Ignacian Spirituality for Our Times
The story of M. Ignacia and the development of the beaterio into a congregation is a story of finding God through experiences of growth, conflict and ambiguities. Present day men and women, young or old, can draw inspiration and strength from M. Ignacia’s example of life of faith and witness. Her spirituality is still relevant to our times.
The Ignacian OPPTIC
The spirituality of M. Ignacia can be summarized in the acronym OPPTIC with each letter representing a characteristic of M. Ignacia’s spirituality.
The acronym OPPTIC is significant because it calls to mind the word optic which means “related to vision or pertaining to the eye.” M. Ignacia’s OPPTIC expresses her fundamental orientation toward God, viewing everything in the light of God’s will, experiencing all things in God’s presence and transforming even negative events into means of hope and light.
Openness to the Holy Spirit
A fundamental aspect of M. Ignacia’s spirituality is openness to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Through this openness to the Holy Spirit, her adventurous character and natural sense of discovery did not lead to recklessness or foolhardiness. M. Ignacia’s courageous stance was rooted in this openness. Allowing herself to be led by the Spirit, she found new ways of looking at her experiences, at things, people and events in her life. She experienced God drawing her beyond the limits of her own situation. As she continued to be open to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, she saw how the different events I her life fitted into God’s loving design for her. This openness which is rooted in faith made her eager to daily discover the will and action of God in her life.
Pondering Heart of Mary
It was the restlessness in her heart that enabled M. Ignacia to seek a future beyond what society dictated. She did not stifle nor escape from this restless feeling. She sought the advice of someone more experienced than she was. She did not seek easy solutions. She exerted efforts to make the right decisions in her life. She found an appropriate model in the Blessed Mother. Mary of Nazareth, when troubled by the angel’s greeting pondered its meaning (Lk 1:29). M. Ignacia drew inspiration from the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary who “pondered all things in her heart” (Lk 2:19.51). In Mary’s attitude of pondering, M. Ignacia found an answer to her restlessness. As she strove to imbibe this pondering spirit, M. Ignacia became more aware of her own feelings and moods. She grew in discernment as she continued to maintain a recollected spirit. She learned how to observe the events in her life and probe their deeper meaning.
M. Ignacia experienced many ambiguities in her life. She lived through the ambivalent and ambiguous situations of her life and those of her beaterio in perseverance. She spent her 85 years in the beaterio in steadfastness, commitment and fidelity. M. Ignacia did not turn back from her original calling. Despite the difficulties she encountered, she continued in her fidelity to the service of God. She lived the gospel value of faithfulness, symbolized by the cross of Jesus Christ. Her perseverance in difficulties was based on her faith in Jesus Christ whose cross is a perpetual reminder of hope in the resurrection, of God’s faithful love transcending death.
Trust in God’s Loving Mercy
M. Ignacia and the beatas did not live a life of comfort and convenience. They were poor. They were not sure where to get food for their next meal but they were not discouraged. They survived by working and supporting themselves by the labor of their hands. M. Ignacia and her beatas experienced in their life of insecurity the great providence of God who generously gave them what they needed through the fruits of their works or through benefactors. It was this trust in God that enabled M. Ignacia and her beatas to endure their hardships and mature in faith in the midst of their difficult situations.
Her trust in God enabled M. Ignacia to move beyond her need to belong. As a Chinese-yndia mestiza, Ignacia must have had a strong desire to belong. Her parents might have provided her with a home in which her need for belonging was answered. Neither of them, however, might have known the struggle within her. She must have known the difficulty of living in a family of mixed cultures and in a society where there was racial discrimination. She might have looked for sympathy somewhere, for someone with whom she could identify someone who would take away her loneliness and help her find the way to integration. She might have also wanted to find others who like her were aspiring to the religious life. She was probably hoping to belong to the community of the Beatas of Sto. Domingo.
Undergoing the Spiritual Exercise, she realized that her path would not be easy. She would have to give up her search for a group to which she would belong. She was being called to live in solitude. She had to learn to put her whole trust in God who would lead the way for her. She grew in trust as she realized the guiding hand of God in her life. She experienced God to be provident Father who knew her needs. This enabled her to go beyond the need to belong. As she found her true sense of belonging in God, she was able to provide a space and a context where other native women could feel they belonged. Her beaterio became the place where native women could come together and experience solidarity and unity in their religious aspirations. M. Ignacia paved the way for a native religious community to grow and even to include the people who belong to a class that excluded them. The apostolic service of her beaterio was open to all regardless of color or race. This reconciling stance was possible because M. Ignacia and her beatas learned to trust in God’s loving mercy.
Intimacy with Christ
M. Ignacia’s life of charity was rooted in the love of Christ. Her intimacy with Christ was the foundation of her life. She did not wait to receive; she freely gave out of her abundance of her heart. She did not wait to be loved; she reached out to others in love and care. M. Ignacia could be generous in love and friendship because she experienced the deep love of Jesus in her life. The motivation of her actions was the love of Jesus on the cross.
The more M. Ignacia grew in intimacy with Christ, the more she experienced integration. Her inner attitude became reflected in her outer behavior and actions. Her purity of heart was manifested in kind words and deeds of loving service.
The experience of intimacy with Christ was the foundation of the beaterio community. It was the source of their love and friendship. The beatas shared their joys and pains, tears and laughter. They experienced failures and reconciliations, hurts and forgiveness. The love of Christ was the bond that united the community.
In their solidarity with one another, the beatas also realized their call to share in Christ’s mission. Their growing knowledge of Jesus Christ impelled them to reach out to others and help them also grow in faith and commitment. They shared the fruits of their life of faith through the education of young girls and the retreat work for women. They also provided a space where women could stay in solitude and recollection. With them they shared the spirit of the beaterio community.
Courage and Creativity
M. Ignacia ventured into the unknown. There was no clear path for her. She had to find her own way. She dared to take steps to follow her vision and realize her dream. She could take risks because she had the courage rooted in strong faith in God. Through the years, she grew in self-knowledge, became aware of her personal gifts and talents, accepted them and used them at the service of others. Her courage was coupled by creativity. She turned a negative situation or a limitation into a context for experiencing God and reaching out to others in service. The lack of government recognition and subsidy did not prevent of M. Ignacia and her beatas to continue living the religious life. Their own resourcefulness led them to define the apostolic character of their community.
Because of her leadership, some of the timid native beatas became courageous and responsive also to the needs of their times. They ventured forth into ministry and brought light and hope to a society darkened by division and afflicted by discrimination. M. Ignacia’s venturing spirit was put to good use at every stage of her life. She was always moving forward, responding to the call of the Spirit in her journey of faith and love.
Even as the beatas undertook their mission and carried out acts of loving service, there might have been people who were looking down upon their capacity and doubting whether they were to be allowed to continue living as religious. The beatas might have had questions too about themselves, their own identity, their abilities and aspirations to live authentically the religious life. M. Ignacia led them through these situations of vulnerability and ambiguity to become more courageous and creative.
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