many persons -- Apostles, Disciples, etc., -- and sends them through all the world spreading His sacred doctrine through all states and conditions of persons.

Also, consider the discourse which Christ our Lord makes to all His servants and friends whom He sends on this expedition, recommending them to want to help all, by bringing them first to the highest spiritual poverty, and -- if His Divine Majesty would be served and would want to choose them -- no less to actual poverty; the second is to be of contumely and contempt; because from these two things humility follows.

So, you will think of three things; the first, poverty against riches; the second, contumely or contempt against worldly honor; the third, humility against pride. And from these three steps let them induce to all the other virtues.

Finally, speak to Our Lady and ask that she may get graces from Her Son and Lord that you may be received under His standard; and first in the highest spiritual poverty, and -- if His Divine Majesty would be served and would want to choose and receive you -- not less in actual poverty; second, in suffering contumely and injuries, to imitate Him more in them, if only you can suffer them without the sin of any person, or displeasure of His Divine Majesty; and with that a HAIL MARY.

Then, ask the same of the Son, that He may get it for you of the Father; and with that say the SOUL OF CHRIST.

Finally, ask the same of the Father, that He may grant it to you; and say an OUR FATHER.

I hope this meditation helps you. I know it has helped me.

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