Acknowledgments / vii
Foreword / ix
Preface / xv
1 The Spiritual Exercises and the Return to Virtue / 1 2 Reverence: Created in Love / 15 3 Gratitude: All Is Gift / 27 4 Freedom: Called to Freedom / 41 5 Compunction: Human Sinfulness / 53 6 Forgiveness: The Mercy of God / 65 7 Generosity: The Call of the King / 77 8 Faith: The Incarnation / 89 9 Prudence: Discernment/The Two Standards/
The Three Classes of Persons / 101
10 Hospitality: The Public Life of Jesus / 115 11 Humility: The Three Ways of Being Humble / 129 12 Fidelity: The Agony in the Garden / 145 13 Compassion: The Passion and Death of Jesus / 157 14 Joy: The Resurrection / 171 15 Hope: The Disciples on the Road to Emmaus / 185 16 Love: The Contemplation on the Love of God / 199
Conclusion: Go and Do Likewise / 213
References / 223
Acknowledgments Gratitude was at the heart of Ignatius’s response to God and to the giftedness of all of life. Publication of a book is a special time for gratitude to the many people who have encouraged and supported the author and shared their wisdom to improve the book. I first wish to thank the Woodstock Jesuit community in Washington, D.C., where the initial research and writing for this book took place. They offered hospitality after hurricane Katrina, as well as support and insight as the book began to emerge. I want to offer a special thanks to Joe Tetlow, SJ, for his encouragement from the beginning of this project and for graciously writing the foreword to the book. Also I give thanks to Jerome Neyrey, SJ, whose detailed suggestions from a biblical perspective improved the book and expanded my perspectives. I express my gratitude also to Judy Deshotels, Barbara Fleischer, Evelyn Jegen, RC, and Mark Thibodeaux, SJ, who all read the manuscript and shared helpful insights and encouragement. I am grateful to Noel Toomey, OP who during twenty-five years of shared ministry of training spiritual directors, has taught me a great deal about the graces and dynamics of the Exercises. I am also grateful to the many spiritual directors over the years who have guided me and helped me notice and understand the movement of God in my heart, in particular, the late Vince O’Flaherty, SJ, who directed my second thirty-day retreat and became both mentor and friend. vii
My thanks also go to my colleagues and students in the Loyola Institute for Ministry who have challenged me to articulate more clearly my ideas about Ignatian spirituality. They are a constant source of support. Finally, I wish to thank all those at Loyola Press who have brought the book to completion, in particular Joe Durepos who guided this project in its early stages and, especially, Jim Manney, whose skillful editing has made me sound “less like a professor” and made the book more accessible to all who read it.
Foreword You picked up this book. That suggests an interest in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola. You must know that they are being given and made by more people in more places and in more ways than at any time in history. And you will have come across the astonishing number of books about ways to give them, ways to make them, purposes for making them, and a lot of studies of their “dynamic.” You can reasonably ask, What else can possibly be said? This book answers that by saying something that is new in several ways. Its explanation of the Spiritual Exercises does not dwell on their structure or on what experts call the “dynamic” experienced in making them. Instead, it looks into each exercise to find how it shapes the person praying and then asks how that affects your life from now on. This life is not a life of piety within the church. Rather, the life it depicts is a life freed of the secularism of our age to live in imitation of Jesus Christ. This book is not about praying in a cocoon, about what happens when you go to a retreat house in the hills, or join a group praying together though long months. This book is about living out the Exercises in this wonderful, exuberant secular nation of ours. Our nation’s tendency right now is not only to separate church and state, but also to question any valid role for religion in everyday life and the marketplace. The deeply vexed question facing every serious disciple of Jesus Christ is how—even whether—to live faithful to him in a culture of corrosive secularity. “The second rate superior minds of a cultivated age,” John Stuart Mill argued, “stand always in exaggerated opposition to ix
