Beginning My Ignatian Prayer Adventure

by Michelle Francl-Donnay

This is a guest post by Michelle Francl-Donnay, as she begins An Ignatian Prayer Adventure.

An Ignatian Prayer AdventureI am standing in front of the chair in my study, the materials for this time of prayer close at hand: my Bible marked with a passage from Isaiah, a sheet of paper with the instructions for the day, and a cup of tea, its steam swirling up like incense, its bitter sweetness promising equal measures of courage and comfort for the next half-hour. I am ready—or perhaps not.

Suddenly I am 16 again, standing on the edge of a 10-meter diving tower on a mountainside near Oaxaca, my friend urging me, “¡Vaya, vaya!” Go, go! The view was amazing, the cool water below enticing in the summer’s heat. Still, I hesitated, not sure whether to dive or head back down the ladder to the three-meter board. Could I control my dive well enough to knife cleanly into the water? Or would I end up cart wheeling into the pool, the breath knocked out of me?

Back in my study, on a winter’s day, the thought of diving into this time with God is similarly enticing—and intimidating. I have embarked on adventures with Ignatius before, and know that once launched, God will work on me with the inevitably of gravity. My trajectory is not entirely in my own hands, and the results may indeed take my breath away. I hesitate, wondering if I should retreat now, until I remember St. Augustine who, setting out on a similar journey to seek the Lord, prays:

Say to me in the fullness of your mercy, my Lord and my God,who you are for me. Say to my soul, “I am your salvation.” Say it in such a way that I hear and understand. I will hasten after that voice. (Confessions, Book I, Chapter 5)

With Augustine’s words echoing, I take a deep breath, collect myself, and dive into Isaiah: “And now, thus says the LORD, who created you…I love you, I give nations in return for your life. Do not be afraid.”

Oh. God is so anxious for me to join him on this journey that he offers to trade entire nations for my life, that he promises me safe passage through fire and water. Why did I hesitate? “Come, come!” he says, and I hasten to hear God’s voice.

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Michelle Francl-Donnay is the mother of two teenage boys, a professor of chemistry, and a regular contributor to Philadelphia Archdiocese’s CatholicPhilly.com, where she writes about the joys and struggles of trying to live a contemplative life in the midst of everyday chaos.

Latest posts by Michelle Francl-Donnay (see all)

February 12, 2013

{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Robin February 12, 2013 at 7:34 am

It seems that experiences with water — diving from high boards, sliding down waterfalls, submerging into the depths — provide a wealth of metaphors for our lives of prayer. Re-baptisms, perhaps?

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Michelle February 12, 2013 at 5:35 pm

Maybe, or maybe birthings?

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Nancy Rodriguez February 12, 2013 at 6:50 pm

This is how water showed up in one of my latest meditations. I suddenly found myself walking through a familiar, but at times scary forest, that I walked countless times as a child on my way to a natural spring of water. I found myself kneeling in front of the spring remembering what my mom instructed me many times: “very carefully move away all the leaves at the surface and then you will find the clear water.” I did so and as I was moving the leaves I started seing the face of Jesus reflected in the water and myself reflected in his eyes. I felt such a tender love and had the insight that everyday brings an accumulation of “fallen leaves”, those shortcoming of all sorts that hide from us the self that we are meant to be in God’s eyes. The examen is a way to help us move those leaves on a daily basis and ask for God’s grace to see ourselves through his eyes. Since then I actually look forward to the time of my daily Examen.

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Robin February 12, 2013 at 9:42 pm

Love this image of moving the leaves.

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Michelle February 13, 2013 at 12:20 pm

Nancy, what a gorgeously tender image of a mirror of grace. Thank you for sharing it with us!

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Linda G February 12, 2013 at 6:51 pm

Rain. Living water coming down! Sorry, we writers have to pounce on every opportunity.

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Marg February 12, 2013 at 12:13 pm

Our celebrant’s homily this Sunday focused on the apostles taking their boats out into the deep, even though they were tired and had been fishing for hours with no results. So I think the key for me is to paddle out to the deep this Lent, even though I am tired and have tried and tried to take my spiritual life to the next level. Wouldn’t it be easier to just sit on shore or go a lower point and not expect so much? What pushes me forward is knowing that the place I long to be might just be found out there in the deep.

Inspiring as always Michelle!

m.

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Linda G February 12, 2013 at 1:58 pm

Hmm you might be interested in this from one of my other favourite sites: http://www.sacredspace.ie/

You are likely getting further than you think! It isn’t about you (or I) trying and trying. It’s about being present to God and letting HIM take us where he wants us to go.

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Michelle February 12, 2013 at 5:39 pm

Linda…Sacred Space is a wonderful spot! Thanks for suggesting it!

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Michelle February 12, 2013 at 5:37 pm

Marg – I am with you on the tired…but floating on the currents if you can find them will also carry you out to the deep, less paddling required! May you find what you desire in this Lenten voyage…

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Marg February 12, 2013 at 6:27 pm

Linda & Michelle,

Very familiar with Sacred Space – I think I have searched everywhere. Not sure what I am looking for, but I know I haven’t found it yet.

m.

