The Title of this talk is called First Principle and Foundation. For our opening prayer, I want us to pray St. Ignatius’ First Principle and Foundation.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit:
“The human person is created to praise, reverence, and serve God Our Lord, and by doing so, to save his or her soul. All other things on the face of the earth are created for human beings in order to help them pursue the end for which they are created. It follows from this that one must use other created things, in so far as they help towards one's end, and free oneself from them, in so far as they are obstacles to one's end. To do this, we need to make ourselves indifferent to all created things, provided the matter is subject to our free choice and there is no other prohibition. Thus, as far as we are concerned, we should not want health more than illness, wealth more than poverty, fame more than disgrace, a long life more than a short one, and similarly for all the rest, but we should desire and choose only what helps us more towards the end for which we are created.” - Amen.
That is what we want to focus on in these 40 mins. What is your principle and foundation? Do you have a principle and foundation? Have you even bothered to think about it before now? The reason I bring this out is that if you know what your foundation is you then have a framework from which to operate in your daily life. The foundation of a house is different from the foundation of a skyscraper. The foundation of a baseball player is different is different from the foundation of a football player. Likewise the foundation of an animal is different from the foundation of a Human being made in the image and likeness of God. To lay down the wrong foundation results in disaster. If I were to lay down a tiny foundation for a house then to proceed to build a skyscraper on top of it is only asking for the building to collapse in a few short years.
One way we get to our foundation is to ask some of the big questions in life. (Click)
Some of these questions the human mind never tires of asking.
What is the meaning of life?
Why are you hear?
What are you doing with your life?
Why is there something as opposed to nothing?
Why can’t the New Orleans Saints win?
Or in the style of Dwayne in the video clip, "Is life one beauty contest after another?"
I want to propose to you several of what I consider to be the most common first principles and foundations that I have encountered through the years.
A slave can say that he has been freed from something, but freedom from something is only the beginning of true freedom. If you aren’t freed from something so as to be free for something you have missed the point of being freed from something. You are freed from something so that you can be free for something.
I also want to propose to you that the First principle and foundation of St. Ignatius is really an invitation to true freedom. That to live a life of Christ is freedom from something so that you might be free for something. For instance, the slave was given freedom from slavery so that he might have the freedom to make America better, the freedom for doing good, and the freedom for the ability to be treated like a human person with dignity and respect.
So like I said, this is an invitation to freedom. I would be willing to bet that many of our first principles and foundations are in no way true freedom nor do they invite others to freedom. And that is what I want to look at for a little bit. 3 of the most common Principles and Foundations that I see in our culture and one not so common.
When I was in high school and even into college, I was heavily involved in several different music scenes in New Orleans. What I discovered on hind sight is that the individuals I encountered were some of the most immoral people I have ever been associated with. Many of the member of the bands my band would open for had one basic goal in life: To squeeze as much out of life as possible -- and many people have this as their principle and foundation, but it is an illusion. You’ll see in a min what I mean. The goal for these guys came in for context of having sex with any girl who would let them (regardless of age) meaning older men (sometimes 19, sometimes 30 or 40 and older) had no qualms with sleeping with girls as young as 14 years old, do as much drugs as possible, and their final goal was to do it while playing music. And if they could have done all three at the same time, I’m sure they would have.
So many of the guys I met were all about sex, drugs, and rock and roll (though we weren’t really playing rock and roll). This was their first principle and foundation.
I remember one night we were playing at the House of Blues (HOB). We were always excited when we played there because they treated the bands really well: they fed us, gave us a room, allowed us to get back stage passes to some of our friends and groupies. But the thing about this one time is that the House of Blues, for whatever reason, forgot that most of the band members were under the legal drinking age and gave us a refrigerator full of beer and other kinds of booze. To make matters worse, we were opening for this reggae/ska band from Jamaica and they were big pot-heads. So half of the band went down the hall and smoked it up with the headlining band from Jamaica and boozed it up for a while. Needless to say, when it came time for us to perform, between the weed combined with the booze, we sounded HORRIBLE. After the concert it was along time before we were asked back to play at the HOB.
The thing is that the guys in the band who went down the hall with the headlining band, weren’t thinking about the other guys in the band who actually wanted to sound good, as the HOB is one of the top venues for musicians in New Orleans.
The guys who had the first principle and foundation of Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll wound up really hurting others because they didn’t care about anything other then themselves and their first principle and foundation of getting high, getting laid, and playing music. If you got in their way with any of the three, you became enemy #1.
Like I said they were trying to squeeze as much out of life as possible, and this is how they went about doing it. So maybe you are asking, “what is the big deal with people wanting to squeeze as much out of life as possible in the time that we have?” The problem is that when we do it too soon and too much and in a way that is harmful what happens is that we become empty and useless.
The second principle and foundation I encountered were people who wanted freedom for freedom’s sake. I encountered a lot of these people while working in North Carolina as a Summer Camp counselor and wilderness backpacking guide. My buddies and I called these people “Granolas” for the mere fact that they were obsessed with eating granola, not showering, and not wearing anything unorganic -- but these individuals are not limited to Granolas alone. The same “freedom for freedom’s sake” attitude can be found in a number of places. But this is my experience.
