Agere Contra

Agere Contra

Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556) was a captain in the Spanish army in the days when armies faced each other at close range.  It would not be surprising that some of the soldiers would become terrified and want to run away.  I am sure that Ignatius had to demand that those who felt like running, go against their fears and stay and fight.  He himself stayed in the thick of the Battle of Pamplona (1521) and had his leg shattered by a French cannonball.

That was the beginning of his conversion.  Later on, he applied the same principle of overcoming, going against (agree contra) emotions and desires and fears and temptations, which militated against spiritual progress in a person.    That’s the principle of agree contra, that is, acting contrary to what interiorly is pulling one toward actions that take us in directions opposed to the Gospel teachings; teachings that are intended to make us more genuinely human and to create livable, even happier, families, communities, and societies.

Some examples:

St. Paul tells us to go against our desire for vengeance by doing good (the opposite) to our enemies, to those who have hurt us in some way.  (Rom. 12:14,17)

Jesus tells us not only not to do adultery, but to excise all thoughts of adultery from our minds and hearts especially if we find it difficult to do so.  (Mat. 5:28)

Avarice and greed are powerful motivators for many people,  the desire to accumulate wealth and not to share what blessings God has bestowed on one, can result in hardness of heart.  Jesus is clear that such avarice and greed have to be overcome and that generosity must inform the pattern of our lives.  (Luke 16:19-39; 12:16-21)

Notice that the desire for vengeance, lust, and greed make for powerful and often subtle temptations.  It takes real will power to go against them and engender instead love for enemies, respect, self-discipline, largess and generosity.  We cannot allow ourselves, if we want to progress in the spiritual life, to be ruled by such inner motions.  We have to learn to agree contra with God’s grace!