Photo: by Danilo Borges /ME /Brasil2016 Creative Commons license
From Zac Davis in America magazine this week, reflecting on Simone Biles’s decision to withdraw from Olympic competition:
Freedom remains the least-understood and most-touted American virtue. Interior freedom is perhaps an even more difficult thing to define, let alone live out and respond to. St. Ignatius, founder of the Society of Jesus, described it as “detachment” in the Spiritual Exercises. “We must make ourselves indifferent to all created things, as far as we are allowed free choice and are not under any prohibition,” Ignatius wrote. That leads to some jarring consequences: “As far as we are concerned, we should not prefer health to sickness, riches to poverty, honor to dishonor, a long life to a short life.”
Ignatius advised that we should ask in prayer to be free from attachments. He understood how easily the stuff of our lives, even things that have been good to us can end up becoming so important to us they get in our way from seeing the world as it really is. As a result our ability to perceive and respond to God’s invitations becomes more difficult. We can be attached to narratives about who we are and who other people are, to plans and goals, to monetary gain, to social capital, to what others think about us. Ignatius also recognized that it is possible for things that at first or even second glance seem like good desires and attachments to rule over our lives in a way that imperils our freedom…
… Ms. Biles showed an awareness that she could teach the rest of the world something through her action: “It’s O.K. sometimes to even sit out the big competitions to focus on yourself,” she answered at a press conference after she withdrew from competition. “Because it shows how strong of a competitor and person you really are.”
In a 1967 letter issued to every Jesuit around the world, Pedro Arrupe, S.J., the former superior general of the Society of Jesus, wrote that “we wished our lives and work to be free from a striving for gain—sometimes a tyrannical force,” and that “the modern world is in need of men who boldly bear witness that they have been liberated from this force.” Well, modern world, meet a modern woman liberated from that force.
Meanwhile, it’s worth rewatching this interview below. It was conducted by CBN, after Simone Biles’ triumph at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, and focuses on her own faith and trust in God.