“Seeking and finding the will of God” is a book written by Father Miguel Ángel Fiorito and prefaced by Pope Francis. Composed of spiritual flashcards, it is structured to be a practical guide to the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola.
Pope Francis, in a video message on Monday, shared some of his reflections on “Cercare e trovare la volontà di Dio” (loosely translated as “Seeking and finding the will of God”) – a book written by Father Miguel Ángel Fiorito and prefaced by the Holy Father.
“Help is the keyword in the brief prologue with which Miguel Ángel Fiorito introduces us to his book,” the Pope said. “It is a real mine to enter into the soul of St. Ignatius’ spiritual exercises.”
The Pope added that he will “dwell on a few things that have worked for [him] and he hopes will work for others” from among the “simple but necessary” aids given by “the master” – as his disciples called him. He further observed that the book reports them in an “interactive structure.”
Spiritual help for freedom
“Fiorito twice insists that his help is only up to a point,” the Pope pointed out, underlining that the author’s “awareness and acceptance of his own limitations tells us how deep in him were the respect and trust in the freedom of the other.”
In this, Fiorito’s help goes to the point where the other, in his freedom, allows himself to be helped, Pope Francis explained. The help, therefore, is “a support guided by a discreet charity which, without abusing the limits, knows how to find even those desires of desires on which grace relies.”
“Spiritual help is help for freedom,” Pope Francis stressed.
Composed of spiritual reading cards
Pope Francis then points out that the book is composed of spiritual “flashcards” in which Fiorito put down everything that was helpful in the authors. In some ways, explained the Pope, it is towards “the practice of the month of exercises, meaning that he put what did the most good to the authors he cited.”
“What Fiorito calls a ‘spiritual flashcard’ is a literary genre all its own, original,” the Pope affirmed. The topics dealt with in the notes had to fit on a horizontal sheet, sometimes without a margin, so that it could be read in a row. In these short, interesting and practical writings, Fiorito “made his own the texts of other authors, using them freely, commenting on them, annotating them.”
The Pope further noted that the conversion of this rich material into handy flashcards “is the result of a long work of contemplation and discernment.” Therefore, “what Ignatius calls reflection in order to obtain fruit – from what has been contemplated and that has done us good – in Fiorito’s hands, is transformed into a ruminated fruit and distributed in rations thinking about what the exercitant can and must assimilate in each stage of his exercises.”
In the face of this composite book written to provide help to both those who give and do the Spiritual Exercises, Pope Francis encourages the reader to read and use it “in the same dynamic and spirit in which it was written”, and highlighted the importance of the indexes and the text of the exercises which enrich the publication.
To reform and conform
Pope Francis goes on to point out that the aim is to “to give oneself time to feel the emotion of the Spirit and to seek in concrete terms the will of God through the reform of one’s own life.”
He explained that the concept of reform “is being expanded and deepened.” In the Spiritual Exercises, he noted, “reform” was not only in tension with what was once deformed, rather ‘reform’ is also conforming to what is new.
“To take on a new form: to conform to what is new, that is, what has life, has a style, has the criteria and the choices of the Lord. Reform does not have a functional character, nor one of self-perfection, but rather is aimed at mission, at the vocation of each of us in life,” Pope Francis said.
Illustrating this point further, Pope Francis recalled the example of St. Peter who was always called by the Lord to follow Him each time he confessed to be a sinner. He underlined that Our Lord perfected him, not in everything, but in what he needed to be a fisher of men and to shepherd His sheep.
“The Lord will not ask Peter to reform all the faults he carries with him from his past life; these faults – so many of them – will accompany him to the end,” the Pope said. He added that the Lord rather invited him to “go out of himself to proclaim the Gospel – a mission in which the past will be referred to with regard to certain things and not so much with regard to others.”
According to this model of the Gospel, “the focus and the inner form of the exercises, as Fiorito says, consist in the inner action of knowing, through discernment, the divine will on the relevant issues of our spiritual life,” he noted.
Concluding, Pope Francis expressed his hope that the book, in its dimension of small notes for the exercises in which it was written, “will help in the reform of life of all those who want to do the exercises.”
“Cercare e trovare la volontà di Dio” is publication of Ancora Editrice – a Catholic-inspired publishing house.