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St. Ignatius' Rules For Thinking With The Church

"The following rules should be observed to foster the true attitude of mind we ought to have in the church militant" Ignatius Loyola, Spiritual Exercise #352

Imagine deciding one day to not live as everyone else does. Imagine looking around and seeing a way of life that is chaotic, irreverent, unethical, anxious and setting out to design a life according to new standards. What would those new standards be? Where would you start in sketching a plan for your life according to new rules or guidelines.

The truth is that every thoughtful person, already has a rule. Some are certainly more thought out than others. Perhaps you've experienced living by certain rules, and later decided to try living by different ones. Many people adopt rules for diets, clothing, physical activity and of course religion.

Rules seem to have a bad reputuation in our culture today. The idea of following rules arrouses fear and concern because it seems contrary to the notion of freedom. Words such as rigor, mandate and regulation come to mind and may cause us to be uneasy.

We can also look at rules from a creative perspective to see their value. Children create rules to enjoy a new game. Monastic rules are lived by with committment and genuine desire. Rules are the foundation of patterns, models and archetecture. Rules can also be liberating for someone who is looking for an alternate way of life, away from the unspoken rules and pressures of secular culture.

In the meditations on sin in the Spiritual Exercises St. Ignatius suggests "Imagine Christ our Lord present before you upon the cross, and begin to speak with him, asking how it is though He is the Creator, He stooped to become man, and to pass from eternal life to death here in time, that thus He might die for our sins. I shall also reflect upon myself and ask:

"What have I done for Christ

"What am I doing for Christ?

"What ought I to do for Christ?

Invitation: Read through the following rules by St. Ignatius. Consider which one you relate to, are drawn to, desire to aspire to. Which ones make you confused, uneasy or repulsed? Reflect on what you have done for Christ, what you are doing for Christ and what you ought to do for Him. Invite him into the conversation.


#353. 1. We must put aside all judgement of our own, and keep the mind ever ready and prompt to obey in all things the true Spouse of Christ our Lord, our holy Mother, the hierarchical.

#354. 2. We should praise sacramental confession, the yearly reception of the Most Blessed Sacrament, and praise more highly monthly reception, and still more weekly Communion, provided requisite and proper disposition are present.

#355. 3. We ought to praise the frequent hearing of Mass, the singing of hymns, psalmody, and long prayers whether in the church or outside; likewise the hours arranged at fixed times for the whole Divine Office, for every kind of prayer, and for the canonical hours.

#356 4. We must praise highly religious life, virginity, and continence; and matrimony ought not be praised as much as any of these.

#357. 5. We should praise vows of religion, obedience, poverty, chastity, and vows to perform other works of supererogation conducive to perfection. However it must be remembered that a vow deals with matters that lead us closer to evangelical perfection. Hence, whatever tends to withdraw one from perfection may not be made the object of a vow, for example, a business career, the married state, and so forth.

#358. 6. We should show our esteem for the relics of saints by venerating them and praying to the saints. We should praise visits to the Station Churches, pilgrimages, indulgences, jubilee, crusade insults, and the lighting of candles in churches.

#359. 7. We must praise the regulations of the Church with regard to fast and abstinence, for example, in Lent, on Ember Days, Vigils, Fridays, and Saturdays. We should praise works of penance, not only those that are interior but also those that are exterior.

#360 8. We ought to praise not only the building and adornment of churches, but also images and veneration of them according to the subject they represent.

#361. 9. Finally, we must praise all the commandments of the Church, and be on the alert to find reasons to defend them, and by no means in order to criticize them.

#362. 10. We should be more ready to approve and praise the orders, recommendations, and way of acting of our superiors than to find fault with them. Though some of the orders, etc., may not have been praise-worthy, yet to speak against them, either when preaching in public or speaking before the people, would rather be the cause of murmuring and scandal than of profit. As a consequence, the people would become angry with their superiors, whether secular or spiritual. But while it does harm in the absence of our superiors to speak evil of them before the people, it may be profitable to discuss their bad conduct with those who can apply remedy.

#363. 11. We should praise both positive theology and that of the Scholastics. It is characteristic of the positive doctors, such as St. Augustine, St Jerome, St. Gregory, and others, to rouse the affections so that we are moved to love and serve God our Lord in all things. On the other hand, it is more characteristic of the scholastic doctors, such as St. Thomas, St. Bonaventure, the Master of the Sentences, and others , to define and state clearly, according to the needs of our times, the doctrines that are necessary for eternal salvation, and that more efficaciously help to refute all errors and expose all fallacies.

Further, just because scholastic doctors belong to more recent times, they not only have the advantage of correct understanding of Holy Scriptures and of the teaching of the saitns and positive doctors, but, enlightened by the grace of God, they also make use of the decisions of the Councils and of the definitions and decrees of our holy Mother Church.

#364. 12. We must be on our guard against making comparisons between those who are still living and the saints who have gone before us, for no small error is committed if we say: "This man is wiser than St. Augustine," "He is another St. Francis or even greater," "He is equal to St. Paul in goodness and sanctity," and so on.

#365. 13. If we wish to proceed securely in all things, we must hold fast to the following principle: what seems to me white, I will believe black if the hierarchical Church so defines. For I must be convinced that in Christ our Lord, the bridegroom, and His spouse the Church, only one Spirit holds sway, which governs and rules for the salvation of souls. For it is by the same Spirit and Lord who gave the Ten Commandments that our Holy Mother Church is rules and governed.

#366. 14 Granted that it be very true that no one can be saved without being predestined and without having faith and grace, still we must be very cautious about the way in which we speak of all these things and discuss them with others.

#367. 15. We should not make It a habit of speaking much od predestination. If shoe at times it comes to be spoken of, it must be done in such a way that the people are not led into any error. They are at times misled, so that they say: "Whether I shall be saved or lost, has already been determined, and this cannot be changed whether my actions are good or bad." So they become indolent and neglect the works that are conducive to the salvation and spiritual progress of their souls.

#368. 16. In the same way, much caution is necessary, lest by much talk about faith, and much insistence on it without distinctions or explanations, occasion be given to the people, whether before or after they have faith informed by charity, to become slothful and lazy in good works.

#369. 17. Likewise we ought not to speak of grace at such length and with such emphasis that the poison of doing away with liberty is engendered.

Hence, as far as is possible with the help of God, one may speak of faith and grace that the Divine Majesty may be praised. But let it not be done in such a way, above all not in times which are as dangerous as ours, that works and free will suffer harm, or that they are considered of no value.

#370. 18.Though the zealous service of God our Lord out of pure love should be esteemed above all, we ought also to praise highly the fear of the Divine Majesty. For not only filial fear but also servile fear is pious and very holy. When nothing higher or more useful is attained, it is very helpful for rising from mortal sin, and once this is accomplished, one may easily advance to filial fear, which is wholly pleasing and agreeable to God our Lord since it is inseparably associated with the love of Him.

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