At One with the Hierarchy
WHAT we have thus far said still requires further clarification. The Exercises conclude with the rules "to foster the true attitude of mind which we ought to have in the Church militant (= serving Church)". This is no accident. If it is to be and to remain authentic, this passion for a limitless love of Christ must be given direction, controlled, so to speak, by God's salvific will visible in His Church.
The more of the willingness to serve and the readiness for greater things must be tested. Obedience to the hierarchical Church and humble, ordinary service in the visible Church constitute the infallible test.
Our enthusiasm for Christ must be governed by the concrete demands of our everyday apostolic life. 'To help souls' - for Ignatius and his first companions that meant, precisely because of the strength of their enthusiasm, a sober service in the Church of the Pope of Rome threatened by so many storms (as it was) and burdened with so many needs. They united to form a new Order. For they realized that all apostolic enthusiasm must take definite form, if it is to endure, that the more of their ardent willingness needed the constitutions of a Society, if it were to remain authentic and to have within itself the power of a perpetual renewal.
In the Sodality, too, the lofty concepts of the Standard, the Legion in the service of the King can easily degenerate into mere catchwords. The readiness for all kinds of service can deteriorate into a diffuse, multi-sided activity, into that type of apostolic activity against which even the Pope has warned, calling it the heresy of action. Nothing is more difficult, nothing more noble than to keep real enthusiasm chaste, watchful and sober.
The participation of the Sodality in Catholic Action must retain its unmistakable characteristic. This characteristic originates from the ideal of "thinking with the Church", and in the Spiritual Exercises it has found its classic expression. To put it in a phrase of St. Ambrose, it is the ideal of sobria ebrietas - a sober intoxication. It means to be always ready to do every-thing for Christ, to spend all for Him, but in quiet fidelity, in a sober labour and love of details, in co-operation without empty talk and, above all, in docile subjection to the hierarchical direction of the Church.
In some sense or other these words of Pius XII must be verified in every Sodality: "From its very beginning the Sodalities of Our Lady took to themselves as their rallying cry the Rules 'for thinking with the Church'. Moreover, Sodalities seem to have fostered that natural inclination to obey the directives of those whom the Holy Spirit has placed over the Church, i.e. the bishops. Hence Sodalities have been and shall continue to be a most powerful allay of the bishops in spreading the kingdom of Christ." Moulded by this spirit of the Exercises, the Sodality becomes a true Acies Ordinata: an Army set in battle array.
Youth Resents Mere Theory
YOUTHFUL enthusiasm must be tempered for the requirements of daily service in the visible Church. This final aspect of the ideal proposed by the Exercises corresponds to a tendency found in youth, especially modern youth, which has seen quite enough of visionary plans and hollow slogans. The kingdom of God on earth, however, is fortunately not just an airy scheme, a theoretical programme, pure and simple; it is an actuality right here and now. It is an unquestioned, an undeniable growing up into maturity, such as the mustard seed undergoes, despite all the theorizing of the spiritual botanists about the possibilities of this growth. He who still has youthful eyes sees each day new tasks in the Church, often small and modest without glamour.
The authentic Sodality trains its members to open their eyes to the Church, militant and suffering, in its earthly pilgrimage. To put this more accurately and in a more Christian way; the Sodality must become a brave friend of Our Lord Jesus Christ visible in the modern Church, Christ who here and now wants to carry on the fight with the help of His faithful friends who understand His needs and see Him in their neighbour. Because of its origins the Sodality must be an association that remains forever young in spirit, that sets itself to the task at hand and wants to produce some tangible, concrete good, that can obey and subordinate itself to something bigger than itself.
The genuine Sodality must always be suspicious of mere theorizing, just as it is suspicious of all merely theoretical criticisms of certain elements in the Church, distressing though these features may be.
Even the smallest, the most hidden acts of charity, a cheering word for those in distress, a duty of daily life better performed, are more than mere words, for it is only in this way that God's mysterious kingdom takes possession of our earth.
The Church Resembles Mary
THE fourth week of the Exercises, during which the Lord of Glory who founded the Church exercises His Office of "Consoler" lays the foundation for this finishing touch of the Exercises, namely, to muster all the enthusiasm for the fight under the Standard of the Crucified and to direct it to the everyday service of the Church. Christ appears first to His Mother. Against seemingly wise objections St. Ignatius insists on this. Through prayer we are to realize that Mary is also present when the glorification of the redeemed world, which is perpetuated in the Church, takes its beginning. In the embrace of the Risen Saviour and His Mother that grace begins to be operative which will effect the soul of the exercitant when our "Creator and Lord in person communicates Himself to the devout soulŠ, inflames it with love of Himself, and disposes it for the way in which it can better serve God in the future". This is a mystery, and hence, this taking up of the world into the arms of divine love remains hidden in the earthly force of the Church militant.
As it was with Mary, so it is with the Church. The mystery of her first meeting occurs in the littleness of her earthly surroundings. The Church amid the tumult of the city of this world is the humble oratory of Mary. The Church is the bride of Christ in whom swells the same spirit that is in Christ - our "Holy Mother, the hierarchical Church". In this indissoluble combination of humility and glory the church is precisely like Mary. If a man were to grasp this truth, he would penetrate to the real mystery of the Church. For him the Church is mother and queen; mother in her earthly form of humility, queen in her secret glory. And thus to do and to suffer everything in the Church, no matter how small, unspectacular, or menial, is really worthy of his wholehearted dedication. Every Sodalist must be such a Christian. If he is, what the Pope has said will be verified: "Sodalities can most rightly be called Catholic Action under the auspices and inspiration of the Blessed Virgin Mary."
With extraordinary dogmatic sense for what is fitting and correct, Ignatius has the Blessed Virgin appear and disappear throughout the Exercises. This should be our model in solving all questions about the place which devotion to Mary should assume in the Sodality. The centre of salvation is Christiological. Of what we must never lose sight. Because she is the handmaid of the Lord, Mary is always our Queen. So it must be in the spiritual formation of the Sodalist. Mary leads us to Jesus, yet we understand Jesus only as the Son of Mary.
The profound theology of the Exercises, which is concerned with Mary and Jesus as "mediators" in the ascent to the glory of the Father, originates in the very depths of Ignatian Mysticism. It is the best model to point out to us just how the Sodality should shape and sculpture the genuinely Catholic soul. Form the place which the Mother of Jesus occupies in the history of salvation we come to realize that the dedication which the Sodalist makes of his life is in reality his reception under the Standard of Christ. Pope Pius XII in his allocution of January 21, 1945, says as much: "Ša complete dedication (gift) of one self for the whole of life and for eternity; it is not a matter of pure formality nor of sentimentality; it is an effective consecration that consists in an intensely Christian, Marian life, an intensely apostolic life."