I just feel unsettled. I’m undecided. I don’t know what to do.
I keep hearing the same sentiments from friends, and I get it.
We were all hoping to have moved on by now, returned to normal. Yet, here we are, neither here nor there. Everything is tentative, and long-awaited plans are being postponed—again. How do we move forward? What might St. Ignatius and friends advise in the face of such uncertainty?
1. Remember who you are.
Uncertainty shouldn’t be allowed to uproot identity. We are loved into existence by God every minute of our lives and put onto the planet at this time in history for a particular purpose. We are accompanied at all times by a God who loves us beyond fathom and who wants to live with us for all eternity. (The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius)
2. Keep the dialogue going.
Many of us feel disappointment right now. Whatever we are feeling, we can talk with God about it. In his Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius taught retreatants how to enter into conversation with God. In Praying the Truth, William Barry, SJ, notes that dialogue involves an honest back-and-forth of speaking and listening.
3. Live the now.
There is always a temptation to put life on hold until the end of a crisis, but God’s invitations continue at all times. Ignatius was no stranger to the challenges of a pandemic. The plague was raging while he was studying at the University of Paris. Despite the challenges, he continued to study. His radical trust in God even enabled him to accept the call to minister to a man with the plague. This did, of course, result in a period of off-campus quarantine! (St. Ignatius’ Own Story 58) While not everyone is called in the ways in which Ignatius was called, we can all benefit from his advice to notice God’s invitations in the present moment.
4. Accept the new spirit for this new time.
In his book, The Holy Longing, Ronald Rolheiser speaks of the ongoing paschal cycles that occur in our lives. He says that we need to mourn what was, accept our new resurrected lives, and accept the blessings of the moment that has passed but not cling to life “as we knew it” before. He also advises accepting the new spirit that God is offering us for the new life we have already begun living. This reminds me of the verse from Ezekiel, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you.” (36:26) The Holy Spirit always brings newness and new life and equips us with that which we need to move forward.
5. Discern in community.
Christian communities are not only an antidote to loneliness and isolation but are also places to discern. Discernment offers a holistic approach to charting the path forward, because it requires both reason and attentiveness to the whispers of the Spirit.
6. Share hope by serving others.
The Ignatian answer to suffering is to go forth in service to others. David Fleming, SJ, writes that, “The Ignatian way is the way of compassion, which unites us with Jesus and our fellow human beings…we are called to be people who serve.” (What Is Ignatian Spirituality? 79–80) There is so much need in the world today that finding a place to start helping can be overwhelming. Pope Francis suggests that one start small and be specific as one seeks to help. (Let Us Dream 16) When we serve others, we share a hope that is rooted in Christ’s overflowing love for each of us.
7. Envision the dream.
Both Pope Francis and the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Fr. Arturo Sosa, speak of the current crisis as ushering in a new era. “The Lord invites us to share his dream for the world, promising to sustain us on this shared adventure.” (Walking with Ignatius xv) We are invited to join in the realization of God’s dream that all of God’s children and all of creation might be cherished, a dream in which all people are loved and appreciated for the gifts that they are to each other, and all people share equitably the resources gifted to us in our common home.
Let us move forward intentionally, acknowledging our worth with gratitude, attuned to the whispers of the Spirit, and forging a better future together with God.