This is a guest post by Greg Herrle, as he begins An Ignatian Prayer Adventure.
As I completed my first retreat as a freshman in high school, I remember wanting to find a way to carry the lessons from that retreat to my daily life. I have struggled with this concept ever since. I always leave a retreat knowing my relationship with God has progressed, but I often find it difficult to transition back to daily prayer with equal success.
I wonder how making a retreat over eight weeks of “normal” life will compare to the experience of spending a few secluded days in reflection. Will it be easier or more difficult? Will I remember to participate each day? Will it be as meaningful when I am not removed from all of life’s distractions?
The graces of the first two days of the Ignatian Prayer Adventure give me great hope for the rest of the retreat: “Be more aware of how God is near.” I think this one little phrase will help to ensure continuity over the next eight weeks. I find myself often thinking about this throughout the day at work or in meetings, trying to find ways God is near me. Without the luxury of escaping the world for a few days or weeks, it is important for me to remember this retreat really is a part of everyday life.
The first week of the retreat begins with the Anima Christi, which brings continuity to my prayer each day. I have found this prayer in particular to be very powerful. I have prayed these words many times before and always enjoyed them. However, praying this for seven days straight brought me a whole new level of appreciation. I found one line stood out each time I prayed: “Passion of Christ, strengthen me.”
The image of the passion of Christ immediately catches my attention. However, as I pray on it, it seems to be the weakest human moment of Christ’s entire life. It is a moment when Jesus is tortured, humiliated, and ultimately left to die on the cross. Thinking of this alone can bring thoughts of sadness, anger, humility, and pain. Yet in this prayer we are asking for this moment to bring us strength. Such a thought seems entirely crazy, that we could find strength in Christ’s suffering. And how do I implement this in my life? I think the answer goes back to this week’s grace of being aware of how God is near. Even in the moment of Jesus’ passion, we know God was present. Then must God also be present in our own moments of suffering, anger, sadness, humility, and weakness. I pray this retreat will help me to remember that.
Greg Herrle is a healthcare actuary. He is a graduate of Marquette University High School and Boston College. He and his wife Ruth currently live in the Milwaukee, WI area. This past summer, they followed the route of St. Ignatius from Loyola to Manresa in Spain. You can read about their adventure at http://herrlecaminoignaciano2012.blogspot.com.