wedding rings

A member of Contemplative Leaders in Action, my former student E. writes a lovely blog, A Call to Joy. In light of recent news about the Synod on the Family, which is addressing neuralgic questions about the Church’s ministry, it is fruitful to share her meditations on being called to marriage.

On the one hand, it feels impossible to capture the intimate mix of joy and sacrifice, of both lighthearted and difficult conversations, of learning how to balance my own needs with J.’s in a new way. On the other hand, for an external processor like me, it feels impossible not to try to verbalize my experience of this new transition.  If I truly believe that marriage is a vocation – from Latin, to call – what does it mean in the day-to-day when it will take a lifetime to realize its effects? How is it possible to describe being married when it constantly (as in, daily, if not hourly) requires an immediate, intimate, and very current call for transformation?

Read the whole thing.

As one of the seven sacraments celebrated by the Church (and the last to be officially counted among the seven), matrimony represents one of a very few ways that the Church celebrates a fundamental, foundational mystery of Christ’s ministry. From Biblical times forward, following the lead of the author of the letter to the Ephesians, who compared the relationship of Christ to the Church as mystery (Latin sacramentum), theologians such as Tertullian, Augustine, Hugh of St. Victor, Aquinas, and many others considered marriage to be a sign for the whole Church: what the Fathers of Vatican II called the domestic church.

Marriage, E. reminds us, is a school of conversion, the kind of conversion to which God calls all people. It is a conversion away from our lesser, selfish selves, into the deeper, richer, softer, more compassionate, more generous, large-hearted people God creates us to be. It is a gift both for those called to this vocation and–like all true vocations–a gift to those called to other service in the Body of Christ.

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October 23, 2014

ebola virus [PD-USGov-HHS-CDC]

Brendan Busse, SJ, offers food for thought related to ebola reports.

What if the lives and suffering of others actually affected us?

Here’s another question: What if we came to understand that they already do? What if we knew that remaining untouched and unmoved meant that we were already dead? What if, instead of fear we were struck with care, instead of paranoia, love? What a cure we would have found!

Read the full article, “Contagious: Love in the Time of Ebola,” at The Jesuit Post.

Image by Cynthia Goldsmith. Content Providers(s): CDC/Cynthia Goldsmith [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

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October 22, 2014

Timothy Kesicki, SJDid you know that St. Ignatius never used the word magis, a word associated with the Jesuits and Ignatian spirituality?

In speaking to the Loyola Club of Washington, D.C., Timothy Kesicki, SJ, president of the Jesuit Conference, talked about the idea of magis or striving for the more. Magis is “A Word St. Ignatius Did Not Use,” as the title of the talk indicated, but:

“Ignatius was about the comparative, doing more,” said Fr. Kesicki. “Because when we do more, we’re always growing, always learning, always listening, always doing. We don’t roll the credits and declare victory. It never ends, there’s no pinnacle, no penultimate moment, no mark of perfection. The magis is about choosing more, for the greater glory of God, to transform society.”

For more about the magis, view this five-minute video.

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October 21, 2014

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