Step 13: Three Types of Attitude toward Possessions

Each prayer session will be structured as it follows:

We go to our place of prayer quiet down a short while and begin with some prayer. After the opening prayer and asking the grace we want to receive in this step then read (maybe paragraph by paragraph) the "Orientation and meditation", then we spend some time with silent prayer. At the end we jot down a diary about the experience of this meditation and share with our companion about it. Finish always with a short prayer. Each session should take at least half an hour and not more than one and the half hour. We remain with the material as long as we feel that it is fruitful in insights and feelings and add more prayer sessions to prolong the time spent with this step, which can take usually one or two weeks if we do it in our daily life with one prayer session a day.

Donít forget to do the "Daily Examination of Consciousness"

The practice of Examination will be a great help that you need to use during this retreat.

Opening Prayer:

We place ourselves in the presence of God and pray that everything we do would serve the good for us and for all.

Asking what we want:

" In this meditation we ask for the grace to be able to choose always what serves more the fulfillment of our existence, as Ignatius words it "what is more for the glory of His Divine Majesty and the salvation of my soul" [152], which is the grace involved in the "Principle and Foundation" [23]. With other words, we might say that we seek here to receive from God the desire to act always with spiritual freedom, clarity and according to our authentically discerned choices".

Orientation and meditation:

" The meditations in the Second Phase become more and more specific and concrete as we get near to the decision, beginning at the general vision of "The Kingdom of Christ" [91-98] that ushers this Phase, through the more specific "Two Standards" [136-148] to this demanding meditation. Further difference is that while in the previous two meditations the stress was on the call coming "from above" for so to say, here our attention turns toward the possible human approaches "from below" to salvation (1), namely we will consider three types of inner attitudes people can have toward the saving gift of God. This might be called a "test-meditation"(2), the goal of which is to test if the freedom of the companions and their readiness to accept the consequences of their choice of a way of life as they gradually have understood these from the previous meditations and in fact beginning from the "Principle and Foundation" [23] and from the understanding of the abyss of human brokenness and of the reality of sin in our world in the First Phase. The choice of the value system of Christ should translate in every question or issue of our daily existence and now the meditation on the "Three Types" aims to help us to render our love for God and his way concreteÖ

- " Our meditation will be a parable about three groups of people, each representing a different attitude toward possessions. Let us choose for our example three married couples, although the parable could speak of groups of special interests or nations, too (3). In this parable we speak of money, of the first vice in the triad of riches-honor-pride where all evil starts, but we could replace it by anything else, honored status, beloved persons, exterior or interior goods to which one can be attached or addicted. Imagine that each of the three couples obtains a great sum of money. The way in which they acquired it is honest and morally perfect, but as Ignatius puts it "not entirely as they should have, for the love of God" [150], which means that they did not searched for it as a result of a proper discernment process. There are many of this kind of things in our life, we acquired or discovered them before reflecting or even thinking about how it fits in our existence and in our relationship with God. These things are morally perfect, to possess them is honorable and they might be the source of much good, but if not integrated in our love of God they constitute a "part of that wealth that seeks to absolutize itself and therefore become the starting point of true sin"(4). Let us suppose that the couples in our example desire a great spiritual freedom and as they feel the attachment to this money presents an impediment of their goal, they want to free themselves of itÖ

- " The first couple is convinced that they should give away the money in order to be free of it, but they never do it actually. They have the mistaken concept that holiness equals radical renounce but they cannot do it and in consequence they live with a sense of guilt because of the attachment. This couple honestly would like to love God, but their underlying attitude is fear from him, they are afraid of a demanding God and find the heights of sanctity too frightening. They live and die remaining in the same situation without resolving the problem and really answering Godís call to them.

- " The second couple decides beforehand that they should keep the money and use it for good, for example investing it and from the profit regularly give to the poor. They desire to be free of the attachment to the money but in the same time also want to keep it convinced that they know how to use it for the greater glory of God and how to "save their souls". Also this couple remains in their attachment which they donít recognize either, they decide without discernment with an attitude of bargaining and a sort of pretense.

