In Ignatian Spirituality finding — or discerning — the will of God involves two principles: consolation (when we sense an experience or decision is moving us toward God) and desolation (when we sense something is moving us away from God).
For Father James (Jim) Creighton, SJ, the desire to know God’s will began in Chicago. “As a teenager at Saint Ignatius College Prep, I viewed the priesthood as a vocation ‘higher’ than any other way of life,” he recalls. “Later, as a novice in the Society of Jesus at Milford, Ohio, it became obvious that there is a higher way of life, regardless of occupation or vocation. And that is seeking the will of God.”
“Of course, that’s not so easy for any of us,” Fr. Creighton continues. “From my early days as a Jesuit to my last Jesuit annual retreat, I have prayed to find God’s will and tried to do it, during a life that did, in fact, include the priesthood as a gift of God and many other gifts that have been the will of God. Actually, I have sensed consolation in various ministries that filled a need perceived by the Society.”
Fr. Creighton’s roles in those ministries included assistant director of novices and then rector of the large Jesuit community back at Saint Ignatius College Prep in Chicago in the 1960s and 1970s. While completing this latter assignment, he says, “Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ, suggested that I consider adding an extra half year to my rectorship because my successor had not yet finished his last year of Jesuit training. And when Father General ‘suggested,’ I considered that to be the will of God — and was consoled.”
|Fr. Jim Creighton, SJ, attends Mass at the Colombiere Jesuit Community in Clarkston, Michigan|
Intrigued by the idea, Fr. Creighton found a career testing program in Chicago. “It felt like entering some kind of modern scientific means appropriate to finding God’s will.”
The results, based on his personality profile, talents, and tendencies, were to seek goals in education and clinical pastoral care. These findings eventually led Fr. Creighton to studies at the University of Chicago, “which had a rather advanced educational program,” he says.
Recalling the rigor of the curriculum, Fr. Creighton declares, “Older man that I was, I had come there to learn — and that was the secret! It reminded me of St. Ignatius learning Latin with students who were decades younger than he in Paris. But this was Chicago, and I was consoled! Wherever God will lead, I will go.”
Fr. Creighton ultimately worked his way to becoming a director at the University of Chicago’s three hospitals, as well as a clinical pastoral educator and its first Roman Catholic chaplain.
“In all of this,” he concludes, “I learned that by taking risks and trusting myself to God’s guidance, God’s will does find ways to fill needs, and God’s will be done. That’s the higher way.”