its spirit.” If conservative and liberal Christians neither oppose it excessively nor live excessively absorbed by the secular spirit of this cultivated age, are there alternatives? This book faces that squarely. It suggests how you can—indeed, that you must—live as an active citizen who is a consciously committed disciple of Jesus Christ. The book makes the case for this in three ways. First, it explores how the Exercises inculcate virtues, the permanent dispositions of your heart which you enact daily. The Holy Spirit guides you into these dispositions. The same Holy Spirit is shaping you who shaped the little girl in Nazareth to the point at which she was free and willing to say yes to becoming the mother of the Messiah. And the same Holy Spirit shapes you who shaped the boy Jesus of Nazareth as he “grew in wisdom, age, and grace.” How did the Spirit do that to the holy Mother and Son, and how does the Spirit do that in you? Can we have any insight into, and joyfully join in cocreating, the person the Spirit has hoped us to be? The book answers in the positive and in detail. While you pray the Exercises, the author points out, the Spirit is shaping in you habits of the heart such as compunction, generosity, joy, and love. When you enact those habits of the heart in your everyday life after you have finished the Exercises, you are becoming what the Spirit hopes you will become—that is, you are “doing God’s will.” Enacting the virtues the Spirit pours into you as you pray the Exercises, you become the person the Almighty Creator has been hoping in eternity you will become in time. This book goes beyond talk about techniques and methods; it explores how you lead a real life in Christ. Second, the book implicitly urges leaving behind a current weakness in giving and making the Exercises. These spiritual
a ctivities in the interior of each individual too easily occasion withdrawal from real life. This book, rather than argue about that, simply shows the alternative. It addresses the virtues while keeping in touch with the conditions of belief and holiness actually prevalent in the culture’s new millennium. The author knows people: for decades, he has been listening to, teaching, and guiding young and mature men and women. But he does not make the too common mistake of writing just from “experience,” though his own began with a thirty-day retreat in 1956. No: the author knows about culture, is aware of analyses of modernity such as Alasdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue. This study probed how influential thinkers like Nietzsche and Kant occasioned what John Allen has called “the hollowness of materialist visions of happiness”—hollow because they have no purpose beyond themselves (The Making of Benedict XVI). Fagin also knows the leading thinkers about virtue ethics, James Keenan, SJ, and Richard Gula, SS. He knows and cites serious commentaries on Exercises—by Michael Ivens, SJ, for instance, and John English, SJ. But Fagin is doing something none of these have done until now. In his realization of the experience of Spiritual Exercises, Fagin has found the way to draw out the habits of the heart that each of the disparate exercises invites you to embrace. Some of the Exercises’ virtues seem plain: praying on God’s forgiveness obviously inculcates the virtue of forgiveness, and the Call of the King inculcates the virtue of generosity. Some are less obvious: the Ignatian consideration on the Principle and Foundation inculcates the virtue of gratitude as well as the virtue of reverence, and those on Two Standards and the Three Classes inculcate the virtue of prudence. So his analysis of each of the major passages
in the Exercises opens not only the “will of God” as an objective truth and not only the spiritual effects that you beg God to give you. Fagin reaches beyond that into the burgeoning human heart to see you develop the virtues of each exercise and the mounting coherence of all the virtues necessary to live purposefully in Christ. What happens in the Exercises shapes to a great extent what happens after them, and not in nebulous ways. This dynamic has to happen in a corrosively secular culture. So be perfectly clear what you will get in this book: an analysis both of what happens during the Exercises and also of what happens in living out the graces offered and inculcated by the Exercises after they are over. Other commentators are content to send you out on your own at the end of the Exercises, convinced that you have put order into your passions and prayer and you’ll figure out what God’s will is. Fagin clearly thinks the Exercises can do better than that. He takes on the urgent question that oppresses not a few retreatants: Now what? How do you go day after day living to “praise, reverence, and serve God”? What does it mean in the concrete to “imitate Christ”? So the urgent question is not about the Exercises, merely. It is about the stark challenge facing Christians to escape the secular spirit of the age. Put the question this way: In this generous, exuberant American culture, how does the life of the disciple of Jesus Christ differ from the life of a really good person who has little or no belief? Do you give bread to the hungry? So do many wonderful men and women, simply because of their humanity. But experts say that if you have accepted the deepening and maturing of the Exercises, you are doing this as Jesus Christ did and does it. This book tells how. Your generosity to the poor rises as an enactment of a habit of your heart which is the same as the
