|St. Ignatius Loyola|
One of the greatest Catholic prayers is the Suscipe, a prayer of abandonment to Divine Providence, of turning ourselves over, wholly and completely, to God. The most famous Suscipe prayer comes from St. Ignatius of Loyola . After a brief reflection on the blessings of Creation and Redemption, as well as the unique blessings each of us have received individually, you pray:
Receive, O Lord, all my liberty.
Take my memory, my understanding, and my entire will.
Whatsoever I have or hold, You have given me;
I give it all back to You
and surrender it wholly to be governed by Your will.
Give me only Your love and Your grace,
and I am rich enough and ask for nothing more.
It’s this first line that gives the prayer its name (in Latin, it begins, “Suscipe, Domine“), but the name has become something of a catch-all for prayers of abandonment to Divine Providence. So, for example, Abp. Dolan includes this one, from Blessed Charles de Foucauld, in Priests for the Third Millenium:
I abandon myself into Your Hands;
do with me what You will.
Blessed Charles de Foucauld
whatever You may do, I thank You:
I am ready for all. I accept all.
Let only Your Will be done in me,
and in all your creatures –
I wish no more than this, O Lord.
Into Your Hands I commend my soul;
I offer it to You
with all the love of my heart,
for I love You, Lord,
and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself,
into Your Hands,
and with boundless confidence,
for You are my Father.
All of these prayers contain a common theme: in faith, and in our life’s experiences, we can see that God wants what’s best for us, and knows what’s best for us, better than we do ourselves.
It’s easy to point to politicians and celebrities who, given near-total control over their own lives, immediately self-destruct. But the truth is, we’re not somehow immune to this, either as a culture, or as individuals. In those areas we’re still trying to control, or pursuing our will over God’s, the ship will run aground. Our disobedience will hurt us, or those around us.
There’s a reason for this: God doesn’t usually declare something a sin just for the heck of it. He calls something sinful because it’s not good for us. It’s the same reason that parents don’t let their kids just eat ice cream for every meal. It sounds like fun, but there are long-term consequences the kids aren’t considering.
In the middle of the twentieth century, we collectively stopped believing this, or perhaps, we finally just acknowledged that we no longer believed this. We let loose in the sexual revolution with a “What damage can sex really cause?” attitude. After all, it’s people doing something that is pleasurable to them: how could that really be a sin? The voices of sanity were disregarded as Puritans afraid of pleasure.
As a result, we’ve reaped a culture that staggers under the weight of millions of abortions, widespread sexual assault and abuse, the exploitation of women (in everything from pornography to sex trafficking), AIDS and STDs, gay marriage, adultery, divorce, and broken homes: and that’s just the start of the list. Each of these sins creates consequences of its own, and it’s often the innocent who suffer, like the kids raised in a broken home because their dad thought extra-marital sex was harmless until it ruined his marriage. It’s as if we had all the ice cream we could handle, and were surprised to encounter obesity and heart disease.
If there’s anything the last sixty years have taught us, it’s that we’re not great judges of what’s good for us, or what’s harmless fun. Fortunately, there’s a simple cure: stop trusting our animal impulses, and start trusting God. If we want to make it to Heaven, we need to turn the wheel over to the One who knows where we’re going. The Suscipe is a great place to start, and this Advent is a great time to start.