Ignatius Rules for Orthodoxy

In his Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius gives us several rules to guide us in our attitude toward the Church. This section could also be called, Rules for Orthodoxy.

These rules were written by Ignatius …
… for an exercitant who for a month had been gazing in love on Christ, contemplating his calls for help in spreading his Kingdom and his example, and was now about to return to ordinary life, perhaps among heretics or weak Catholics. Polanco states in his Directory that these rules are given as antidotes ‘to those things which the heretics of our time, or those showing affinity to their doctrine, are prone to attack or scorn . . . Moreover, they serve not only to keep such an exercitant from erring by speaking privately or writing publicly in a manner other than proper, but they also help him to discern whether the statements and writings of others are departing from the Catholic Church’s manner of thinking and speaking, and to advice others to be on their guard.

No less in our day is the problem of heretics and weak Catholics, that we, too, should heed the advice of these “rules,” and for the Brothers and Sisters of St. Michael, the adherence to these “rules” shall be obligatory. In addition brothers and sisters are to adhere to the teachings of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (Libreria Editrice Vaticana: 1994) and its authorized revisions.

Ignatius’ Rules for Thinking, Judging, and Feeling:

The First Rule. With all judgment of our own put aside, we ought to keep our minds disposed and ready to be obedient in everything to the true Spouse of Christ our Lord, which is our Holy Mother, the hierarchical Church.

The Second Rule. We should praise confession to a priest, reception of the most Sacred Sacrament once a year, and much more once a month, and still more every week, always with the required and proper conditions. [even more daily reception of the Blessed Sacrament if it be appropriate].

The Third Rule. We should praise frequent attendance at Mass; also, chants, psalmody, and long prayers inside and outside the church; and further, the schedules setting the times for the Divine Office as a whole, for prayers of every kind, and for all the canonical hours.

The Fourth Rule. We should strongly praise religious institutes, virginity and continence, and marriage too, but not as highly as any of the former.

The Fifth Rule. We should praise the vows of religion, obedience, poverty, chastity, and vows to perform other works of supererogation which conduce to perfection. We should remember, too, that just as a vow is made in regard to matters which lead toward evangelical perfection, so vows ought not to be made with respect to matters that withdraw one from it, such as to enter business, to get married, and the like.

The Sixth Rule. We should praise relics of saints, by venerating the relics and praying to the saints. We should extol visits to stational churches, pilgrimages, indulgences for jubilees and crusades, and the lighting of candles in churches.

The Seventh Rule. We should praise precepts of fast and abstinence, for example, in Lent, on ember days, vigils, Fridays and Saturdays; also penances, not only interior but also exterior.

The Eighth Rule. We ought to praise the ornamentations and structures of churches; also images, and their veneration according to what they represent.

The Ninth Rule. Lastly, we should praise all the precepts of the Church, while keeping our mind ready to look for reasons for defending them and not for attacking them in any way.

The Tenth Rule. We ought to be more inclined to approve and praise the decrees, recommendations, and conduct of our superiors than to speak against them. For although some of these acts are not or were not praiseworthy, to speak against them either by preaching in public or by conversing among the ordinary people would cause more murmuring and scandal than profit. And through this the people would become angry at their officials, whether civil or spiritual. However, just as it does harm to speak evil about officials among the ordinary people while they are absent, so it can be profitable to speak of their bad conduct to persons who can bring about a remedy.

The Eleventh Rule. We ought to praise both positive theology and scholastic theology. For just as it is more characteristic of the positive doctors, such as St. Jerome, St. Augustine, St. Gregory, and the rest to stir up our affections toward loving and serving God our Lord in all things, so it is more characteristic of the scholastic teachers, such as St. Thomas, St. Bonaventure, the Master of the Sentences, and so on to define and explain for our times the matters necessary for salvation, and also to refute and explain all the errors and fallacies. For the scholastic teachers, being more modern, can avail themselves of an authentic understanding of Sacred Scripture and the holy positive doctors. Further still they, being enlightened and clarified by divine influence, make profitable use of the councils, cannons, and decrees of our Holy Mother Church.

The Twelfth Rule. We ought to be on our guard against comparing those of us who are still living with the blessed of the past. For no small error is made when one says, for example, “He knows more than St. Augustine,” or “He is another St. Francis, or even more,” or “He is another St. Paul in goodness, holiness, and the like.”

The Thirteenth Rule. To keep ourselves right in all things, we ought to hold fast to this principle: What I see as white, I will believe to be black if the hierarchical Church thus determines it. For we believe that between Christ our Lord, the Bridegroom, and the Church, his Spouse, there is the one same Spirit who governs and guides us for the salvation of our souls. For it is by the same Spirit and Lord of ours who gave the ten commandments that our holy Mother Church is guided and governed.

The Fourteenth Rule. It is granted that there is much truth in the statement that no one can be saved without being predestined and without having faith and grace. Nevertheless great caution is necessary in our manner of speaking and teaching about these matters.

The Fifteenth Rule. We ought not to fall into a habit of speaking much about predestination. But if somehow the topic is brought up on occasions, it should be treated in such a way that the ordinary people do not fall into error, as sometimes happens when they say: “It is already determined whether I shall be saved or damned, and this cannot now be changed by my doing good or evil.” Through this they grow listless and neglect the works which lead to good and to the spiritual advancement of their souls.

The Sixteenth Rule. In the same way we should notice with caution that by speaking much and emphatically about faith, without any distinction and explanation, we may give the people an occasion to grow listless and lazy in their works, wither before or after these persons have a faith which in informed by charity.

The Seventeenth Rule. Similarly, we ought not to speak so lengthily and emphatically about grace that we generate a poison harmful to freedom of the will. Hence one may speak about faith and grace as much as possible, with God’s help, for the greater praise of his Divine Majesty; but not in such ways or manners, especially in times as dangerous as our own, that works and free will are impaired or though worthless.

The Eighteenth Rule. It is granted that we should value above everything else the great service which is given to God because of pure love. Nevertheless we should also strongly praise fear of his Divine Majesty. For not only is filial fear something pious and very holy, but so also is servile fear. Even if it brings a person nothing better or more useful, it greatly aids him
or her to rise from mortal sin; and once such a one has risen, one easily attains to filial fear, which is wholly acceptable and pleasing to God our Lord, since it is inseparably united with love of him.

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