habit of heart that Jesus enacted—a habit you learned in imitation of Christ when contemplating the life of Jesus of Nazareth. This is a fresh and different appreciation of the Exercises. There is a third way—a little more technical—in which this book differs from the many current studies of Exercises. The author discusses “the dynamic” of the Spiritual Exercises, as many books do—that is, the interaction of the matter for prayer, God’s action, praying and desiring, and spiritual guidance that flow through the thirty days. But Fagin discusses this dynamic in fresh terms. He is aware that most commentators assign two big purposes for going through the Exercises: first, reaching a big decision in life; and second, as they are currently practiced, a deepening in prayer and in relationship with God. He finds both of these good and his treatment deals well with both. But his interest differs: This book explores how the Exercises transform the one who makes them, not in some true but mystical way, unobservable until the process of beatification begins later on. Fagin tells how the transformation happens in palpable ways that can and must be consciously recognized. Then just how do the Exercises transform you? The answer here is direct and focused: by giving a new shape to the habits of the heart that determine your big and small daily decisions and finally who you are growing to be. In this book, the dynamic is not merely about the choices faced and made during the Exercises. The dynamic is not mainly about reshaping your religious sensibility or your faith doing justice. In this book, the dynamic of the Exercises is about shaping you as a person to live a holy life, even though you are embedded in a culture in which ordinary people can live without God. If you wonder what that means, consider that The Economist can print a calm description
of “summer camp for secular kids” offered in several places in the U.S.—so that agnostic and atheistic children can be encouraged in their life choice. Ordinary people in America and the entire West live today rather by unchallenged axioms and unreflected convictions than by rationally established beliefs and decisions. Philosophers like Charles Taylor point out that you live in a culture of expressive individualism, which finds meaning in these dicta: “I gotta be me. I gotta do my own thing.” Pope Benedict XVI urges that the church finds itself again in the situation it was in when Benedict shaped the force that preserved civilization through the dark ages. His conviction is that Christians must form “little societies of spiritual concentration.” Fagin has given those who practice Ignatian spirituality a blueprint for achieving that. His book will interest keenly those who give Exercises and those who want to know about them. It will be a fertile help while you are making Exercises. Even apart from Exercises, the book will prove rich resource for anyone who wonders how to go about offering hope to a world fixed in time and facing death. Joseph A. Tetlow, SJ Montserrat Jesuit Retreat House Lake Dallas, TX
Preface “Love one another as I have loved you” is the most challenging command in the Gospel. We are to love with the same selfless, faithful, forgiving, and compassionate love that flowed from the heart of Jesus, who loved us even when we were sinners. The invitation of our Christian lives is to put on the mind and heart of Jesus. With that mind and heart, we can love God and others the way Jesus has loved us. The qualities of heart that are embodied in Jesus have classically been called virtues. Virtues shape the kind of people we are and they are the source of our actions . We grow in the Christian life by fostering these virtues and allowing them to direct our lives. We put on the heart of Christ by putting on Christ’s virtues. This is the deepest meaning of the imitation of Christ. We do not slavishly mimic his actions, but rather live in a way that embodies his loving heart. This book will explore how the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola help us grow in virtue and embody the heart of Christ. The Spiritual Exercises are a process of prayer, reflection, and discernment that help bring a person to freedom in order to hear God’s call and to respond in faith. Commentators point out different purposes for the Exercises. All agree that the Exercises invite one to a deeper experience of God’s love as creative, forgiving, calling, and saving. Some go on to say that the purpose of the Exercises is to discern God’s will for one’s life and make faith-filled decisions. Others focus on the Exercises as a school of prayer: a way of fostering a person’s growth in a relationship with God. xv
This book suggests another purpose of the Spiritual Exercises: to transform an individual into a certain kind of person with certain virtues or dispositions of heart. To develop this interpretation of the Exercises, this book mines the insights of a contemporary movement in moral theology called virtue ethics. Virtue ethics contend that the real question of ethics is not “What should I do?” but rather “Who should I become?” It is concerned with fostering the virtues necessary to live a Christian life of love of God, and service of neighbor. For one called to discipleship, this means putting on the mind and heart of Jesus and loving as Jesus loved. Ignatius wanted Christians to be committed “to love and serve the Divine Majesty in all things.” (Sp. Ex. 234) In the chapters that follow, the Spiritual Exercises outlined by Ignatius will be related to some of the