Tuesday 2 December 2014

Sanctity with its foibles

Ignatius' eighth rule in the Spiritual Exercises takes up again the second (consolation without a cause). When there is consolation without a cause, it is clear that only God acts, and we do not. Ignatius, however, is very attentive and cautious here. He urges us to distinguish this moment from the successive one. Here the soul remains fervent, but other elements enter: from one’s habitual ways of thinking, deductions from concepts and judgments, or from the influence of either the good or the bad angel. Here we formulate opinions and proposals that are not directly given by God, and so they should be carefully examined before giving them credit and putting them into practice. (ES 336)

There are examples of saints who begin with a good movement, but then go on to ambiguous things, much less holy, more questionable. How can this happen? Because in this second movement, there enter human beings, concepts, motivations, cultural images, ways of thinking, interests that are more or less pure, considerations of advantage and disadvantage, etc. [Here is where the whole of our cultural conditioning enters. The whole discussion about Italianity and Salesianity can be put into this context.] the Lord never ensures that the purity of the starting point is preserved intact up to the point of arrival. Things begun by God can be corrupted by men. We can even go up to the point of sin. So Ignatius says: it is important to examine carefully what happens between beginning and end. Even certain vocations can begin very pure, and then get corrupted. / God calls, certainly, but he does not canonize all that comes after. There is nothing automatic in the field of the Spirit and of sanctity. [Rossi de Gasperis 266-67.]

See the bible: God calls Israel at Sinai; Israel always remains the people of God; but this does not mean that everything it does can be canonized. We need to discern with great attention and vigilance the moment of consolation from that which follows. In my cooperation with God, all my ‘inquinamento’ can enter. The case of John the Baptist is exemplary: he had formed, from some biblical texts, an image of Jesus that did not match the reality of Jesus. [267.]

We have to be totally ‘unprejudiced’ [we should not be completely taken up: a healthy scepticism w.r.t. anyone and anything] with any event. “Esiste un disincanto essenziale alla santità cristiana.” Jn 2:23-25: Jesus did not put his trust in them, because he knew them, … he knew what was in every man. Jesus entrusts himself unconditionally only to his Father. The diabolic influence can infiltrate everywhere. / Even saints can go wrong. Perfect discernment belongs only to Kingdom. Here all things are mixed up. “Se una persona commette schiocchezze non significa che non sia santa.” [anche questo!]

So: saints can have their foibles. Just because someone has his limitations, it does not mean he is not a saint. This explains how even great saints can have their, often culture based, limitations. Someone may be saintly and pro-Israeli; someone else saintly and pro-Palestinian. There is no carte blanche sanctity.  


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