On Monday evening I celebrated Mass with the other small group of Jesuits who are here in Rome for a meeting to discuss the Apostleship of Prayer. We celebrated in a little chapel which used to be one of the rooms where St. Ignatius dwelt and where he died. Monday was the feast of St. Claude la Colombiere, who lived a little over a century after St. Ignatius, and it was appropriate that we began our meetings with Mass on his feast and in the rooms of St. Ignatius. St. Claude was the spiritual director of the great Sacred Heart visionary, St. Margaret Mary.
In my homily I spoke about the connections between St. Ignatius, St. Claude, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and the Apostleship of Prayer. St. Claude, formed by the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola, had a deep, personal love for Jesus and in particular for his humanity. Jesus loves us with a Heart that is human and divine. Knowing the love of Jesus which is symbolised by his Sacred Heart, St. Claude, following the direction of St. Ignatius, would have listened to what this Heart had to say to him in his prayer and would have responded as one friend speaks to another. He would have had a heart to Heart conversation with Jesus.
But love, as St. Ignatius taught, is expressed in more than words. In fact, it is expressed best in deeds. At the end of the Spiritual Exercises St. Ignatius invites the retreatant to ponder all the good things God has done and to ask, what would a reasonable person do? The answer is to give as one has received. Since we have received everything from God, and since God has held back nothing of himself, then we too ought to make a total offering of ourselves to God. Such an offering is best renewed each day, one day at a time.
And such an offering will ultimately involve sacrifice. It will mean surrendering our own plans, desires, and will to God. This is what happened in the life of St. Ignatius who wanted to be a priest directly serving people in pastoral ways and ended up the last decade of his life as a priest-administrator. Out of love for Jesus, he gave himself to the task of organizing the Jesuit order he founded and writing its Constitutions. He sacrificed his will for the will of God. Love inspired him to do so.
Similarly, St. Claude sacrificed his plans and desires. After serving as St. Margaret Mary's spiritual director he went to England where he was ultimately imprisoned, became ill, and was released lest his death create a political crisis with France. He died a short time later at the early age of 42.
The Daily Offering of the Apostleship of Prayer can only be made as an act of love. If it doesn't arise out of the knowledge of God's deep personal love, it is in danger of becoming a routine or a part of a business negotiation with God. That idea is one of the things we discussed yesterday and today. But more on those discussions another time....