gift ribbons

May the God of Surprises delight you, inviting you to accept gifts not yet imagined.
May the God of Transformation call you, opening you to continual renewal.
May the God of Justice confront you, daring you to see the world through God’s eyes.
May the God of Abundance affirm you, nudging you towards deeper trust.
May the God of Embrace hold you, encircling you in the hearth of God’s home.
May the God of Hopefulness bless you, encouraging you with the fruits of faith.
May the God of Welcoming invite you, drawing you nearer to the fullness of God’s expression in you.
May God Who is Present be with you, awakening you to God in all things, all people, and all moments.
May God be with you.
Amen.

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October 20, 2014

Ignatius Loyola at his desk

I happen to believe that “if you are looking for God, God will find you.” Ignatius of Loyola or Mother Teresa would have likewise believed that even as we are looking, and even when we mostly feel lost, God is somehow finding us, whether or not it feels that way to us. Ignatius believed (as I do) that when we set ourselves toward some worthy purpose that transcends our meager strength, we tap into a source of meaning, strength, peace, and courage that is beyond us. We come to realize, in a graced moment, that we are called to some great purpose, that we cannot do it on our own, but that we don’t have to do it on our own. That’s why Ignatius urges, in one after another of his Spiritual Exercises, that we speak to Jesus “in the way one friend speaks to another.”

—Excerpted from Heroic Leadership by Chris Lowney

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October 17, 2014

The speaker in this brief video makes several key points about why we pray.

You might also enjoy the article “Why Do We Pray?” by William A. Barry, SJ.

If you’re receiving this via e-mail, click through to watch the video Why Pray?

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October 16, 2014

Pope Francis: Life and Revolution by Elisabetta Piqué

Time magazine is running an exclusive excerpt from Elisabetta Piqué’s new biography of Pope Francis: Life and Revolution. Read it here.

Since Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope Francis in 2013, countless books have been written to help the world understand this deeply complex yet simple servant of God. What sets Pope Francis: Life and Revolution apart from all other biographies of Pope Francis is the careful research and original investigation behind it, along with the fact that it is written by an internationally respected journalist—Elisabetta Piqué—who has remained close to the pope since first meeting him back in 2001.

The book is available in English and in Spanish from Loyola Press.

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October 15, 2014

newspaper cutouts

Storytelling is crucial to how we as human beings make meaning of our lives. Ricoeur observed that while life is simply lived, we attempt to make meaning of life’s events only after the fact. We tell and retell, construct and reconstruct, our stories in order to develop a sense of our own and others’ identities. The Gospels are four different narratives that try to make sense of the life, suffering, and death of Jesus for communities who were trying to answer that most fundamental question Jesus asked: “Who do you say that I am?”

A remarkable feature of Jesus’ life is how often his way of speaking is part of his healing ministry. Words powerfully shape our perceptions of self and other. The same event can nearly always be described in multiple ways. Consider a man traumatized by wartime experiences who is alternately described as a victim or hero, as having PTSD or maybe as just plain “crazy.” But none of these names are adequate to identify this particular person, who has a complex story and a still unfolding identity.

When Jesus encounters others in need of his healing, he does not reduce them to their illness, trauma, or sin. Instead, he often speaks in a way that affirms a deeper identity. To those who complain that Mary with her jar of ointment is a “sinner,” he responds that she is one who has “loved much.” In a man blind from birth, he sees a person in whom God’s work will be glorified. Where others speak of an adulterous woman, Jesus simply writes silently in the sand.

Part of the power of the Spiritual Exercises is its encouragement of imaginative participation in the story of Jesus’ life, death, and Resurrection, so that God’s grace can allow us to reconfigure our own narratives so that they can become life giving. For example, we can learn to see loss not as merely death and destruction, but instead as fertile ground for new life.

Still, the imagination and narrative have their limits. As prayer moves out of the realm of the imaginative and into silence, we give up words for a Mystery beyond words. Unitive experiences in prayer show that no single story can fully capture who we are: beings already united to a God who is Love. In that space of unity, we learn that we are not reducible to any of the names that we are given, or even our most carefully thought-out stories. Instead we discover, in simplicity, that we are “wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).

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October 14, 2014

John de Brebeuf statue in Midland, Ontario

This month we remember a Jesuit priest and martyr who left the relative comforts of 17th-century France to become a missionary to the Huron people in what is now Quebec, Canada. He and his Jesuit companions faced seemingly unbearable challenges in learning a difficult new language, adapting to a foreign culture and way of life, and living in a harsh climate with deplorable conditions—all of this under the constant threats of violence from many parties. Despite the challenges, St. John de Brébeuf and his companions saw their mission grow from very low conversions to Christianity in its early years, to supporting a majority Christian Huron people by 1649.

Brébeuf didn’t cross the ocean with the too-common-at-the-time mindset of “setting these savages right” so that they conformed to a standard one might expect of a “civilized” European Christian of the time. No, Brébeuf found ways to see past his own experience and look with love on these people so vastly different from himself. He learned their language, respected their culture, and listened to their stories. He entered their lives with an open heart and mind, despite the hardships that came of it. Brébeuf understood that he didn’t need to change these people God entrusted to him; rather, he needed to use his understanding, openness, and love to bring God to them in terms they would understand.

John de Brébeuf put himself aside and worked to find God in a people whose life was completely different from his own. That takes a truly open heart free of pride. In this way, I propose St. John de Brébeuf as an excellent model for parents. In our constant efforts to ensure our children have the best start in life, how often do we simply impose our own ways on them, believing our ways to be best? Perhaps we can learn from Brébeuf and listen to our children’s stories with an open heart, taking the time and patience to understand where they’re coming from, and then finding a way to bring God to them through their own terms. In this way, we just might see our children find their right paths very different from our own, but just as perfect in God’s eyes.