virtues that define this kind of Christian. This does not imply that there is a rigid link between certain exercises and certain virtues. The connections are meant to be suggestive only. My purpose is to provide a way of naming the graces that are at the heart of the movement and dynamic of the Exercises. I also wish to articulate the desires elicited by the Exercises in the language of virtue. “Ask for what you desire” is a maxim of Ignatian spirituality. This book will relate these desires to the virtues so that we live out of these graces and make decisions based on them. The purpose of this book is not to propose a new way to make or give the Spiritual Exercises. Rather, I hope to propose a new way of understanding the graces of the Exercises and their formative power in a person’s life. I want to show how the Exercises are an invitation to become a certain kind of person: a virtuous person who has taken on the qualities of Christ’s heart and a person who can “Love one another as I have loved you.”
1 The Spiritual Exercises and the Return to Virtue
Recent decades have seen a surge of interest in both Ignatian spirituality and what is called virtue ethics. The Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola have for centuries been a widely-used basis for spiritual formation and retreats of all kinds. Virtue ethics is a creative and fertile movement in moral theology. Let’s examine each more closely.
The Many Dimensions of the Spiritual Exercises An Experience The Spiritual Exercises are first and foremost an experience. In their full form, they are an experience of thirty days of solitude, praying four or five hours a day, and a way to encounter God. The Spiritual Exercises are a process intended to lead someone to the freedom of hearing God’s call and following that call in faith. The 1
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Spiritual Exercises are a journey of transformation and conversion. They help a person get in touch with the desires of their heart that give voice to God’s desires within themselves. Generosity is necessary to make these exercises because they will challenge one always to do more, to open one’s heart more fully to God.
A Book The Spiritual Exercises are a book that outlines a series of exercises. These exercises include prayers, meditations, contemplations, and methods of self-examination, as well as guidelines for discerning God’s movements in the human heart. They are exercises for discovering God’s will and making decisions. At one level, the content of the book is a set of exercises laid out for the one following them, but at a deeper level, the content of the Spiritual Exercises is what God does within each individual person. It is an exercise book to help one get in touch with one’s experiences of God, to be sensitive to those experiences, and to see how God is working within oneself. The director who is guiding a person through the Exercises wants to know what God is doing in a person’s heart because the movement of God is the content of the Spiritual Exercises. That experience cannot be found in a book, but only in the movements of God in the human heart in prayer and reflection.
A Book for the Spiritual Director The Exercises are a book for the director, not for the one making the Exercises. The person going through the Spiritual Exercises needs a guide who is knowledgeable of the Exercises and of the spiritual life. The Exercises are adapted to each individual person
The Spiritual Exercises and the Return to Virtue 3
according to how God is working in the heart of that individual. It is not a handbook or a textbook that one can read, rather something a person must experience. The Exercises are an art form, not a science. The book was first printed in 1548. Ignatius made 500 copies and he kept all of them. He gave copies to people who had already made the Exercises so that they could direct others.
A Journal The Exercises are a journal of Ignatius’s own experience of God, a journal about God moving in his heart. Ignatius spent a year at Manresa after his conversion at Loyola. During that time, he experienced God purifying his dream and making clear that his call was to help souls. Ignatius was called to be an apostolic person, to be a person of the church, and to carry on the work of Jesus. The journal he kept during that year became the basis of the Spiritual Exercises. He refined his journal and adapted it over twenty-five years of directing others through the Exercises. This experience showed him what needed to be put in the book to help the director. But basically the book is the journal of his own conversion experience, a journal about God moving in his heart. As Ignatius talked to other people and led them through the Exercises, he discovered that his journey was really a paradigm of everyone’s journey, both the way God works with souls and the way people respond to God. He discovered that this was not just God dealing with him, but the way God dealt with everyone, even though in each case it was very personal and very individual. That is why the Exercises are adapted for each individual person. They are a paradigm, a model, and a pattern for God’s dealing with people.
