Saturday, 28 November 2015
St Ignatius says the function of the human being is to praise, reverence and serve God. In fulfilling this function we are in a state of consolation. Putting this in simple, non-theistic terms, Ignatius is saying we should be positive and love life. He teaches us how to move towards consolation or towards God and away from desolation, which is to be deprived of God and gratitude for life, by techniques of prayer including imaginative contemplation of passages from Scripture, particularly the Gospels, and a daily examen of our emotional condition and spiritual wellbeing. Ignatius anticipates by many centuries modern self-help and talking therapies. For example, non-violent communication is about observing how we feel emotionally - about our relationship with others and with the wider world, which we could call God -; considering what our needs are and how we can orient our own needs according to what we can contribute to others and God; and doing self-help exercises - prayer, if you like - regularly and thoughtfully using media such as self-help books, music, poetry and, for those so minded, Buddhist texts and Scripture: the Bible and Christian spiritual classics works. I am not saying religion is reducible to emotional well-being but the latter is certainly an important element in it. Ignatius says in effect that if you constantly feel bad about religious activity you're not doing it right.