"Remember, I am with you always to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20)

DAY VIII: St. James—One Foot Raised Along With Christ (JULY 25)

Ignatius begging for alms
Eighth Rule of the Discernment of Spirits: When one is in desolation, he should strive to persevere in patience. This reacts against the vexations that have overtaken him. Let him consider, too, that consolation will soon return, and in the meantime, he must diligently use the means against desolation which have been given in the sixth rule. (SE 321)

An important figure very close to the heart of every Spaniard like San Ignacio de Loyola is the apostle James who is the patron of Spain and, according to tradition, his remains are held in a cathedral in Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, northwestern Spain. First among shared traits between the two saints is their being strong-willed to do "magis" (Latin for more) for the Lord, though sometimes to a fault. James was one of the first apostles to be called by Jesus and also the first to be martyred. He was one of the three favoured apostles to be on the Mount of Transfiguration (Mt 17:1-9), and at Jesus' suffering in the garden of Gethsemane. We recall that with their mother's help, James and John, a.k.a. sons of thunder, asked Jesus to "promote" them to seats on his right and left in his glory. Jesus rebuked them for raising the wrong foot, so to speak. The other ten apostles were annoyed with their vainglory pursuits and it created a wrangling among them. This might ring a bell with Ignatius' known vainglory pursuits before his personal conversion.

Apostle James The Greater Antonio Da Fabriano

Have you ever felt a sense of being in-between belief and disbelief about this pandemic? Like being in a dream and could not seem to accept fully the reality yet? There seems to be a part of us that is still off balance and in denial, longing for the old normal. According to Pope Francis this has become a moment of great personal conversion that begins to create in us an understanding heart, i.e., wiser and more compassionate towards the multitude who suffer. All the apostles, every time they were with Jesus, had always something new to learn from him. And every time they listened they were transformed, often with a heavy toll. For example, Jesus was quick to detect in James and John the creeping attachment to vain-glory and self-glorification. He admonished them, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup [of suffering and death] that I am going to drink?" They were taught discernment of spirits, i.e. choosing Christ always, a constant endeavor where nobody is excepted. St. Ignatius as a soldier also went through the arduous process of character-building while in the army until it was punctuated by his cannonball experience. Jesuit ideals of obedience and indifference are hallmarks of the soldier within this man. Ignatius lived out, the same principle that Jesus was teaching his apostles, i.e., an army whose officers lord it over their men, as the Gentiles or pagans were said to do, is an army which is bound to collapse.

Fr. Richard Rohr's Liminal Space
Jesus took every precious opportunity while he was with his apostles to teach them. Fr. Richard Rohr calls this moment the liminal space. There are three dimensions to liminality.

First, it is a teachable moment—from the root word "limen," meaning, threshold. In the Catholic Church tradition, a regular visit ad limina apostolorum or simply an ad limina visit, is an obligation of a bishop to visit every five years the thresholds of the [tombs of the] Apostles, Saints Peter and Paul, and also to meet with the pope to report on the state of the diocese. The ad limina visit serves the purpose of reigniting the spirit of the disciple as a "student" of the Lord. This is achieved when one goes to the periphery, and allows oneself or one's comfort zones to be challenged. The life of the apostles serve as a shining example of persons who learned from the Lord. If God wants to get to us, which God always does, the chances are best in these liminal spaces or in moments of the cross, e.g., this current pandemic, the new-normal living conditions, among others. The opposite of limen is what Jesus referred to as the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod. They are the types of people who avoid sacrifices, suffering and perceived imperfections. They avoid the liminal space—the ultimate threshold of personal transformation and character-building. Jesus warned his disciples against becoming this particular leaven. "But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mt 20:26-28). The annual feast of Christ the King is a constant reminder that the true ruler of all is the one who is the servant of all.

Second, liminality also entails having to face our own demons. We are not perfect; let us welcome that. The perfect is often the enemy of the good. Only after conquering our own demons do we come back transformed and spiritually mature, because we experience the Lord's saving act. Unless we acknowledge that we need to be saved, we are far from the Lord and prone to self-deceit. "If we say we have not sinned we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us" (1 Jn 1:10). Many saints, after their religious experience have tried to live their whole lives in permanent liminality even asking the Lord to share with them his passion and wounds. They embrace actual poverty to live with people in the periphery of our society, precisely, so that they will not succumb to worldly standards. We have to constantly assess our selves in continuous discernment of spirits: Am I doing God’s will or is it just my own? How do I respond when Jesus calls me to bear a certain cross? How do I react when I am labeled as thinking in line with worldly standard and not with Christ’s? This entails hard work through constant prayer until we have the discipline, patience and a deeply rooted faith in Christ.

Third, liminality is that image in a pilgrim's path with "one foot raised." This is exemplified by St. Ignatius the pilgrim. As he contemplated along the way, in the threshold of things, he kept on moving and never allowed any chance for idleness. There is the saying, "Idle hands [or feet] are the devil's workshop; idle lips are his mouthpiece" (Pro 16:27). Liminality could become a double setback if not enlightened by the light of Christ, one could possibly sink into the deep. We need to have the courage to face, with "one foot raised," realities which are always bigger than ideas which is itself grace from God; but face them with firm faith that Christ has already won the battle for us, "one foot raised along with Christ" no matter what the journey entails. For St. James, who would occasionally raise the wrong foot because of his temper, he raised it along with Christ. Fr. JM Manzano, SJ

Fourth day of our Novena of Grace in honour of St. Ignatius of Loyola
Repeat this prayer for nine successive days. The first novena happened between the Feast of the Ascension and Pentecost, when the disciples gathered in the upper room and devoted themselves to prayer.
Suscipe (Prayer by St. Ignatius)
Take, O Lord, and receive
all my liberty, my memory,
my understanding and my entire will. All I have and call my own. Thou hast given all to me, to Thee, O Lord, I return it. Everything belongs to Thee; do with it as Thou wilt. Give me only the love of Thee and with it Thy grace, that is enough for me. Amen.

With St. Ignatius we pray:
Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O Good Jesus, hear me.
Within Thy wounds hide me.
Suffer me not to be separated from Thee.
From the malignant enemy defend me.
In the hour of my death call me.
And bid me come unto Thee,
That with all Thy saints,
I may praise Thee
Forever and ever.

St. Ignatius of Loyola, pray for us.