Reflections on Freedom


Enjoying the experience of directing a long retreat,  30-days of silence, following the Spiritual Exercises, in North Wales.  I am with 6 other ‘youngish’ Jesuits of my generation, so as well as accompanying people through the 4 weeks it is great to discuss the dynamics with them (whilst respecting the confidentiality).  We have just spent a few days with the ‘Principle and Foundation’ a consideration that Ignatius gives us before we enter the retreat.  Below is a contemporary translation by David Fleming - 

The Goal of our life is to live with God forever.
God, who loves us, gave us life.
Our own response of love allows God’s life
to flow into us without limit.

All the things in this world are gifts from God,
Presented to us so that we can know God more easily
and make a return of love more readily.
As a result, we appreciate and use all these gifts of God
Insofar as they help us to develop as loving persons.
But if any of these gifts become the center of our lives,
They displace God
And so hinder our growth toward our goal.

In everyday life, then, we must hold ourselves in balance
Before all of these created gifts insofar as we have a choice
And are not bound by some obligation.
We should not fix our desires on health or sickness,
Wealth or poverty, success or failure, a long life or a short one.
For everything has the potential of calling forth in us
A deeper response to our life in God.

Our only desire and our one choice should be this:
I want and I choose what better leads
To God’s deepening his life in me.

It is this ‘holding ourselves in balance’ – sometimes referred to as the principle of indifference, which is the true meaning of freedom. It is wonderful to see how this ‘inner freedom’ grows when someone is on retreat, and has an open heart and seeking God.  That process of a growing inner freedom,  sometimes involves the healing of memories, and also an honest look at what our ‘disordered attachments’ are.  Often these attachments are not just to things, but more much deeply our attitude to things….. our desire for power, our desire for influence, our desire for wealth.  That is why it is so striking that when we meet people who have this inner freedom, that they truly are the influential.  The difference between a Buddhist notion of detachment and the practice of mindfulness and the freedom of the Exercises is that it is God who does the work in the Exercises…. and God is gentle.

Tim Byron SJ

originally published on Schola Afectus