Posted February 22, 2010
Book: Inner Compass: An Invitation to Ignatian Spirituality
Author: Margaret Silf
Loyola Press. Chicago, IL. 1999. Pp. 268
An Excerpt from the Jacket:
Anyone seeking to deepen his or her relationship with God will greatly benefit from Inner Compass. Margaret Silf’s dynamic presentation of the profound insights of St. Ignatius of Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises. While reflective, the work exudes a congenial, practical outlook and a thoroughly modern sensibility. As Silf points out, the book “grew out of questions rather than certainty, discovery rather than doctrine, the experience of everyday living rather than academic study.”
An Excerpt from the Book:
The Thrust of Our Desiring
Desire is a strong work, full of energy. When we encounter our desires, we know that we are dealing with something forceful. Thrust seems to be the right word. Desires force themselves into our consciousness, whether we invite and encourage them or try to bar our mental doors against them. If we suppress them, they simply go underground, like bramble roots, and surface somewhere else when we least expect them. We don’t need to be psychologists to recognize the power of this phenomenon in our lives.
It all reminds us of the thrust of growth we find in nature. For a tree, the thrusting goes in two directions. The life force inside the tree thrusts roots deep down into the ground, seeking water and nutrients. At the same time, the above-ground growth is thrusting branches out into the air, seeking the light and warmth of the sun and the life-giving components of the air. In the downward thrust of its roots, the tree obtains its nourishment and its firm hold in the earth. In the upward thrust of its branches, it reaches for light and warmth, but it also expresses, in a visible form, the truth and beauty of its own unique being.
It seems to me that our desires are a lot like that. When I look at the nature of my own desires, I see these two directions of thrust:
– desires that delve deep down, seeking hold and nourishment and security. I call these my root desires. And
– desires that urge me to express myself, to spread out my arms and my heart to the world around me and to my friends and loved ones; to reach out to those things that embody light and warmth for me – those things that delight me and warm my heart. I call these my branch desires.
A few examples might help to clarify this. Among my root desires I find such things as:
– a desire for safety and comfort; a desire for a stable home and a peaceful world in which I can be rooted.
– a desire for physical, mental, and spiritual nourishment
– a desire to belong to a network of loving and accepting friends, who hold me in equilibrium even when outer circumstances get difficult.
– a thirst always to go deeper, for example, in friendship, in study, in prayer.
And among my branch desires I find:
– a desire to do work that is creative, that expresses the ‘real me’ in the outside world.
– a desire to express, to trusted friends, the deepest feelings and hopes and dreams of my heart
– a desire to show my compassion when I meet someone in distress, to open my heart toward them
– a desire to go somehow ‘outside’ and ‘beyond’ myself when I am deeply moved, for example, by a piece of music or a starlit night.
You might like to reflect on your own root-and-branch desires. Try to be as specific as you can. This will ground your desires and help you get in touch with the tangible nature of them. The exercise is only valuable if it reveals actual desires, not abstract concepts.
Table of Contents:
1. Meet your guide: St. Ignatius Loyola
2. Where am I? How am I? Who am I?
3. Finding our past in God
4. So what went wrong?
5. Letting God be God
6. Tracking our moods
7. Making our way in the dark
8. The deepest desire
9. Why don’t you answer my prayers?
10. Recognizing our attachments
11. Pathways to detachment
12. Recognizing the enemy, trusting the friend
13. What is freedom? What is truth?
14. To see you more clearly
15. To love you more dearly
16. To follow you more nearly