Finding God in All Things
The Inclusive and Universal
Spirituality of St. Ignatius
There is really
nothing special about the spirituality of St. Ignatius in finding God in all
things, because this should be normal to us. Although we tell children that God
is everywhere, we adults tend to see God in very defined and prescribed ways.
Finding God in
all things is liberating ourselves from the idea that we only find God in our
religious ideas and practices. It is freeing God from all our contrived and
artificial ways of being pious and holy. It is coming to God without any
add-ons or put-ons. It is encountering God directly, as expressed in Psalm 139.
spirituality respects the freedom of God not to be imprisoned by our categories
and methods, because God “is above and beyond all our ways, means and methods.”
It acknowledges that God’s ways are not our ways, neither are our ways God’s
ways. It remembers what Jesus said, “The wind blows where it wills… you do not
know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone born of the
Spirit” (John 3:6-8).
everywhere is a no-beating-around-the-bush spirituality. It is a
come-as-you-are-warts-and-all spirituality. It is a no frills and uncomplicated
way of experiencing God. It is the inclusive spirituality of the compassionate
and forgiving father of the prodigal son. It is also seen in the compassion
shown by Jesus to the woman caught in adultery.
It is realistic
because it is not trapped in image, appearances or rules. It is encountering
God without the false pretenses and dramatic externals that distract or even
deceive us. It is stripping away all the superfluous theological make-up we
have put on ourselves and God.
Finding God in
all things is rediscovering our true God, because we have gotten lost in the
maze of our complicated beliefs and traditions through the centuries. Jesuit
theologian Karl Rahner tells us to love God and live life with the mind and
heart we actually have, not with the mind and heart we are supposed to have.
distinction here might be helpful. If God is in all things, all things are in
God. Theologians call this panentheism (from the Greek pan-en-theos, literally all in God), the everywhereness of God.
Panentheism is different from pantheism,
a heresy which maintains that God is all and all is God.
Today we pay
more attention to the non-essentials instead of the essentials of our faith. Instead
of worshipping in truth and spirit, we worry about liturgical guidelines or
pomp and circumstance.
Finding God in
all things is a spirituality that is open, inclusive and accepting of all that
is good, true and just. This spirituality honors God as the author of all
creation. It recovers the principle of welcoming everything according to the
way God unconditionally welcomes everything. True catholicity or universality does
not classify, discriminate or exclude anyone, because it remembers what Jesus taught
in the gospels – God does not judge by appearances.
Finding God in
all things is walking in the footsteps of Jesus, who taught us to find God
beyond the narrow boxes of our religious observances. It respects the freedom
of God and transcends the traditional scope of religion to welcome unfamiliar
but universal realities.
Testament Psalms show us the oneness of their ancient faith with the whole of human
experience. Psalm after psalm speak of justice, mercy, wisdom, forgiveness and thanksgiving.
They mention fields, forests, mountains, streams, storms, animals, shepherds,
kings and God’s laws. The psalms are likely the original source of the spirituality
of finding God in all things.
point of our encounter with the Author of Life is life itself. This is not
clear anymore because of the many layers of beliefs and traditions. We now find
it difficult to find God in all things, because we have learned to find God
only in particular things.
We may go through
the Spiritual Exercises agreeing with St. Ignatius about finding God in all
things. However, actualizing this is something else. After the retreat, we
return to our usual specific ways of finding God. Subconsciously, we may not be
approaching the Exercises spiritually. We may think of the Exercises only as a
fixed methodology to return to year after year. Instead of exercising
spiritually, we may be exercising methodically, fixatedly or theologically. We
may forget that the very nature of a spirit is its freshness, flexibility and
started his long road to sainthood by teaching catechism to small children. He
did not get stuck with this but went on to university studies and founded a new
apostolic religious order that spread to the rest of the world.
of God starts with our religious beliefs and practices, but we need to move on to
grow and mature in our Christian spirituality and develop a realistic approach
to God and life. We need to outgrow our abstract and limited ways of finding
God, in order to truly find God in all things, the way Jesus and Ignatius