I was about to begin this post: 'It was with great sadness that I heard yesterday of the death of Gerry Hughes...' However, having reflected on Gerry, his life and teachings this morning (surely in the way he always encouraged us to do!), I find myself rejoicing rather that we have had the privilege of sharing the last nine decades with such a great soul. Many will know him from his outstanding books - 'God of Surprises', for example, has probably done more than any other single book in the last half century to popularise the Ignatian methods in the English speaking world and will surely stay in print for many more years to come.
Then there was the man himself - warm, humorous and humble with a vein of steely Scottish granite that would come out when he was challenged, especially over his beloved Peace agenda. I saw him a few months ago and, like an old testament prophet, he was as sharp and perceptive as ever. His razor-like intellect cutting through the delusions and pretensions of our current world. I am just finishing my review of his last book, 'Cry of Wonder', which I shall post on here over the next few days.
How appropriate that Gerry should die on the feast day of two remarkable saints: St Martin de Porres of Peru and St Rupert Mayer of Bavaria. Both embodied causes close to Gerry's heart: Martin de Porres, the son of a freed slave and the illegitimate son of a Spanish nobleman, lived a life of simplicity and service that has made him a model of simple and devoted service and an ikon for all oppressed peoples. Rupert Mayer, on the other hand, another Jesuit like Gerry, saw the evils of Nazism at first hand and denounced its atrocities from his pulpit at St Michael's church in Munich. For his troubles he was sent first to Sachsenhausen concentration camp and then interned for the rest of the war. After his release at the end of the war, he died of a stroke on 1st November 1945 whilst celebrating mass at his beloved church in Munich: 'The Lord! The Lord! The Lord' were his last words...
So we feel sad today but also rejoice in this wise warrior of Christ, our friend and companion Gerry, who has taught us so much about being a Christian in today's world. I shall end with a short extract from the article he wrote for me on Ignatian spirituality for 'The Bloomsbury Guide to Christian Spirituality'. May he rest in peace. Amen.
What, basically, do I most desire? This is the most valuable question we can ask ourselves. We then discover that this search appears to be endless: we start discovering the many different levels of desire there are in us. We also begin to realise that desire is not something we create: it arises in us. As we pursue the various desires, we become increasingly frustrated. Having pursued my desire to eat, drink and be merry, I end up with severe stomach and weight problems. Having pursued my desire to become the wealthiest person in record time, I find myself doing long term imprisonment for trying to take shortcuts on my way to a personal fortune. In view of these difficulties, I may take to religion, only to discover that God is uncomfortably demanding. The American thinker, David Henry Thoreau (1818- 1862) commented on this process when he said that the majority of people live lives of quiet desperation.
There is a wonderful truth, a pearl of great price lying hid in this desperate saying.
spotted it towards the end of his life – he
died in 430 C.E. - and wrote ‘Thou hast
created us for thyself, and our heart cannot be quieted till it may find repose
in thee’ (Confessions 1.1.). St
God is always transcendent, greater than anything we can think or imagine. God is ‘a beckoning word’ as I once heard bishop David Konstant say. God beckons us beyond ourselves into God’s own life. The transcendence of God, which we are called to share, is already working in us in our experience of desire, which no created thing, or person, or group, or system can ever satisfy, thank God!
God’s will is our good, our freedom, our delight in our at-one-ness in God, with all creation and within ourselves.
described this in
his letter to the Ephesians, ‘God’s power working in us, can do infinitely more
than we can ask or imagine’ (Ephesians 3.20). St Paul
The final prayer which Ignatius presents at the end of his Spiritual Exercises is: ‘Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding and my entire will, all that I have and possess. You gave it all to me; to you I return it. All is yours, dispose of it entirely according to your will. Give me only the love of you together with your grace, for that is enough for me.’