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Things to Do The Exercises are not a book to be read or studied, but rather a book to be prayed. They take God’s story, especially as it is narrated in the life of Jesus, and relate it to each individual’s own story and life experience. To simply read the Exercises would be like reading a book on jogging and then wondering why one is not in better shape. The Exercises are a book of exercises, of things to be done.
What Ignatius Said about the Exercises To clarify the meaning and purpose of the Exercises, Ignatius began with a series of guidelines or explanations. He first defined a spiritual exercise as any means that helps us come into contact with God. Anything that will dispose our hearts and set us free so we can find God’s will in our life such as a prayer, a meditation, a reflection, or a self-examination. Ignatius makes the point that just as there are exercises that one does for physical health, there are exercises one does for spiritual health. His book gives these exercises in a very ordered and structured way. Ignatius wrote about what he hoped people would derive from these experiences. He hopes people will grow in knowledge, but not just head knowledge. He was more interested in felt knowledge or interior knowledge—the intimate understanding of a truth. It is the difference between knowing about Jesus and knowing Jesus, between knowing in our heads that God loves us and experiencing that love in our hearts. This kind of knowledge touches the heart and motivates us to act in an entirely new way. Ignatius is looking for an intimate interior felt knowledge. “For
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what fills and satisfies the soul consists, not in knowing much, but in our understanding the realities profoundly and in savoring them interiorly.” (Sp. Ex. 2)1 Ignatius seeks magnanimity in the one making these Exercises: The persons who make the Exercises will benefit by entering upon them with great spirit and generosity toward their Creator and Lord, and by offering all their desires and freedom to him so that His Divine Majesty can make use of their persons and of all they possess in whatsoever way is in accord with his most holy will. (Sp. Ex. 5) One needs openness and generosity, or, as Ignatius expressed it, “great desires.” Ignatius wanted people who were not content where they were, who were restless, and who were looking to give something more. When he sought candidates for the Exercises, he looked for people who wanted to do great things, who wanted to do more. A very important point for understanding Ignatius is his insistence that God is the director of the Exercises. He believed the Creator and Lord would touch the individual soul. The personal touch of God is the heart of the Exercises and at the heart of Ignatius’s spirituality. But during these Spiritual Exercises when a person is seeking God’s will, it is more appropriate and far better that the Creator and Lord himself should communicate himself to the devout soul . . . the one giving the Exercises ought to . . . allow the Creator
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to deal immediately with the creature and the creature with its Creator and Lord. (Sp. Ex. 15) God does touch the individual soul through thoughts, desires, imaginings, and all the feelings that go on inside of a person. The director is there only to facilitate that conversation between God and the person making the Exercises. The director does not give advice or teach them, but only facilitates the personal encounter of that person with God. The Spiritual Exercises are about the encounter with God and meeting God in a very personal way.
What Others Say about the Exercises Over the years, two schools of thought about the purpose of the Exercises have emerged. George Aschenbrenner calls them “Electionists” and “Perfectionists.” The Electionists see the goal of the Exercises as “making a wise choice of a state of life in which to serve God best.” The Perfectionists see the goal as “a union with God most intimate and total.”2 Ignatius envisioned the Spiritual Exercises as a means to overcome ourselves, to order our lives, so we could reach an ordered decision. He saw it as a process of coming to a major life decision. To make such a decision, we must come to a level of freedom so choices can be made out of ordered affections. Put another way, the Exercises help us discover our role in the plan of salvation—God’s will for us. We should ask what is God calling me to do in my life and how do I fit into God’s plan of salvation of the world?