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Linda G February 12, 2013 at 6:49 pm

http://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/daily.html ????

As per Sacred Space the prayer for this week is what I referred to. Yes I love everything Irish. (We love you too, IgnatianSprituality.com!)

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Linda G February 12, 2013 at 6:58 pm

http://jesuits.ca/

okay try a Cdn one now.

Marg February 13, 2013 at 12:10 pm

Linda, you are toooo funny! I went to Sacred Space and read the prayer for the week. Very meaningful to me. Thank you!

I have (apparently) focus problems. Too many monkeys in my head. ANYWAY, my parish has a zen meditation group that meets once a week. Went with a friend, thought it would be right down my alley. All I thought for an hour was how my leg hurt. Ah yes, the monkeys. I willing to look for inspiration, spirituality everywhere. I am a seeker, and all in all I guess that is not so bad.

I want to be a little different by the end of Lent 2013!

m.

Michelle February 13, 2013 at 12:25 pm

Marg…Marty Laird, OSA has a terrific book called “Into the Silent Land” which takes up some of the “monkey mind” issues. He translates much of the wisdom of the desert fathers into a modern context. He’s practical, there’s a touch of dry wit to keep you grounded. And he suggests meditating in a chair!

(http://www.amazon.com/Into-Silent-Land-Christian-Contemplation/dp/0195307607)

Tim February 12, 2013 at 12:30 pm

Many times we sift through all the clutter to hear God’s whisper, when in reality the Lord may not only be nudging us to take that leap, but is actually holding our hand to take that leap together (am image of Paul Newman and Robert Redford come to mind).

Wonderful reflection Michelle…

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Michelle February 12, 2013 at 5:40 pm

Tim, what an image! Thanks…

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Victor February 13, 2013 at 6:28 pm

Tim

Went on YouTube and saw the video clip from the movie of the jump :)

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Phil Ewing February 12, 2013 at 12:31 pm

Congrats Michelle on your lovely first post here !

I included this quote from Leonard Cohen as part of my post for Ash Wednesday “If you don’t become the ocean, you’ll be seasick every day.” which I like as a way for me to help reflect on how I can enter the mysterious dimensions of Lent this year.

I look forward to more of your dives !!

Blessings

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Michelle February 12, 2013 at 5:41 pm

Oh, Phil, that made me both laugh and think! Thank you!

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Linda G February 13, 2013 at 12:32 pm

Michelle, actually I am all over the place with the Lenten programmes, this morning I did the first session on Sacred Space retreat posted this morning. I think that’s why I burned out last year after about two days here, too inundated. So this year I have it down to two sites. Or three. Or something. There were changes nonetheless.

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Michelle February 13, 2013 at 1:16 pm

Linda G…hope you can find a good menu to settle on for the season. My spiritual director sometimes refers to himself as a waiter for the Holy Spirit, helping you sort through the menu of many good things!

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Linda G February 13, 2013 at 2:14 pm

I did. Ashes to Glory, and the Sacred Space one too (that can all be done in a day or a week actually) then there’s the Creighton running retreat (months long) but that’s a background thing that came with a divine inspiration to do it.

Michelle February 13, 2013 at 4:28 pm

Prayers for the journey! I’m going to Creighton in about a month, there are a lot of wonderful things happening out of there….

claire February 12, 2013 at 3:29 pm

Oh, Michelle, I have never been able to dive, at 16, 40, or 65…

I guess for me maybe it’s more like the call of the Camino and answering it.

I thank you very much for the quote of Augustine. I have read his Confessions a long time and could probably read them again. At any rate, the quote you give here is beautiful and fitting quite well these new beginnings.

Many thanks for this. It is nice knowing we will travel together during this Lenten season.

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Michelle February 12, 2013 at 5:43 pm

I think we all can dive, but as you say, into many different things. All these years of praying with the Augustinians has rubbed off, I suspect!

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Suzanne Marie February 12, 2013 at 3:54 pm

I,too, love the quote of St Augustine and think it is so timely for the Lenten season. I must say your post today has me excited about getting ready for the dive, the deep, and the push forward! I welcome the challenge.

And then, the words from Isaiah -”I give nations in return for your life.” We are so loved…..

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Michelle February 12, 2013 at 5:43 pm

Thank you, Suzanne! And may the water be wondrously refreshing for you this Lent…

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Linda G February 12, 2013 at 6:53 pm

I’m the rebel here I guess — doing Ashes to Glory this time. I have to have things new (I know, I’m a pain).

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Michelle February 13, 2013 at 12:22 pm

Linda G, that looks like such a terrific retreat, too. I’m glad it will still be there to look at after Lent….

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Linda G February 13, 2013 at 12:34 pm

I answered your earlier post above.

Yes I tried out the new version of the Examen a couple days ago, it is great. Love it already.

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