Today is the Feast of St. Ignatius Loyola. Thank you for celebrating with us all month through 31 Days with St. Ignatius. Today’s link is What Surprises You About St. Ignatius? All 31 links will remain available for you if you missed any of the days.

Thanks also to those of you who are participating in this week’s Find Your Inner Iggy contest. Enjoy some of our favorite submissions.

Carmen V response to FindIggy

Mary Askren shares:

I had moved over 300 miles to start a new job only to discover my fundamental value system conflicted significantly with the organizational culture. When my supervisor gave me an ultimatum—get on board or get out, I opted to get out. Unfortunately, I had used up my savings to move and was not able to collect unemployment because I had left the position voluntarily. With no income and no cash reserves, I was more than a little afraid of what the future held. My parish priest gifted me with a weekend retreat, “Living in the Sacred Heart of Jesus.” On the first night, retreatants sat in a darkened conference room where the Blessed Sacrament was exposed. I sat without words and wondered whether I’d been foolish in quitting a job when I had nothing to live on. Suddenly, and unexpectedly, my heart opened and I surrendered completely to God and his will for my life. I knew without question that I was loved beyond anything I could imagine and all would be well. #FindIggy

Instagram user laurmik shares this photo and caption:
Sacre Coeur interior

#findIggy (late) Day 2: attending Mass as a non-Catholic at Sacré Coeur. The love was profound and palpable and really started me on my journey of faith.

Today and tomorrow still present opportunities to win, so use the #FindIggy hashtag for your chance to win Ignatian prizes. See for full details.


July 31, 2014

shadows of darkness and light

This summer my brother spent some time in Montana and planned on returning to Massachusetts by train. Being a train lover, I met him in Montana, and we rode the Empire Builder three nights back home. As we passed through rural Minnesota, I saw painted on the side of a light bulb store the phrase, “Without darkness, there is no light.” It struck me as ostensibly religious-sounding. I’m not sure if the owners of the store were trying to make a spiritual allusion, but that phrase stuck with me.

The Bible is filled with light and dark imagery:

  • “If your whole body is full of light, with no part of it in darkness, it will be bright all over, as when a lamp shines on you with its brightness.” (Luke 11:36)
  • “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:5)
  • “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” (Isaiah 9:2)

Like the Spiritual Exercises’s journey from the darkness of sin to the light of God’s infinite love, darkness becomes a necessary place for the Christian. The dark emptiness of desolation leads to the bright joy of consolation. Do we notice the importance of contrasts in the spiritual life?

Jesus employed ideas that seemed in stark contrast to the law. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:43–44) Such sayings were meant to shake up the people. St. Paul said that where sin increased, grace abounded all the more. Similarly, where there is a void like hatred, sin, and darkness, we can more easily see the light God wishes to shine on us. This is not to say we ought to seek out darkness but rather that sometimes we must walk through the darkness in order to find the light. We must have a First Week experience, to use Ignatian language, before we can truly see the light of God’s infinite love.

St. John of the Cross’s poem, “On a Dark Night,” captures the invisible force of the darkness leading us to the illuminating joy of God the lover:

Oh, night that guided me,
Oh, night more lovely than the dawn,
Oh, night that joined Beloved with lover,
Lover transformed in the Beloved!

God is always calling us to the light, transforming what feels like bleak emptiness into a joy-filled abiding with God, a divine light that the darkness cannot overcome.

Today’s 31 Days with St. Ignatius link is The Only True Identity.


July 30, 2014

Rosemary DeJulio of Fordham University talks about the significance of women in St. Ignatius’s life and what modern women can take from his legacy in this 16-minute video.

If you’re receiving this via e-mail, click through to watch the video The Women in St. Ignatius’s Life.

Join in 31 Days with St. Ignatius by reading today’s entry, Five Things the Spiritual Exercises Taught Me about Jesus.

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July 29, 2014

pruning gardenLast year my prayer life told me it was pruning season. After years of being in the full bloom of my outward call, it was time to re-evaluate life’s commitments. God was inviting me to a period of letting go of well-discerned commitments of the past. Many were once the luscious, vibrant signs of new growth in my life, but not anymore. There were pieces of my life, while familiar and comfortable, that were slowly being overtaken by the rapid growth of new invitations.

Pruning felt scary, because it meant cutting back and letting go. Pruning required cutting back those things that overpowered the rest of life to the point of making life feel lopsided. Pruning required trimming away the brown underbrush of my life, the pieces that I desperately tried to keep, but in reality had already died. Clinging tightly to Ignatian discernment tools and with the Spirit’s help, I prayed my way through the season of letting go.

I desperately hoped that pruning season would lead me directly into spring and summer, where there would be rapid new growth and clarity of my call. However, that season only prepared me for winter, the season of dormancy, temporary inactivity, and deep rest. Entering into this season of dormancy required special precaution.

I prepared myself for the dormant season by limiting my commitments to only the necessary ones, covering myself in extra time with my family and friends, and most importantly, giving myself permission to stop writing and producing creative material. Prayer affirmed God’s invitation to deep rest and acknowledgment of my exhaustion. Leaning into this period of dormancy was not easy. After blooming for so long, all the growth seemed to be inward, and I struggled to name the fruits of any of my work.

It is only now, after many months of dormancy, that signs of new life appear, holding their own surprises. I am now actively discerning what this new season means for me. What parts of my life are actively growing again, re-affirming my commitment to them? Where do I see new long shoots of possibility, beckoning to burst open with hope? What areas of my life were pruned away or killed off that no longer require my time, energy, or attention?