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The name of spiritual exercises is given to any means of preparing and disposing our soul to rid itself of all its disordered affections and then, after their removal, of seeking and finding God’s will in the ordering of one’s life for the salvation of our soul. (Sp. Ex. 1) The Exercises then are about making decisions, but making decisions out of freedom, not out of disordered ideas, not out of pleasure, power, or prestige. However, many people make the Exercises primarily to enrich their own spiritual lives. They have already made a commitment to a life in priesthood, religious life, marriage, or single life. They have chosen a profession. They are not making new decisions so much as they are trying to live out the gospel more faithfully in their life circumstances. For many, the primary purpose of the Exercises is to develop and deepen their relationship with God, to come closer to God, to become more intimate with God, and to let God work more deeply within their hearts so that they can draw closer to God. These two purposes of the Exercises—a way to make decisions and a way to grow in the spiritual life—are complementary, not mutually exclusive. Here I am proposing a somewhat different way of looking at the Exercises. I will look at them through the lens of virtue. To grow in virtue is to grow in our relationship with God and with others. To grow in virtue also deepens our freedom to make decisions out of love and generosity. To make this connection between the Exercises and virtues, I will use some of the practical wisdom found in the contemporary return to virtue.3
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Virtue Ethics: What Kind of Person Do I Want to Be? In the last thirty years, attention has shifted in philosophical ethics and moral theology to the place of virtues in Christian life. The focus on the morality of particular actions that has characterized post-Enlightenment thinking has been complemented and, in some cases, replaced by a new emphasis on the human person acting. Action-centered ethics has given way to agentcentered ethics, which is more concerned with the kind of person we are and will become than with what we are to do in a specific situation.4 Some characterize this as an ethics of being in contrast to an ethics of doing. Richard Gula says that an ethics of being is concerned with “those personal qualities disposing us to act in certain ways.” [These are] patterns of actions, or the habits we acquire, the vision we have of life, the values and convictions or beliefs we live by, the intentions we have, the dispositions which ready us to act as well as the affections which move us to do what we believe to be right.5 Instead of analyzing the morality of particular actions, such as termination of life support, premarital sex, abortion, or paying just wages, virtue ethics is concerned with fostering virtues such as compassion, justice, generosity, and love. Rather than centering the discussion on the nature and species of sins, the return to virtue centers on the person doing the actions and the person’s dispositions and character.6 The return to virtue recaptures, in many ways, earlier approaches to ethics that had been lost after the Enlightenment.7
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Three Key Questions James Keenan refers to the three questions articulated by Alasdair MacIntyre: Who am I? Who ought I to become? How am I to get there?8 Who am I? Virtue ethics describes a person in terms of the virtues the person possesses and practices. Am I loving, generous, grateful, and just? Who ought I to become? This is the crucial question. Virtue ethics focuses on the goal of our lives. What kind of person do I wish to become? What virtues do I wish to foster and develop? As Keenan puts it, “for the honest person the virtues are not what we acquire in life; they are what we pursue.”9 The end not only motivates actions. It also shapes the content of the actions. The challenge is to make the transition from who we are to who we can become. How am I to get there? The final question concerns the means to reach our goal of becoming a virtuous person. To answer this question, virtue ethics looks at the ordinary events of our day-today lives. Here the focus is on the virtue of prudence as the means of guiding us to actions that will help us become the person we desire to be.
