Take, Lord, and Receive

The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius end in a final oblation of one’s entire self in response to the extraordinary love of God. The idea is that the retreatant is so moved by the wholehearted love of God that he/she wants to give back in return as much as possible. The prayer is called the Suscipe which is the first word of the prayer in Latin. It invites the Lord to take everything: “my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will.” It tells the Lord that I want to return it all to Him as long as He keeps me in His love and His grace. It is an extraordinarily beautiful and generous prayer. 

Recently I visited a dear friend of mine who, in his middle eighties, is suffering from a dementia that seems to increase more and more rapidly. This friend is a Jesuit who I am sure has prayed the Suscipe innumerable times in his long religious life. When he repeatedly asked me the name of someone he has lived and worked with for years, I realized that God was taking him up on his offer of giving his memory back to the Lord. Come to think of it, he is returning his liberty to the Lord also; he has a device on his wrist that sets off an alarm when he passes a certain point in the corridor. And his understanding? When I told him the time was eight o’clock, he wasn’t sure if that meant eight in the morning or eight in the evening.

God has taken him up on his request to return everything he has received. The continual smile on his face and the peace he exudes are the assurance that God is hearing the second part of the prayer too: “give me your love and your grace; that’s enough for me.”

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