The season of pruning was needed to let go of old ways and old commitments, allowing me to give energy to the things that God is inviting me to now. The season of dormancy was necessary for restorative rest and to re-focus my growing season. I see signs of new life all around me, and I am full of hope that outward growth is occurring again. Now my task is to discern all the new life around me.

Today’s 31 Days with St. Ignatius link is The Earthen Vessel.


July 28, 2014

31 Days with St. IgnatiusWe’re entering the final days of 31 Days with St. Ignatius. Ignatian spirituality attracts people in all walks of life, and today’s entry is just one example of why: Why a Scientists Finds Ignatian Spirituality Compelling.

You might also like to check out Find Your Inner Iggy this week on Facebook for more Ignatian celebration.


July 27, 2014

helping each otherThe end of July nears, but we still have more Ignatian celebration before St. Ignatius’s feast day on July 31. Today in 31 Days with St. Ignatius, learn about the Ignatian concept of Cura Personalis.

Is there an Ignatian concept you’d like to learn more about on this blog?

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July 26, 2014

Find Your Inner IggyFind Your Inner Iggy is back! For the final week of Ignatian celebration this July, we’re recalling milestones from St. Ignatius’s life and exploring our own spirituality some 500 years later.

Find out how contributors like Kerry Weber, Paddy Gilger, SJ, and Pope Francis have had similar experiences to St. Ignatius. Then share your moments on Facebook, Instagram, Vine, or Twitter—using the hashtag #FindIggy—for a chance to win Ignatian prizes from Loyola Press.

Visit to begin finding your inner Iggy this Monday, July 28.

Meanwhile, 31 Days with St. Ignatius continues with today’s link, Wisdom Days.

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July 25, 2014

I stand at the door of the dreaded “networking lunch” at a conference. The feeling of isolation sweeps over me. I could make a thousand excuses for not being here now. I know not a soul in the room. I must be the out of place one. “Must…..get……over…..yourself….,” I struggle to pray in my head. I am not, by nature, an extrovert, so these situations are truly challenging for me. I have, however, found a way through that never fails.

What's your story? - speech bubbles

As I look at any room full of strangers, I frame them all as creations of God. Each of them has a story of what brought them to this moment, ways they have experienced this life differently than I, perhaps knowledge or insights meant for me or, better yet, perhaps a need that I can help them fulfill. I learned through Ignatian spirituality that you do not fear someone whose story you know. I live by this mantra so much that I am more comfortable meeting someone for the first time and simply asking, “Hi; what’s your story?” rather than the proscriptive, “Hi; how are you?” The story question sometimes throws people off just enough to open up a little more sincerely, and in that awkward space there is enough true presence to the other for a seed to be planted, for a relationship of sharing to begin. Everyone has a story.

And the question never fails. The stories people share with me about their lives (not always right off the bat, but as the conversation continues) open up worlds to me that I never knew existed. I have learned about everything from pumpkin chucking to flipping cars, about dreams realized and about the road not taken, about hometowns and crazy adventures, about illnesses and recoveries. It seems the more questions I ask about someone’s story, the more a given person comes alive that someone wants to know him or her. “So how did you manage that?” “How did that feel?” “What are you hoping for?” One question leads to another and the walls come tumbling down. I worry about not fitting in or knowing anyone, but as soon as I realize it is not about me, but it is all about the other person, the dreaded lunch becomes a golden opportunity.

Sometimes these conversations have created lifelong friendships, but most of the time they are at best the consolations of my Examen. I am left at the end of the day with nothing but gratitude for the unexpected face of God that I met and one more lesson to remind me to get my fears out of God’s way.

We move from lunchtime conversations to Spiritual Conversation with today’s 31 Days with St. Ignatius reading.


July 24, 2014

Busted Halo reframes the Examen as Five Steps for Praying When You’re Overwhelmed. In their words, it’s “not intended as a substitute for seeking mental health support after a situation of loss or crisis, but instead is an opportunity to process the experience through the lens of faith.”

couple hugging after storms and fire

For more on the Examen, view today’s 31 Days with St. Ignatius video: The Examen Is One of My Favorite Prayers.


July 23, 2014

Yesterday we shared a few submissions from Ignatian bloggers on where they encountered God in unexpected situations. Today we are happy to share two reader responses to the question.

reaching hand

In Prison

It was my first time in prison.

A few of us had permission to give a retreat at the prison for women. I had no idea what to expect, but I prayed that God would use us that day. Imagine our amazement and delight when it was the prisoners’ deep faith that ministered to our team and not just us ministering to them—it was reciprocal. Our presence was needed but not as we anticipated. We witnessed such courage, such concern for family and for each other. In great adversity these women, some of whom I have known now for a few years, live the love of Jesus for each other and for anyone who wishes to journey with them. God was with us in prison that day but in an unexpected way—the power of our God of surprises!

Lynda Clayton is a mother and grandmother from Canada.

On Retreat

Five years ago, while undergoing the 19th Annotation, I was in Puerto Rico on business. Early one morning, I walked to the beach where we were staying, to spend time at prayer with the recommended Scripture reading and to contemplate what Ignatius laid down. I was working on placing myself inside the stories and paying attention to how God was inspiring me.

The reading for that morning was from John chapter 15. Halfway through, I read, “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain…” Something happened. There was a charge that went through my body. It was as though my surroundings moved in, and the words from the passage were all that I could focus on. I sat for some time to reflect on what happened. I was at peace. I knew that God had special plans for me, and I was looking forward to discerning exactly what it was God wanted me to do.

Tim Merriman is married, father of four and grandfather of four. He works in marketing and lives in Ohio.

Your turn! Where have you encountered God in an unexpected place or situation?

31 Days with St. IgnatiusToday’s 31 Days with St. Ignatius link is Sincere Gratitude.


July 22, 2014