ANIMA IGNATIANA - The Ignatian Spirit
Exterior penances are done chiefly for three ends: First, as satisfaction for the sins committed; Second, to conquer oneself -- that is, to make sensuality obey reason and all inferior parts be more subject to the superior; Third, to seek and find some grace or gift which the person wants and desires; as, for instance, if he desires to have interior contrition for his sins, or to weep much over them, or over the pains and sufferings which Christ our Lord suffered in His Passion, or to settle some doubt in which the person finds himself.
S.E., First Week, First Note
“In public necessities or for our own good, to obtain some favor from God, let us afflict ourselves in His eyes, praying and watching, according to the ancient custom of the saints, in sackcloth and fasting.”
Della Vita e dell’Instituto by Daniele Bartoli
“We must apply ourselves more fervently in conquering the interior man than the body, in breaking the rebellion of the soul more than the bones.”
Liber Sententiarum Sancti Ignatii Loyolae by P. Roch Menchaca
If discretion seems to you to be a rare bird and hard to capture, at least supply its lack by obedience, whose counsel is safe. In order then to keep the mean between lukewarmness and indiscreet fervor, you must pay great attention to obedience, by submitting your judgment to your superiors. If you have a strong desire to mortify yourselves during your studies, gratify it by breaking your will, by submitting your judgment to your superiors, rather than by weakening your bodies with undue severity. Yet I would not have you conclude from this that I am displeased , or at all disapprove of what has been written me on the subject of some mortifications practiced among you. For these and other holy follies, I well know, have been used by the saints with great profit to their souls. They help one in the work of self-conquest, and progress in virtue, especially in the beginning of one’s change in life. But when God’s grace you have gained some mastery over self-love, it is better, I take it, that you follow out what I have said in this letter on the necessity of discretion. Let obedience, then, which I so much recommend, be your rule of action; let charity, the embodiment of all virtues, reign in your hearts; for charity is God’s own commandment: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you,” (John 15:12).
Rome, May 7, 1547. To the scholastics at Coimbra.
With regard to fasting and abstinence, I would advise you for the love of God to guard and fortify your stomach and your other natural forces, and not weaken them. For when the soul is disposed and firmly determined to die rather than commit the least deliberate offense against the Divine Majesty, and when besides it is not harassed by any particular temptation of the enemy, the world and flesh, mortification is no longer necessary... I greatly desire that Your Lordship will imprint this truth on your soul: both soul and body belong to their Creator and Lord, Your Lordship will have to render an account of both of them. Therefore you should not let the body grow weak, since if it is in a weakened condition, the soul can no longer fill her functions ... because we should care for the body and love it in proportion as it obeys and serves the soul more perfectly. On its part the soul finds in this obedient aid of the body more force and energy to serve and glorify our Creator and Lord.
... With regard to the chastisement of the body, instead of trying to shed a drop of blood, rather seek our Lord more closely in all things, I mean His holy gifts: intensity of faith, hope and charity, joy and spiritual repose, tears and intense consolation, elevation of the spirit, divine illuminations and impressions, and all the other spiritual sweetness and feeling which flows from such gifts, as for example, humility and profound respect for our mother, holy Church, for her rulers and teachers. Of all these holy gifts, there is not one which should not be preferred to all bodily acts which are only good when they have for their aim the acquisition of these graces. I don’t mean to say that we should seek them only for the satisfaction and pleasure which we find in them; but we recognize that without these gifts, all our thoughts, words and actions are confused, cold and troubled instead of being fervent, clear and fitting, for the greater service of God.
... So, when the body finds herself in danger as a result of laborious exercises, the best thing is to seek these gifts by mental acts, or by other moderate exercises. For not only is the soul restored to serenity, but when a healthy mind is in a healthy body, all becomes healthy and fitted to a better service of God.
Rome, March, 1548. To Francis Borgia.
The Spiritual Exercises
The End of Man