last modified: Sunday - VII - 20 - 2008   

Saint Ignatius Loyola: Saint Peter's Basilica, Rome



ANIMA IGNATIANA - The Ignatian Spirit

The End of Man

Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save his soul. And the other things on the face of the earth are created for man and that they may help him in prosecuting the end for which he is created. From this it follows that man is to use them as much as they help him on to his end, and ought to rid himself of them so far as they hinder him as to it. For this it is necessary to make ourselves indifferent to all created things in all that is allowed to the choice of our free will and is not prohibited to it; so that, on our part, we want not health rather than sickness, riches rather than poverty, honor rather than dishonor, long rather than short life, and so in all the rest; desiring and choosing only what is most conducive for us to the end for which we are created.
   S.E., Principle and Foundation
There are very few men who realize what God would make of them if they abandoned themselves entirely to His hands, and let themselves be formed by His Grace. A thick and shapeless tree trunk would never believe that it could become a statue, admired as a miracle of sculpture ... and would never consent to submit itself to the chisel of the sculptor who, as St. Augustine says, sees by his genius what he can make of it. Many people who, we see, now scarcely live as Christians, do not understand that they could become saints, if they would let themselves be formed by the grace of God, if they did not ruin His plans by resisting the work which He wants to do... In this life a thing is good only in the degree in which it serves eternal life. And it is evil in that degree in which it makes us turn aside or away from it. In this way the soul, suffering contradictions on this earth, enlightened and purified by the eternal dew, builds its nest on the heights, concentrates all its desires on the search for Christ crucified since, after being crucified in this life, it will rise to life with Him in the next.
   Rome, April 25, 1543. To Ascanio Colonna.
Happy are those who prepare themselves in this life to be judged and saved by His divine Majesty. For His love and respect I ask that without delay you most diligently reform your consciences so that on the day of our final and awesome destiny your souls will be confident.
   Rome, February 2, 1539. To his brothers, D. Martin Garcia and D. Bertrand de Loyola.
Neither among men, nor among angels is there a more noble activity than to glorify your Creator, and to lead to Him as many other creatures as you can.
   Rome, May 7, 1547 To the Scholastics at Coimbra.
Considerations set before St. Francis Xavier by St. Ignatius, and which obtained the conversion of the Apostle of the Indies: “ ‘What doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul?’ If there were no life but the present, no glory but that of this world, you would be right in thinking only of appearing and raising yourself amongst men; but if there be an eternity, as there most certainly is, what are you thinking of in limiting your desires to the present, and why do you prefer what passes away like a dream to what will never end? Do you expect to obtain by your efforts something more precious than Paradise, more durable than eternity? Are they not destined for you? If you wish to win them, who can hinder you from doing so? When you shall have entered into possession of them, who will be able to take them from you? Why so much toil to obtain earthly happiness for a soul of which the origin is celestial, and passing greatness for a soul which is capable of loving and possessing God forever? If the world could give you in a moment all that is most seductive which it has to offer, would you be able to enjoy it beyond the short time of your life? If you were to live for hundreds of years, your last hour would come some time, and then, if you, the temporary possessor of a small amount of good, shall have deprived yourself of God for all eternity, shall you have been the gainer by such an exchange? How many rich and great and powerful have lived in the world before you; has one of them carried away with him any vestiges of his riches, greatness and power? Arrived on the threshold of eternity, they have all looked back and seen these things already in the hands of new masters, whilst they went on alone, not to exchange them for new treasures, but to receive the reward of their works. The empty honors of earth cannot satisfy you, your heart is not narrow enough for the whole world to suffice for it; nothing but God can fill it. I am not trying to extinguish your ardor for glory, nor inspire you with mean sentiments; be ambitious, be high-minded, but let your ambition aim higher by despising all that is perishable. Decide yourself which is best, whether to say now to all worldly joys, ‘What have I to do with you?’ - Quid prodest? or to enjoy them at the risk of repeating throughout eternity with the wretched victims in Hell these other words: ‘What use have vanity and riches been to me?’ - Quid profuit superbia, aut divitiarum jactantia quid contulit nobis?”
   The Spirit of Saint Ignatius, pp 421-423