Image by Tango7174 under Creative Commons license.

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October 13, 2014

baby over mother's shoulder

My husband and I were at Mass on Saturday night and during the opening hymn, I noticed the woman in the pew ahead of us holding her baby daughter. As the music grew, the mother rocked back and forth to the music. Up in the front row, I noticed another woman holding a baby close, dipping and rocking to the swells of the music, her participation in the liturgy adding to my own.

I remembered how I did that same public dance with my own children a few decades earlier, with and without music. I rocked and soothed them in church, in line at the grocery store, or any place where they were required to be still. In those years my mind seemed to be filled with an endless inventory of things to do or places to be. But time rocking in line with one of my babies meant that my mental list-making was accented by my pauses for a kiss on the neck, a smell of a cheek, or a whisper of deep love into their ears.

During Mass, as I watched these women moving with their babies, I realized that I had begun to sway back and forth, too, as if re-entering those loving moments.

It occurred to me that Jesus is a lot like the mothers in that church, and we are the beloved children being held. No matter what we are busy with or distracted by, or whether or not we are even paying attention, Jesus is holding us close, rocking us gently and offering sweet words of love into our ears.

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October 10, 2014

Being a parent is one of the most rewarding and challenging jobs I have. It is full of joy and small sacramental moments that often point me toward God amidst the mundane tasks of my day—the pure happiness on my infant daughter’s face every time she sees one of our family members, the wonder at watching a child grow and develop, the lightheartedness and laughter that explodes from my older two as they burst through the front door after school.

parents watching toddler run- What does Ignatian spirituality have to offer parents?

Parenting is a job, though, that at times can make me feel like the seams may rip open and all chaos will break out despite my best efforts to meet the needs of my three kids. There are nights I lay awake with worry about one of them and something he or she is facing. So often, I toss and turn as I analyze my actions as a mom that day, often begging Mary to pray for me and to help me be a better mom and to teach me how to love the ways my children need to be loved.

I turn often to my faith and ask, What’s there that can help me? As a mother who is deeply passionate about the Spiritual Exercises, I’ve learned that Ignatian spirituality offers me three helpful lessons as a parent.

1. “Let the Creator deal directly with the creature.” (SE 15)

Ignatius suggests this concept to people leading others through the Spiritual Exercises. There is much wisdom here for me as a mom. While I deeply love and care for my children, God loves them more. While I am always working on their behalf, God’s labor for them supersedes my own. I find comfort in knowing that God is dealing directly with my children the way I experience God dealing directly with me. When one of my children makes choices or decisions that worry me, I find comfort in knowing that God, too, is working on his or her heart.

2. We are active participants.

As parents we are called to be active in our children’s lives. While God is dealing directly with our children, God is also trusting us, as parents, to be actively involved in the rearing of our children, to be passionate about loving them and helping them learn about God’s love for them, and to be diligent in teaching them right and wrong and how to make good choices. As parents, we have work to do, work that is our vocation. Parenting is not a passive role by any means! However, at times, we are called to participate simply by noticing, watching, or receiving what our children have to give the world. Sometimes all we can do as parents is to pray for our kids and participate in God’s unfolding work in their lives.

3. Jesus models the way.

At the heart of the Spiritual Exercises is coming to know the person of Jesus and in so doing we learn how to live and love. Jesus models for me how to go about my job as a parent, even when it feels hard. Jesus went about his tasks with his Father’s help. Jesus carried his cross with God’s help. Jesus was deeply rooted in God, and he turned to God often. He prayed, and then he went about his task. That’s all I can do as a mom. In the middle of my tasks, I can stop, pause, turn my heart and mind to God, and then go about my day—changing diapers, nursing, running carpool, cooking meals, overseeing homework, doing laundry, and shuttling kids to and from activities. I can go to God often in my day, bringing the joys and worries and mundane tasks to God, and then focus again on living the beautiful vocation given me to be a mom.

I write this post as much for me as I do for other parents who will read this. I need these reminders during my sleepless nights or the days I question my ability to care for the three gifts God gave me in my children. These lessons of Ignatian spirituality bring me comfort and respite as I come to a deeper understanding that there are many things that I cannot handle alone, and therefore, I am utterly dependent on God.

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October 9, 2014

Here’s a fun initiative. Loyola University Maryland’s campus ministry is highlighting clips of people sharing what makes them happy. In this video, campus ministry intern Meredith Lynn shares her thoughts on happiness. One element is that it includes an attitude of gratitude.

If you’re receiving this via e-mail, click through to watch the video What Makes You Happy?

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October 8, 2014

Camino Ignaciano map

The Camino Ignaciano is a pilgrimage that traces the route St. Ignatius Loyola walked after his conversion in 1522. We’ve talked about it a few times on this blog, but today we have a few thoughts from an Indonesian Jesuit currently walking this Camino, via one of the pilgrimage organizers.

I am really blessed. All has gone well so far except the second day. From Zumarraga to Arantzazu it was raining the whole day. That was really a great challenge climbing so high. Then the next two days were also climbing high. It is not for those who are afraid of mountains and the silence…

On Tuesday evening in Araia, I went for the second Mass on that day…in the homily [the priest] mentioned the Camino Ignaciano and welcomed me as a pilgrim. The son of Ignatius from Indonesia. So the whole congregation, meaning eight ladies, prayed for my pilgrimage too.

I hope there will be more surprises.

The pilgrim website is available in several languages and includes the Camino story as told by a puppet Ignacio who accompanied a 2013 pilgrim on the way.

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October 7, 2014