What Is Virtue? Virtues deal with the ordinary events of our lives. They are concerned with the interplay between our habits of heart and our actions. Virtues are dispositions of heart that guide our actions. If we have the virtue of generosity, we will spontaneously share with others. If we have the virtue of honesty, we will be inclined to tell the truth even when it is difficult. We call people kind
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or patient or compassionate by the way they habitually behave. Their actions reveal who they are. At the same time, how we act shapes the habits and dispositions we develop. We become a virtuous person by performing virtuous actions. Our being is formed through our doing, just as our being informs our doing. Virtues are not simply dispositions. They are ways of behaving. We engage in repeated actions that form certain habits that in turn lead to further actions. When we have a regular practice of daily prayer, we become a prayerful person apt to find time to pray each day. When we regularly give thanks for gifts received, we become a grateful person apt to recognize the giftedness of all things. Parents teach their children to say “Thank you” in hopes they will become grateful people. All human actions are moral actions. These actions effect the kind of people we become. Joseph Kotva makes five generalizations about virtues that are helpful for appreciating the role of virtues in our lives.10 Virtues are related to the human good. Virtues are “those states of character that enable or contribute to the realization of the human good.” Virtues encompass the whole range of human activity. They engage not only the rational part of the human person, but also the affective and desiring part of the person. Virtues are especially related to tendencies to react in expected ways. They are dispositions to strive for particular ends and actions. They “include all those states of character or character traits that influence how we act and choose.” Virtues are products of moral education and growth. They remain stable aspects of our character that provide continuity in our actions.
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Virtuous actions must be done for their own sake. Virtue may help us achieve some good or goal, but ultimately they must be performed simply because they are virtuous actions.11
Why Are Virtues Important for Christians? Virtues give us a deeper insight into what it means to follow Jesus. Christians are called to be disciples who model our lives on Gospel values and walk in companionship with Jesus. The call of discipleship means following a person, not primarily following a set of rules. This is the vision Ignatius set forth in the Spiritual Exercises when he calls us to labor alongside Jesus to carry out God’s hopes and dreams for the world, and to bring about the reign of God. The grace we pray for is the grace to know, love, and follow Jesus. Discipleship is not simply about doing certain actions and asking “what would Jesus do?”, but also about becoming a certain kind of person. We are called to be loving persons in imitation of Christ, to become forgiving, compassionate, loving people with a passion to carry out the Father’s will. It is about making the values that shaped Jesus’ ministry our own values. It is about putting on the heart of Jesus and loving as he loved. “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5) Jesus did not talk a great deal about specific moral actions and did not give his disciples many explicit moral directives. He was more concerned about the kind of person we are to become. He told stories and parables about what the reign of God is like. Jesus told stories about ordinary, everyday events and occupations— sowers and shepherds and masters and servants. He spoke about banquets and treasures in a field and lost sheep and buried talents.
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These stories tell us what kind of people would be at home in the kingdom of God.
Where Is Your Heart? This emphasis is especially clear at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount when Jesus proclaims the Beatitudes—those attitudes of heart that characterize the Kingdom of God. We are to be poor in spirit, pure of heart, merciful, and passionate about justice. Jesus does not focus on the actions of murder and adultery and lying and revenge. He is more concerned about the anger and lust and lack of honesty and vengeance in our hearts that lead to these actions.12 The scriptural image for this is a new heart. The Prophets in the Hebrew Scriptures call us to take out our hearts of stone and put on a heart of flesh. Jesus takes this further by modeling for us the new heart and the virtuous person. Jesus is normative for Christian living not on the basis of a particular teaching, but on the basis of who he was and is. He embodies for us the kind of person we ought to become and the sort of right actions we ought to perform. We are called to live out in our lives the virtues of Jesus by putting on his perspective, dispositions, affections and intentions.13 The Spiritual Exercises and contemporary virtue ethics both offer a vision of a renewed and transformed heart. The focus of this book is to encourage a conversation between them. The graces of the Spiritual Exercises are a call to identify more deeply with the values and virtues of Jesus. The insights of virtue ethics can enrich our response to the invitation of the Exercises to embrace the person of Jesus as leader and friend.
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Reflecting on Your Attitudes of Heart • How would I describe the heart of Christ? • What dispositions of the heart come to mind when I think of Jesus? • What attitudes of the heart do I wish to foster in my own life? • What kind of person is Jesus inviting me to be at this moment in my life?
Scripture Readings on the Heart Philippians 2: 1–11 Put on the mind and heart of Christ Matthew 5: 1–12 The Beatitudes Ephesians 3: 14–21 May Christ dwell in your heart
Putting on the Heart of Christ by Gerald M. Fagin, SJ, offers a fresh look at the Spiritual Exercises through the lens of virtue ethics.