I stayed an extra day in southern California after my recent retreat there. No. It wasn't just to avoid the cold and gray Wisconsin November in order to bask in the warmth and sun. I went to visit a Jesuit friend, Fr. Robert Spitzer, former president of Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA and currently running the Magis Institute located in Irvine, CA.
It was an amazing visit. Fr. Spitzer's latest book is already in its fourth printing. It's entitled "New Proofs for the Existence of God: Contributions of Contemporary Physics and Philosophy." As a result of this book and his response to the Physicist Stephen Hawking's claim that "the universe can come from nothing," Fr. Spitzer was invited to be on "Larry King Live." He recently traveled to Rome where, after speaking, he received invitations to 22 different countries to speak about his work. He is in the process of creating a curriculum for schools and on his Magis Center of Reason and Faith web site he has an "Ask Fr. Spitzer" column as well as other great resources.
Fr. Spitzer and I talked about ways that the Apostleship of Prayer and the other part of the Magis Institute--the Magis Center for Catholic Spirituality--might collaborate. I've already been working a bit with the Center which has an email service that sends daily reflections written by Jesuits to subscribers around the world.
I'm blessed to have such a brilliant friend who is also a holy Jesuit. In his homily at Mass on Monday morning, he talked about the story of the blind man of Jericho (Luke 18: 35-43). Jesus answered his prayer that he might see by healing him. Fr. Spitzer has made this same prayer. His eye sight is very bad and he needs the help of others to read the books he uses for his research. How much more good he could do if only he had good vision! Yet, he pointed out, that while God has not answered his prayer for healing, he has received another gift that is perhaps better. Humility. I'm reminded of what St. Ignatius wrote in "The First Principle and Foundation" of his "Spiritual Exercises": "Our one desire and choice should be what is more conducive to the end for which we are created." That end? "To praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to" find salvation. Thus, "as far as we are concerned, we should not prefer health to sickness," or, in Fr. Spitzer's case, good eye sight to poor eye sight. Of course it is natural to want good eye sight and to pray for it. But in the end, when God has a better gift for us that is more helpful to our ultimate goal of salvation, we can accept even blindness as a gift. It's tough, but holiness isn't for wimps. I'm grateful to Fr. Spitzer for the reminder.