Take, Lord, and receive
all my liberty, my memory, my understanding and my entire will
— all that I have and possess.
You, Lord, have given all that to me.
I now give it back to you, O Lord.
All of it is yours.
Dispose of it according to your will.
Give me your love and your grace,
for that is enough for me.
Sp. Ex. # 234
The first time I ever encountered this prayer, I was in the chapel of a Jesuit Center not far from Paris for an eight-day retreat. The chapel was lovely, light and luminous, with stained glass windows which prayed these words. As I deciphered them, my blood turned to ice and I felt filled with dread. How could anyone come up with such a prayer?
I was new to Ignatian spirituality. I had attended several one-day retreats over the years, but I knew very little of Ignatius, his life, and his writings. I had wanted to discern Godde’s will for me, to find out if there was indeed such a thing, and I had been told that Ignatian spirituality was the way. So I went. Otherwise, I had no background in Ignatian matters. The Society of Jesus was frowned upon where I grew up.
As I look back on this first eight-day retreat, I realize that on this occasion, as in every other following retreat, my heart was set on fire. Encountering Godde face to face is rather inebriating.
This time ‘away’ gave me an opportunity to go back over my life and look at those moments when I had not been at my best. It is then that I was glad to hand over my memory to Godde, a sort of first break into the prayer. My memory was not a gift to Godde, but rather a “Please take this away from me. I can hardly stand it.”
In the eleven years since I saw this prayer, it has grown to be part of my life. Like any other favorite prayer, some line suddenly comes up to my mind when it’s relevant or needed. I often find myself saying it during the night, when I cannot sleep, bothered by one preoccupation or another. When Life does not go my way, Take, Lord, appears on the threshold of my consciousness and I now feel relieved to say it.
I will never be able to fathom Ignatius‘ spirituality, however much time I spend practicing it and reading about it. Maybe this is why it attracts me so much: I see no end to it. It is only now, for example, that I begin to grasp the idea of Ignatius‘ mysticism. Our time in Manresa last Spring did much to help me in this. I have grown to love Ignatius very much, and I certainly wish he could accompany me the way the Trinity did accompany him, the way he accompanied so many women in his day.
My latest glimpse of understanding came when I remembered this passage from the Principle & Foundation:
Consequently, on my own part I ought not to seek health rather than sickness, wealth rather than poverty, honor rather than dishonor, a long life rather than a short one, and so on in all other matters
Sp. Ex. # 23,
George E. Ganss, SJ, ed.
not to seek health rather than sickness… I was being confronted once again by the limitations osteoporosis has brought into my life. Finally, I could make the link between the prayer, Take, Lord, which comes at the end of the Spiritual Exercises, and those lines which come from its beginning.
Accepting Life as it comes, uncovering Godde’s love in whichever situation I find myself, discovering liberation in what looked like shackles in a first time, being able to soar above a situation — for just a moment, of course — and seeing it from another angle, all this Ignatius‘ prayer helps me to do.
This is why I can say, Thank you, Ignatius… Gracias, Ignacio…
Photo: Cova de Sant Ignasi, Manresa, Spain