The guys I met during the summers that I worked in NC were generally nice guys and fun to be around. The thing is, they didn’t want authentic freedom. They only wanted to be free from any kind of restraint. Anything that held them down or threatened their freedom was seen as bad. These guys usually couldn’t be in any kind of relationship for any length of time as any serious relationship requires a commitment at some point, which they viewed as a restraint. Something that many of these guys I met were unable to do. It want’ just guys it was also the female counterpart that had the same view on life. They saw nothing wrong with leaving school for a week or two at a time just to go into the woods to “get away from the pressures of life” or because "such-and-such a river was flowing fast” or to “go find a good route on Looking Glass”. They would just up and disappear and go. They were very unreliable and hardly agreed to do anything that might cause them to be someplace at a specific time and place.
So what? You say. The problem is that these guys only wanted freedom from. They had no interest in being free for something. Just because you are free from something doesn’t mean you are automatically free for something. They wanted to be freed from the restraints of the world so that they could be free to do whatever they wanted. They had no boundaries, and in short no real foundation, as a foundation gives you boundaries from which to work. If they did have a principle and foundation it was very shaky and weak.
They lived only for themselves with no restrictions. They wanted and yearned for licenses (that is, they wanted a reason or excuse to do anything.) All their actions were justified by how well of an excuse they could make. What it came down to is that they wanted as much freedom from as they could and as often as they could get it. And If you got in their way, you become enemy #1.
This is the same attitude as people who suffer with any addiction of any sort. The addict wants as much drugs, alcohol, porn, sex, etc as he or she can get, and if you hinder their ability in procuring what they want then you are enemy #1. Don’t believe me? Just watch the TV show “Intervention.”
This attitude actually limited their freedom. They no longer had freedom for something. They couldn’t figure out what they were free for. Only that they were free from.
Real freedom that has a foundation provides a framework from which to work.
False freedom has no foundation.
Real Freedom: Freedom from blazing our own path and trail and the trials that are associated so that we might be free for the ease of getting from point A-B. There is a framework something that guides us.
False Freedom: Freedom from the restraints that make travel easy and effective. They want to blaze their own trail for the sake of blazing their own trail. This attitude leads to confusion. You can’t make sense of it. It is stupid to swim to china when you can just as easily hope on a boat or plane to get there.
The last group that I commonly encounter is what I call the Doctor/Lawyer principle and foundation. These people measure success by means of finical gain, notoriety, fame and being well liked. They want to get a good job, makes lots of money, have a nice car and marry a hot wife. I see this one a lot in America. Buy this buy that. Invest here and invest there. Look like this person or that person. If you don’t do this then you aren’t smart.
Money and success are not bad things. It only becomes bad when you start hording or worshiping money. “But Mr. Catalanotto I don’t do that. I don’t horde or worship my money.” Really?! When you got your last pay check or your allowance what did you do with it? On what did you spend all your money? If you saw someone spending all their money on clothes what would you think is there first principle and foundation? If you saw someone spending all their money on music and concerts, what would you say their principle and foundation is? The thing is when we start worshiping something other than God, we begin to turn in on our selves. We go inward instead of going out into the world in order to engage the world with Christian principles. In other words, we turn into an Ebenezer Scrooge.
That is, we turn into a cold, bitter, uncaring, person who is obsessed with only one thing and measures the value of others by how much work he can get out of them and how much money they can make for him. In short, once again, people who live like this aren’t free and live only for themselves.
There is a final group that I want to talk about, and they are different from the other three in that they are working for something or someone other then themselves.
I’ve had much experience with this group here. Once a month this group would come to LSU and basically damn everyone too hell: called everyone whoremongers, fornicators, drunkards, etc. But I had a lot of respect for what they did. I did not agree with what they did and how they did it. But I had a lot of respect for them. It boils down to this: they have a first principle and foundation and people see it and people know that it is not a self centered first principle and foundation, and as misguided as it is, they are at least trying.
What this guys did is come to LSU and for a couple of days they would be in free speech alley and try to tell everyone, literally tell everyone about Christ who walked by. In the process, they were mocked with out mercy. The vulgarity and anger that people expressed toward these individuals was uncalled for.
But these people were willing to brave the mockery and ludeness of LSU (and let me tell you, LSU has some lude people at it) and try to win souls for Christ. They had something that they felt the need to share with other and they did so in the only way they knew how. By standing on park benches in free speech alley at LSU and shouting to others about Christ.
What I’m asking is, “What is it that you believe in that inspires you to the point that it makes you want to stand on a park bench in the midst of strangers and mockery and tell them about it? Is this something you shrink away from? Why or why not?”
In other words, what is your principle and foundation? And can other tell what your principle and foundation is by looking at you from the outside?
Maybe you can ask a friend to help you out with this. What would your best friend say is the most important thing in your life? Would they tell you that you live you life like it is one big beauty contest after another?
[Some Reflection Questions:
1) Do I believe Ignatius' Principle and Foundation as a description of man’s purpose at least intellectually? Why or Why not?
2) What end do I really and consciously live for? If outside observers were studying my
life, what would they conclude to be its main goal?
3) Supposing my end to be as it is formulated in the Principle and Foundation, what would
be the obstacles to my reaching this end?
4) Do I love persons (including God) and use things, or do I love things and use persons?
In what ways? What drives me to do this?
Scripture passages: Deut 6:4-9; Matthew 19:16-22]