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astignatiusWhen I was in elementary school at Our Lady Help of Christians parish, it was the custom on our tests (and probably other written work) to place a small cross at the top of the page and underneath to print JMJ (Jesus, Mary, Joseph). I don’t remember being instructed each time to do what was most likely supposed to become a habit of dedicating our work to the Holy Family but I suspect for many of us it was either a desperate prayer for help or a desire to be seen as pious. Later on, as we grew into the upper grades and got more sophisticated, the letters changed to AMDG (Ad majorem Dei gloriam = for the greater glory of God). Knowing the meaning in English was easier than remembering the Latin words, at least until we got to high school. It wasn’t until much later that I learned how famous that phrase was.

Today is the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of The Society of Jesus, commonly known as the Jesuits. The life story of Ignatius and his “society” is a great read which I will not repeat here (see “saint of the day” from www.franciscanmedia.com for the concise version) but it is clear that the influence of this man who lived from 1491 to 1556 – and died on this day – is greater today than in his lifespan because of his work that has come to be known as The Spiritual Exercises. Originally written for the Jesuits themselves, in our time the Exercises have been incorporated into the lives of people – religious and lay – throughout the world who are seeking spiritual growth. Based on the gospels and written as a four-week retreat, it is a rigorous daily commitment to prayer and reflection that can set one on a course for life. For those who cannot spend an entire month in retreat, there is “the nineteenth annotation” process, wherein each “day” becomes a week spread over 30 weeks. (much information on line).

The goal of everything for Ignatius was doing the will of God, thus the motto: Ad majorem Dei gloriam. This desire is captured in a simple, sincere prayer attributed to him that I believe may be the most profound gift we can offer to God each day.

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will – all I have and call my own. You have given all to me. To you, Lord, I return it. Everything is yours; do with it what you will. Give me only your love and your grace, that is enough for me.