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Appreciate the bigger picture which is God

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Mom was recuperating years ago in front of the television set in her hospital room after an operation.

As she got older, the surgery was tough on mom, physically and mentally. This caused her to fall and she was never able to return to pre-surgery levels.

That day, when the nurse came in, Mom looked away from the television and told her that St. John Paul II was dead. This was great news, and unexpected. It wasn’t true either. The pope was very much alive, but mum looked lucid and worried. Word quickly spread around the hospital and someone even told a multi-state relative that the pope was dead.

Later, we laughed at how quickly Mom spread this rumor so innocently and convincingly and how gullible those who believed it felt. But even then, before smartphones were in everyone’s pocket, we had grown accustomed to hearing news from around the world within minutes. And mom was sitting right in front of the television.

Saint Francis Xavier died on December 3, 1552, trying to reach mainland China after three years of missionary work in the East. But news of the death of one of St. Ignatius of Loyola’s closest friends did not reach Rome for more than a year. In our world today, this is unimaginable. News cycles spin so fast that last month’s news feels old.

Francis is one of the greatest Jesuit saints and, like many great saints, he had a storied past. It would be a boring world if the saints we love were born like the plaster images we make of them. Born into a noble family whose prospects had been financially curtailed due to the war, Francis was a complacent student at the University of Paris when he met Ignatius, a fellow Basque who had grown up from his wild youth.

Eventually Ignatius would guide his friend through the Spiritual Exercises, and together with St. Peter Faber the trio would work to found the Society of Jesus.

When the pope asked Ignatius to send missionaries to Asia, Francis went there. He served in Goa, India and later in Japan before dying of illness trying to reach mainland China. He was only 46 years old.

Francis and Ignatius would never see each other again on this earth. But what amazes my modern sensibility, addicted to the Internet and smartphones, is that during these long years, Ignatius would have had so little communication regarding his friend and the death of his friend. No registration, no SMS.

I’m barely out of mass when I check my phone, and if I leave my phone at home when I’m running errands, I feel a bit out of it. What if someone needs me? Or do I need it?

One of the great lessons of Ignatian spirituality is indifference. Indifference in the sense of freeing myself from the ties that separate me from God. Ignatius practiced indifference to everything except the will of God.

We are so attached to the morning news, to Twitter, to Facebook, anything that makes us feel connected at all times. Ignatius, on the other hand, practiced a willingness to accept whatever God wanted for his friend and for the future of the Jesuits and was indifferent to the fears and anxiety this might produce.

Perhaps intentionally diverting this Advent a little from our technological dependence would help us appreciate the larger picture that God is in history and in our lives. Perhaps the indifference we could practice would include the occasional fasting from social media and devices and imagine a world where we could trust God for a year or a lifetime.

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Copyright © 2022 Catholic News Service/United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

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