Tuesday, 9 October 2007

To labour and to ask for no reward

I've been thinking of the prayer for generosity of St Ignatius of Loyola:

Lord, teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve;
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labour and to ask for no reward,
save that of knowing that I do your will.

He doesn't ask for much, does he? I mean, I know the theory. I try to be generous, to do things for others, to give up my time, energy and other resources when they're needed, and on the whole, I do it willingly.

The real sticking point for me is that penultimate line. Quite often, someone else has taken the credit for things that I've done, or they've been given the credit and haven't put the other person right. If I were doing things purely for love of God, or even for love of the people I was serving, this shouldn't bother me. The point is that the thing has been done, and as my mother always says, "You'll get your reward in Heaven." The fact that I get no recognition for it here on earth is immaterial.

But... it's not. When someone else is getting publicly congratulated and thanked, it shouldn't bother me. I know what I've done, and Jesus Himself told us that our Father sees everything we have done in secret, and that the left hand shouldn't know what the right hand is doing.

The crazy thing is, often I have done these things in secret. I didn't want to be rewarded in the first place. I just wanted to make someone happy, or to help someone who needed help, or whatever. But as soon as I see someone else being congratulated for something I did, I want to stand on a chair and shout, "No, you've got it wrong! It was ME! ME! ME! Give ME a pat on the back!"

I think I really need to pray the prayer of St Ignatius more often, and think about what it means. And when I'm in a "ME! ME! ME!" moment, I'll try to shut up that inner voice and remind myself "To labour and to ask for no reward, save that of knowing that I do Your Will".


Esther said...

Oh, I so know how you feel NH. It is only recently, that I forgave someone who took credit for something laborious she asked me to do; didn't compensate me as she had promised and then took all the credit, and it's been over 10 years. I know I was wrong. It should have been an occasion to die to myself. But at least I recognize that now.

newhousenewjob said...

Ah, I'm glad it's not just me, Esther. I do wonder how someone like that lives with herself, though - surely she knew what she was doing and how unfair it was, regardless of how you might react.

One thing that made me particularly sad was when a priest was publicly thanked and praised for something that I had done, and instead of pointing out that it wasn't he who had done it, he accepted all the praise and ignored me. A true occasion for me to die to myself if I'd been a better person - but surely the priest should have behaved differently as well.

Aaaand there I go again. I really need to work on this one...

Esther said...

Oh, I'm so sorry. That must have been so hard for you! It is difficult to die to self NH because we are human. But I guess the next time we should try harder.

newhousenewjob said...

Fortunately (?), I seem to be given plenty of opportunities to practise this particular form of self-sacrifice. I fail often, but I'll keep trying...

Cy said...

Thank you for this post, you've put into words what I've been trying to grasp lately.