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"Remember, I am with you always to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20)

On Necessary Temporal Occupations: To Father Manuel Godinho, Rome, January 31, 1552


After having been involved in the training of young Jesuits at San Fins, Manuel Godinho was appointed treasurer of the college in Coimbra. Being somewhat rigid and austere in his personal life, he found his new position unnerving since he was now immersed in temporal and financial matters. He felt these occupations nullified any good he might accomplish through his priestly ministry and concluded that these occupations were an obstacle to his growth in perfection. With this in mind he wrote to Ignatius in a letter no longer extant. Ignatius responds by encouraging him and explaining that even the most secular of occupations, when done with a pure intention, is as agreeable to God as is prayer, in fact, even more agreeable when done under obedience. In 1552 Godinho gave up his position as treasurer to take on a more burdensome task as rector of the college. The letter was written in Spanish [Ep. 4:126-127].


May the perfect peace and everlasting love of Christ our Lord ever be in our favor and help.

I received your letter, dear brother in our Lord, and from it I learned of your arrival from San Fins with the brethren who were under your care, and that everything, by the grace of God our Lord, was done with due edification.

Though the charge of temporal affairs seems to be and is distracting, I have no doubt that by your good and upright intention you turn everything you do to something spiritual for God's glory, and are thus very pleasing to his Divine Goodness. The distractions which you accept for His greater service, in conformity with His divine will interpreted to you by obedience cannot only equal the union and recollection of uninterrupted contemplation, but even be more acceptable to Him, proceeding as they do from a more active and vigorous charity. May God our Creator and Lord deign to preserve and increase this charity in your soul and in the souls of all. We correctly hold that any activity in which charity is exercised unto God's glory, is very holy and suitable for us, and those actions even more so in which the infallible rule of obedience to our superiors has placed us. May He who gave to Elisha this twofold spirit [2 Kings 2:9], which you say is so necessary, grant it to you in abundance. I will not be negligent in desiring and begging it of His Divine Majesty.

If, looking only to God's glory, you still think that in God's service this office is unsuitable for you, confer with your superiors there, and they will do what is proper. Even here, as one who holds you very close to his heart, I will not fail to help you.

May Christ our Lord help us all with His bountiful grace, so that we may know His holy will and perfectly fulfill it.

From Rome, January 31, 1552.

Yours in our Lord,

Ignatius
1. Godinho was born about 1520 near Évora, Portugal, and entered the Society in Lisbon on March 11, 1542. He died in Lisbon on August 4, 1569, caring for the plague stricken.
I. In July 1521, a 30-year-old Basque knight, named Iñigo was brought home to recuperate after his cannonball experience in the battle of Pamplona—his watershed moment. The wounds on his lower limbs led to the first long lockdown in his life, about nine months, during which he read a life of Christ and a book on the lives of the saints, the only reading matter the Loyola castle afforded. He also killed time by recalling tales of martial valor and by day-dreaming about a great lady who captured his heart. Later when he was out of mortal danger, his attention was centered on the saints. This profoundly moved and attracted him that soon after he had barely recovered he resolved to do something about his many sins. To fulfill this he must embark on a journey towards conversion. He followed the holy austerities of the saints, e.g. Francis of Assisi and Dominic, that God sent as his first spiritual guides in his lifelong task towards holiness.
II. "That mission has its fullest meaning in Christ, and can only be understood through him. At its core, holiness is experiencing in union with Christ, the mysteries of his life… The contemplation of these mysteries, as St Ignatius of Loyola pointed out, leads us to incarnate them in our choices and attitudes" (Gaudete et Exsultate— Rejoice and Be Glad, 20).

St Ignatius of Loyola by Peter Paul Rubens c. 1622
III. "This spiritual poverty is closely linked to what St Ignatius of Loyola calls 'holy indifference', which brings us to a radiant interior freedom: 'We need to train ourselves to be indifferent to our attitude to all created things, in all that is permitted to our free will and not forbidden’ so that on our part, we do not set our hearts on good health rather than bad, riches rather than poverty, honour rather than dishonour, a long life rather than a short one, and so in all the rest" (Gaudete et Exsultate— Rejoice and Be Glad, 69).