- The third couple too wants to be free of attachments, but they do not decide immediately neither to get rid of the money nor to keep it. They donít act without discernment, without seeing how this sum integrates in their life and relationship with God. Their attitude is the abandonment and openness toward God, a childlike trust in him as they try to understand for what he inspires them and what is the better for them. When Jesus in the gospels tells the disciples to become like children, he calls to this attitude of trust and dependence on God: "Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven" (Mt 18:3) (5)Ö

- " This third attitude illustrates how the freedom presented in the "Principle and Foundation" [23] leads to the "more" in Ignatian sense, brings to striving for what is more close to God and to the sense of our existence. Their inner motive to keep this money or give it away will be to serve God better to whom everything belongs in final analysis. Meanwhile they try to live as every attachment to it had been eliminated, as though not possessing it at all. St. Paul recommends this attitude with an emphasis on the transitoriness of human existence: "I tell you, brothers, the time is running out. From now on, let those having wives act as not having them, those weeping as not weeping, those rejoicing as not rejoicing, those buying as not owning, those using the world as not using it fully. For the world in its present form is passing away" (1Cor 7:29-31)Ö

- " This parable presents "a purification and clarification of desires and attitudes" as Bernard Tyrrell refers to it (6). From this point of view, only the third couple goes through a transformation of their desire and reaches freedom from their attachment, while the first two did not change at all or only temporizing about it. The dynamics of this therapeutic transformation of attitudes can be applied also to the struggles of addicted or neurotic persons with their problems. In the different phases of healing the addicted or neurotic person might pass from the first attitude of doing nothing to bargaining and finally reaching a successful detachment. Somewhere during this process the sufferer needs to reach a basic decision about choosing health and freedom from the object of addiction. This application differs from the original function in the Exercises when the "Three Types of Attitudes" meditation serves as preparation for a choice between different morally good and healthy alternatives, while in the case of addiction and neurosis the choice is between a destructive tendency and a life-giving alternative (7)."

Final Prayers:

" Before the threefold prayer in a similar way as in the "Two Standard" meditation in [147], the companions need to do their sharing on the things understood during this exercise, to summarize it in their diary to see the road they are making. This notes later will turn to be helpful in eventual decision situations when the companions will need to apply the principles learned here.

The question of how to use financial resources they have - or how to obtain them if they donít have - are important issues in the life of married couples who try to take seriously the integrity of their existence and their faith in God. To find what is right to do, where is attachment and what are their real necessities will require a continuous effort of discernment and openness for change. There is no formula or recipe to follow and we cannot wait always to feel that we know the right solution. The crucial thing is to be aware and try to make good decisions -which in time will become also "better" - and God will bless our efforts and even the non-too-perfect choices if we sincerely try to understand what is the best in a given situation. Not even the bad choices are fatal as God can write straight with our crooked lines and turn out good from bad, too. We need not to be afraid but have an unshaken unconditional trust in God.

In the threefold prayer then they will ask to be able to realize their desire of spiritual freedom, to rely on God alone and accept the consequences of their choices. The following note gives a help to how to pray at this point. "

(Excerpts from the chapter "Three Types of Attitude" of the Manual )


  1. Cf. Charlotte C. Prather, A Generous Openness. Praying the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius, (Petersham, MA: St. Bedeís Publications, 1992) p.56.
  2. Cf. Lefrank - Giuliani, "Freedom for Service", pp. 91-92.
  3. Cf. Cowan-Futrell, "The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola," p. 106.
  4. Rahner, "Spiritual Exercise," p. 191.
  5. Compare Mt 18:1-5 with other places speaking of childlike trust as condition to enter the kingdom of God in Mt 19:13-14; Mk10:13-16; Lk 18:15-17.
  6. Tyrrell, "Christotherapy II," p. 183.
  7. See the exposition of this difference in op.cit., p. 184.