As we are bombarded with urgent crises, what’s the place of training people to be self-reflective?
We humans like to join a campaign to defeat the enemy, whether it’s marauding invaders or cancer cells. But this impulse to defend is not reliably virtuous and can easily be manipulated by clever and predatory leaders with disastrous results.
How? When we are feeling insecure, threatened, insignificant, lost – there is no surer distraction from our discomfort than to be persuaded that someone else is causing our discomfort. Charismatic leaders know this trick. Magically, we’re no longer on the hook for a self-evaluation that might require changes to our opinions, choices and even the basis for our sense of self-worth.
What should have been a call for us to interrogate our own discomfort gets hijacked and we are swept up in the passion of a crowd. It is a recurring pandemic that plays out on our TV screens from around the globe – crowds, thoroughly convinced of their side’s virtue, grabbing pitchfork and torch to mount a holy crusade against an evil foe.
One vaccine for this mass psychosis is inner spiritual development – the cultivation of a habit to look inward first whenever one experiences a strong impulse. Such a habit can immunize us, giving us the freedom to stand apart from the crowd and against con men who wish to profit from our gullibility.
The mission of assisting others with inner development can feel unbearably slow and frustratingly small in scale, yet it enjoys some notable endorsements: Jesus rejected the chance to exercise power over all he could see and chose to stay in the desert to gain clarity for his mission. Ignatius of Loyola teaches us how to watch our hearts so that we gain the inner freedom needed to effect true and lasting good in the world.
At Casa Romero we invite people to walk in the ways of Ignatius of Loyola, so that they engage the world as strong, loving and wise leaders who hear the cries of the suffering and who can stand firm while others around them are carried by currents of manufactured passions.
“Contemplatives in action” is an expression used to describe those who follow the tradition of St. Ignatius. I think our society, and the world, has never been in greater need of such people. Thank you for helping us extend the wisdom of St. Ignatius into communities full of future leaders for our society and church.