“When the root is deep there is no reason to fear the wind.”
~ framed quote hanging in a corner study at Broom Tree
After Morning Prayer we held our second session of the exercises. In reviewing my journal I can see the thread that brings them all together, from Deacon Andrew’s short talk to the assigned readings and my meditations that came about as a result. But I am also faced with the knowledge that it would take a writer more skilled than I to make it succinct and on point for the purposes of a blog post. Or, just as likely, it isn’t meant for the confines of such brevity. After all we are talking about the beauty of ALL creation. From considering the “levels of being” such as rocks and other existing objects, to other living creatures, and finally to humans possessing rationality and free choice of the will. The aim this morning (Friday, Sept. 21) was to concentrate on higher things and avoid the distractions of lower things. We were to reflect on the goodness of God, and to seek the grace of knowing the personal love of God for us.
How would I even begin to write about finding and recognizing beauty in all things and in all levels of creation? I suppose I’d start with what we learned as The First Principle. Read it now, and I’ll come back to it in the end.
First Principle and Foundation
Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save his soul. The other things on the face of the earth are created for man to help him in attaining the end for which he is created.
Hence, man is to make use of them in as far as they help him in the attainment of his end, and he must rid himself of them in as far as they prove a hindrance to him.
Therefore, we must make ourselves indifferent to all created things, as far as we are allowed free choice and are not under any prohibition. Consequently, as far as we are concerned, we should not prefer health to sickness, riches to poverty, honor to dishonor, a long life to a short life. The same holds for all other things.
Our one desire and choice should be what is more conducive to the end for which we are created.
From The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, edited by Louis J. Puhl, S.J. Chicago: Loyola University Press. 1951.
It was a cool, clear morning and pretty windy. I walked south past the entrance to St. Isadore’s and looked down the hill to the southeast. There was a worn path leading towards a little wooded area with a bench in the shade. I decided it was the perfect place to pray and meditate on such lofty things for the next hour or so.
I turned first to where it all begins: Genesis 1:1-25. The story of Creation – the first six days. Whether you are among those who take the timeframe literally or those who do not, the message here is the same: in short, God created it all. And it was, and I believe is still, good. God did all of this, from the rocks on the path that begins the trek through the Stations of the Cross across the grounds at Broom Tree, to the tall, dried prairie grasses blowing in the wind. The wind that He also created. He created the warm sun overhead me now, and these bluest of skies. Moving to a different level He created the weed or flower I find on the path to this bench, and the cattle I can hear mooing non-stop just over the hills to the northeast. And finally, to the final level of creation: me. The holder of this pen who sits on a bench in the shade provided by His trees sheltering me from His sun and wind while writing in a journal. And of course you, dear reader.
Bless the Lord, O my soul!
“I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
May my meditation be pleasing to him,
For I rejoice in the Lord.”
~ Psalm 104:1, 33-34
Here I’ll return to that First Principle of St. Ignatius. In the first line he states that man “is created to praise, reverence, and serve God…to save his soul.” In the old Baltimore Catechism, the de facto standard Catholic school text in the U.S. from 1885 to the late 1960s, we find in Lesson One the following:
1. Q. Who made the world?
A. God made the world.
2. Q. Who is God?
A. God is the Creator of heaven and earth, and of all things.
3. Q. What is man?
A. Man is a creature composed of body and soul, and made to the image and likeness of God.
6. Q. Why did God make you?
A. God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him for ever in heaven.
9. Q. What must we do to save our souls?
A. To save our souls, we must worship God by faith, hope, and charity; that is, we must believe in Him, hope in Him, and love Him with all our heart.
And what is faith, besides the “belief in things not seen”?
Faith is man’s response to God, who reveals himself and gives himself to man, at the same time bringing man to superabundant light as he searches for the ultimate meaning of his life. ~ Catechism of the Catholic Church, 26
Now this is why I said that to be written well this would require a better writer than I. Because out on that bench while straining against the wind to hold down the pages so I could read and write I got it. I got what St. Ignatius was getting at. Life really is that simple, and we do far too often allow ourselves to be distracted by the things that truly do not matter. The second paragraph of The First Principle is a mini-principle of its own: a principle of simplification. It is a call for us to make use of and enjoy God’s creation, but not get so distracted in the things that don’t matter that we neglect or ignore the things that do. Yeah, that’d be me. Guilty as charged. Since returning from my retreat I’ve made a conscious effort to not become like so many of those I see walking downtown each day, noses buried in a 4 inch screen. We miss so much, no wonder we become so jaded. No wonder we no longer praise.
Yeah, no wonder. And that’s the problem. We’ve simply forgotten. Fortunately He hasn’t forgotten us.
Psalm 19 begins: “The heavens are telling the glory of God.” They are still today and have never stopped. Read all of Psalm 19 if you haven’t in a while. Read how God created all of this beauty for us. He gave us laws, testimony, precepts and commandments (And only ten! Or the two “great commandments of the New Testament, if you prefer). He gives us it all.
Why do we make it so damned hard?
Why do I?
The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself. ~ Catechism of the Catholic Church, 27
The wind calmed for a few minutes as I closed my journal and my bible to sit and gaze up at the white building that is St. Isadore’s contrasted against the deep blue sky. I didn’t want to leave this place, and attempted to soak in as much of what I’d found there before walking back up the hill to Mass.
On my way back to the retreat center where we were to have Mass and then lunch, I saw Cocoa walking across an open field. I whistled, but she would only turn to look at me before continuing on her way. I was to learn that she did not have time for such trivial pursuits as photos. She may have been teaching me a lesson.