In 1537, after leaving his native country Spain, the young Francis Strada had come to Rome in search of fortune and honors. Deceived in his hopes, he had set out for Naples, where he expected to succeed better, when he met Ignatius, to whom he related his troubles and unfolded his projects. The Saint pitied his blindness, induced him to renounce the vanities of the world, and received him into the Society, where he became one of the most illustrious apostles of his time. To obtain this result, Ignatius put before him the following considerations: “Why do you not rather enrol yourself under the banner of Jesus Christ to combat Hell, and take Heaven by assault? You complain of the world, which you have no right to do, for in disappointing your expectations, it has only done what it is in the habit of doing. What am I saying? Instead of complaining, you should rather rejoice at it. It is not in reality to have deceived you, to have shown you from the first what the Court is, and how ill-founded are hopes placed there; in this at least it did not deceive you. It would have been sad for you if you had been better treated, for then you would probably not have found it out until death, whereas now you can have some merit in renouncing it. This ungrateful world, which has rewarded your services so badly, itself warns you that you ought to quit it, and seek another master with whom you would not waste your labors and your efforts. Yet you act like those, having suffered shipwreck upon one sea, re-embark upon another and seek a second shipwreck. You quit the Court for the army, you leave Rome to go to Naples: do you expect to find the world more faithful and grateful at Naples than at Rome? If you interrogate the passers-by whom you will meet, you will find some who, on the contrary, are coming to Rome from Naples, enticed by the very thoughts which are now directing you to the latter city, and who are, alas , seeking there what they would do much more wisely to avoid. For my part I pity you more for the hope which you retain than for that which you have lost. If I were to speak to you like a true friend, I should even tell you that you are not made for the world, and that the world is not made for you. You will seek vainly elsewhere the peace and contentment of soul which are found in God alone. Whatever the world might do for you, even if it surpassed your hopes, it would never fulfill your desires nor satisfy your heart. With God, and God alone, you will have nothing to wish for. You know the nothingness of earthly goods, how then can they be the object of your desires?”
   The Spirit of Saint Ignatius, pp 423-424
When Ignatius was still a layman, and studying at Alcalá, there was in that town an ecclesiastical dignitary whose scandalous life corresponded little with the holy state which he had embraced. Ignatius went to see him, after having requested an audience, and announced that he was a stranger who had matters of the highest importance to communicate to him. He made the following discourse which, after provoking a terrible storm, struck down the repentant sinner a moment after, at the feet of his charitable deliverer: “Assuredly a worthless man, and above all a miserable sinner like myself, would not dare to arrogate to himself the title of friend with regard to a person of your rank; however, my affection and devotion to you are such that, out of a thousand friends, there may not perhaps be one so sincerely devoted to you. I am more so than you are yourself, for it is your highest interest which obliges me to come to see you, it is in the interest of your everlasting salvation. I love your soul, which is the noblest part of your being, and you can bestow no care upon it. You are ignorant of what is said of you in Alcalá, and I am not surprised at it. It is the fault of those about you, and who only allow that to reach you which will please and flatter you; but what does astonish me is, that you do not hear the voice of your conscience Has God placed you in the world that you may think of nothing but diverting yourself as if there were neither a Heaven nor a Hell? Is a blessed eternity such a light thing that it deserves none of your care? If, at this moment, death were to overtake you, which God forbid, where would you be, and what would become of you forever? What account would you have to render, I do not say for the many blessings of which you have made such bad use, but for so many souls which you have lost, and are daily losing?”
   The Spirit of Saint Ignatius, pp 424-425
Laurence Maggio, being tormented, and almost overcome by temptation, wished to leave the Society, but before carrying out his resolution he came to open his mind to Ignatius, who, without opposing the design, merely said to him: “I only ask you to promise me that the first time you awake tonight, whatever time it may be, you will place yourself upon your bed, in the position of a dying man. You will represent to yourself as vividly as you can, that you have only a quarter of an hour to live, and that when that short space of time is over, you will go to render an account to God of your life and to receive your sentence. After several minutes, say to yourself: ‘If I were really thus, whom should I wish to have obeyed - God, Who calls me to serve Him, or the devil, who wishes to deter me from doing so?’ Listen to the answer which your soul gives to this question, then say to yourself: ‘Am I not certain to come to this some day?’” Ignatius stopped, and the rest could be easily guessed. Scarcely had night come, when Maggio came to Ignatius completely confirmed in his vocation.
   The Spirit of Saint Ignatius, pp 425-426


The Spiritual Exercises

The End of Man