Everyday Ignatian is a monthly series by Shannon K. Evans, a writer and mother of five living in Iowa who is chronicling moments of grace in the midst of her chaotic daily life through the lens of Ignatian spirituality.
By Shannon K. Evans
April 20, 2021 — Last week a dear friend asked our family if he could borrow our second car to drive out of town for a personal retreat. This friend lives at the local Catholic Worker house, where he shares life with a dozen good men with hard pasts, walking with them daily through things like addiction recovery and PTSD. I love him and would be the first to say he needs regular retreats. But the Catholic Worker only owns one car, which everyone relies on to get to jobs, appointments and for other needs. If he took their only car for four days, all the other men would be left in a lurch.
When the house of hospitality was established last year, our family vowed to do everything in our power to support it from the beginning. Now, loaning out our car was a clear and present way to do just that. So I was surprised that when my husband told me about the request in private, my knee-jerk reaction was, “No way!”
Our old Nissan is not valuable, unless you count the ways it makes navigating the logistics of a family of seven a little bit easier. And even though we would still have one perfectly good car at home, I found myself balking at the inconvenience of the prospect. Of course I wanted to respond with generosity and detachment, but the reality was, I wasn’t there.
The social doctrine of the Catholic Church teaches “a preferential option for the poor,” meaning that in every way possible the disenfranchised should be made a priority in decision-making, whether in public policy, parish ministry, or our individual lives — a posture that Jesus clearly held. And yet for me and many others, the American desire to cling to “my rights” and “my things” runs deep.
I did a quick scan of the week’s schedule and in doing so I quickly remembered that the truth is, our family’s life is remarkably homebound — especially right now during this pandemic. Once I sat with the idea, I realized we could quite easily do without a second car for a few days with only some minor adjustments. Suddenly, loaning out the car was no longer the problem; rather, my own lack of inner freedom was far more troubling.
Ignatian spirituality has taught me to notice and consider my inner movements instead of simply writing them off as human nature. I want to be someone who responds to the needs of the disenfranchised, but when given the opportunity I had felt myself clinging to the fear of scarcity and inconvenience instead. My response failed to match up with my values, and that merits some prayer and soul-searching.
When the rubber meets the road, how serious am I about following Jesus in giving preference to the poor? Am I willing to make sacrifices, or am I only willing to agree so far as nothing is asked of me personally? Am I willing to walk home in the rain if it means someone else can get to their new job on time? These are uncomfortable questions, but they are necessary ones. I am grateful for the chance to see the truth of my own answers and to sit long and hard with them.
In the end, we did loan the car to our friend and, unsurprisingly, the week went perfectly fine. I walked home in a light rain only once, and I daresay that does not a cause for canonization make. In the meantime, I’ve been tuning in to my attachment to ease and comfort — a far more compelling temptation for me than material possessions in and of themselves. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be shaken loose from my sense of entitlement and to remember that I ultimately want to live in a world that is more equitable for those most trampled by it. And maybe the only way to do that is to simply keep saying yes.
Shannon K. Evans is the author of “Embracing Weakness: The Unlikely Secret to Changing the World.” Her writing has been featured in America and Saint Anthony Messenger magazines, as well as online at Ruminate, Verily, Huffington Post, Grotto Network and others. Shannon, her husband and their five children make their home in central Iowa.