08 October 2020

Faith Matters - Isolation

Article by Mr Brendan Nicholls

Faith Matters - Isolation

As we excitedly await the return to face to face classes there is much we can reflect upon as the truncated year rapidly nears its end. Anecdotally the second round of remote learning was much more draining for students than the first and the sense of adventure experienced earlier in the year was replaced by a sense of drudgery. Returning to the College excites us as we will be back amongst friends and challenged by the interactions that cannot be replicated online.

Our patron St Ignatius of Loyola wisdom and life story can offer us some sound advice as we overcome the emotional toll the recent period of restrictions and the realisation of what we have yet to complete before the end of the year.

Dream big but be patient – Ignatius was a dreamer. His vision was grand and was not achieved in weeks or months. The mystical experiences he had at Manresa began a lifework of passion that required both dedication and patience to achieve. Small dreams are not of God. Big dreams are guided by the Spirit. They take us beyond ourselves and change the world. Big dreams, however, take time so be patient and content as you journey onward.

Control what you can – During his recuperation Ignatius became aware of the futility of worrying. You can only control what you can. Everything else occurs through the choices of others, natural processes or God’s will. Discerning what you are in control of is humbling and powerful. Becoming aware of our limited ability to control anything offers freedom and trust in God. When you focus on what you can control you become aware of where your energy is best placed and offers the chance to set goals that will bring your dreams to fruition.

Be present – In the Spiritual Exercises, the retreatant is called to be present and focus upon God. In our busy lives, we are very often not truly present. When we are with our families we are often thinking about the next task that needs to be done and in doing so we miss the opportunity to be with those we love. Being together is quite different from being present.

We also get caught up in life and although God is near we are not focussed upon this grace. We all have the opportunity to take some time each day to be truly present and open to God. God will provide all the wisdom, patience and contentment if only we might pause to receive these gifts.

One step at a time – As a pilgrim, Ignatius understood that great journeys are achieved on step at a time. Although he rode a donkey for almost his entire journey his pilgrimage was taxing as he was still recovering from the horrific injuries and resultant surgeries on his legs. Achieving big things occurs similarly. Metaphorically tasks are completed one step at a time with milestones along the way and each step has is challenges. Even when we feel unable to continue by focussing on the next step and not the eventual destination we can achieve what may seem impossible.

Seek solitude – At Manresa Ignatius became aware of the need for solitude and experienced how this can lead to contentment and fuel a person’s spiritual journey. Although we celebrate coming together as a community and have been starved of social interaction make time to be alone periodically throughout the remainder of the year. There is so much to do and so many things yet to occur the need for solitude needs to be part of your plan. Time alone offers the solitude to disconnect and balance all of the external stimuli with your personal needs. Alone is not the same as lonely. Time alone gives the chance to reflect and consider the next steps toward our goal and should be valued highly.

Serve others – Throughout his pilgrimage and the rest of his life, Ignatius served others in hospitals, in giving spiritual direction and caring for those in need. As we become aware of God's love and how this love is offered to all people we are drawn to service. We become the hands, feet, voice and heart of God in the world. Rather than an object, a Catholic, which is a noun we serve as Catholics which transforms the noun to verb. When we serve we are “doing” the Gospel. Ignatius found that when he served others he became more aware of God’s presence in his life and was driven to do more and achieve his dreams for the good of all people. Serving others makes us humble. In becoming humbler we soften our hearts and become more like Jesus. As we return to ‘normal’ life make one of your goals service.

Don’t stop when you fail – Although Ignatius achieved much in his life his biggest dream was not fulfilled. His desire to live in the Holy Land and help people spiritually was never fulfilled. Although he was able to travel to Jerusalem he was ordered to leave due to the unrest in the region at the time. Ignatius showed great courage and humility in accepting the decision of the Provincial of Jerusalem and returned to Spain.

Life is full of setbacks and moments of failure. Some of these events are of our doing whilst others are beyond our control. What we can learn from Ignatius is that when we face failure the better option is to accept the situation, analyse the options and amend your goals. Failure often leads us to better outcomes in the long term even if painful at the time. To achieve the goal even when you fail what is required is the time considering how you can adjust the waypoints and continue forward to the goal. At time passes be comfortable with the fact that sometimes life gets in the way and a desire may not be achieved but goals more suited to your gifts will appear and the journey is not in vain even if the original goal is not achieved.

As we return to the College every member of the College can look to Ignatius for guidance and use his experiences as a 500-year-old ‘self-help’ manual. I wish you all the best throughout the remaining weeks of the 2020 academic year. You can achieve all you desire with a little planning and inspiration from St Ignatius.

Yours in Christ,

Brendan Nicholls  Liturgy Coordinator