By Gisèle Turcot, SBC
Our parents’ appeals to us as children — “Be good! Be wise!” — have stayed in our memory as simple requests to calm down and be reasonable. Did they really want us to be filled with the gift of wisdom that King Solomon sought for himself in order to better lead his people? Probably not. Nevertheless, their words drew our attention to this gift that should be sought and received with gratitude.
Wisdom can be recognized in those who are reflective, who take into consideration the various aspects of reality in order to intelligently and compassionately adapt and make the right decisions. In Ignatian terms, isn’t this what the practice of discernment is all about? This is what Fr. Adolfo Nicolás, SJ, 30th Superior General of the Society of Jesus, suggested to the members of CLC at their world assembly in 2013:
“The Church needs a spirituality that fosters wisdom and depth in order to respond to today’s needs. Ignatian spirituality trains us to reflect and meditate, to distinguish what is superficial and banal from what is profound and real. Ignatian spirituality trains us to be aware, to discern.”
“Ignatian spirituality trains us to reflect and meditate, to distinguish what is superficial and banal from what is profound and real. Ignatian spirituality trains us to be aware, to discern.”
We live in a world that demands our attention in many different ways, where one click is enough to open up an infinite number of possibilities. The danger of becoming too dispersed is all the more present when we are attracted by novelty. There is the risk of becoming scattered, of not being attentive to the inner voice in the depths of our being.
How can we learn to be more aware, to discern? Whatever the circumstances of our lives, this gift will not be denied. Ignatian practices can lead us to nurture those dispositions of heart and mind that Ignatius of Loyola began to discover after being wounded by a cannonball.
Ignatian practices can lead us to nurture those dispositions of heart and mind that Ignatius of Loyola began to discover after being wounded by a cannonball.
First thing in the morning, I am called to centre myself. My personal mission is to love and serve my Creator, not to be distracted by trivialities or consumed by daunting challenges. In contemplation in his presence, I sometimes find that I feel like running away or neglecting the commitments I have made. If I become aware of this, I will ask for the grace to reject the temptation to take the easy way out. This is the first step on the road to wisdom.
My work and relationships with colleagues require all my inner resources: I’m called to modify my way of proceeding; I’m asked to examine development projects when human and financial resources are becoming scarcer; relationships between colleagues can trigger dissatisfaction or even provoke confrontations that leave deep scars. Each situation challenges my ability to see clearly the issues at stake, to overcome my fears, and to appreciate the potential of the people and the organization. All this can be exacerbated by the inherent pressure of competition and efficiency. Is this not an environment in which we can “train to be attentive, to discern,” in the words of Fr. Nicolás, SJ?
Each situation challenges my ability to see clearly the issues at stake, to overcome my fears, and to appreciate the potential of the people and the organization.
In the evening on days like this, the Ignatian practice of reviewing the day can become a source of wisdom. Given that in the morning I expressed my desire to live in God’s presence, I begin by trying to recognize the signs of his accompanying presence throughout the day. A hallelujah of gratitude and joy can spring from my heart. An uneasiness may also resurface, and questions arise: What caused me to react in such a way that I lost my temper and, above all, how did the situation get so bad? Ignatius stresses the need to find peace, consolation. It is a call to recognize my vulnerability and to meet the merciful Father. Here I am, like King Solomon, ready to ask for wisdom:
“Give me Wisdom, seated beside you; deign to send her… For she knows all things, understands all things, will guide my actions with prudence, will guard me with her glory. Then my works will be pleasing to you, I will judge your people with justice… And who would have known your will, if you had not given Wisdom and sent your Holy Spirit from above?” (Wisdom 9:1-18)
By linking the gift of wisdom to the gift of Spirit, King Solomon understood that despite the ego’s attachment to its autonomy, human beings cannot achieve wholeness unless they are open to something greater than themselves. In an era of competitiveness and achievement, wisdom is the feminine ingredient capable of building bridges between our aspirations and the harsh reality, so that humanity and the planet can achieve justice and lasting peace.