In celebration of the release of Pope Francis’s book, The Church of Mercy, several of our dotMagis bloggers will be sharing reflections this month based on the words of Pope Francis.

"God is indeed waiting for you; he asks of you only the courage to go to him." -Pope Francis, The Church of Mercy

My 14-month-old granddaughter, Charlotte, loves everyone. I watch her work a room—a restaurant, a church dinner, any gathering of relatives. With her newly-polished walking skills, she toddles around, looking up and smiling at everyone. Last week at a parish dinner, she walked up to two girls who were about nine years old. I watched as she smiled up at them and held out her arms. As she anticipated, they melted, picked her up, and oohed and aahed over her for the next ten minutes. She was very happy.

Charlotte is not guarded about her life, and she fully expects that she will be deeply loved and taken care of by all who encounter her. A lot of us probably start out that way, but as we get older someone steals our toys or socks us on the arm. We, and Charlotte, will stop smiling at total strangers. It is part of the human condition to become more cautious about loving. Yes, we love other people but are acutely aware of their flaws, and we love them in our own, very human but limited way. Often we feel that love has to be earned in some way. Worst of all, we project all of this human frailty onto our relationship with God. We somehow assume that God loves us in the same limited, cautious way—and that God will love us more if we are better or more perfect.

I think Charlotte’s view of life is the same vision of love God wants for us. God waits for us so patiently and lovingly, and we put him off. We believe we need to get our act together before God can really love us—because that is how we tend to love. It is our fears that keep us from believing in that love and moving toward it.

I thought of Charlotte and her outstretched arms when I read what Pope Francis said: “God is indeed waiting for you; he asks of you only the courage to go to him.” In Charlotte’s world, God does love her infinitely, with no questions asked. In my world, I am more tentative. Can God really love me that freely? Even when I squirm in awareness of my own well-counted flaws?

This is where Charlotte’s wisdom trumps her Nana’s. Yes, God does love us without measure and with depths we can’t possibly imagine. God waits for us with a loving gaze and open arms, and as Pope Francis says, he asks us only for the courage to respond. This Easter season is the right time to realize God waits for us and to take the first step toward him, with arms outstretched and hope in our hearts. That’s where we find love.

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April 23, 2014

In celebration of the release of Pope Francis’s book, The Church of Mercy, several of our dotMagis bloggers will be sharing reflections this month based on the words of Pope Francis.

"Being free always to choose goodness is demanding, but it will make you into people with backbone who can face life, people with courage and patience." -Pope Francis, The Church of Mercy

Pope Francis is a Jesuit, formed in the spirituality of the Spiritual Exercises. So it’s not surprising that he zeroed in on one of the central ideas of Ignatian spirituality when he found himself in front of a group of students from Jesuit high schools last June.

That idea is freedom. Each of us has a part to play in the great drama of Christ’s work to save and heal the world, and our challenge is to learn what that work is and to choose to do it. This is what we most deeply desire, but there’s a problem. We desire many things—a rewarding career, friends and lovers, good health, security, comfort, a good reputation, peace of mind, and many more. In the midst of all these desires and options and goals, how do we focus on the most important thing—to love and serve God and other people?

The answer, Pope Francis said, is freedom. We need to be free from what Ignatius called “disordered attachments”—those wants and yearnings, some good, some not so good, that can govern our decisions and ultimately control our lives. It’s no small task. Francis wasn’t kidding when he said that being free is demanding. It requires a great deal of discernment, prayer, reflection, and grace to sort through the confusion of desires and attachments and find what it is that we most deeply desire.

Ignatius believed that our deepest, truest desires have been placed in our hearts by God. So when we finally find what we really want, we find what God wants too. That’s the promise of freedom.

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April 22, 2014

Our Ignatian Workout for Lent now turns our attention to the Resurrection. Where will we recognize Jesus this Easter season? Listen to Tim Muldoon’s reflection below. If you’d like, share some of your own reflections in the comments.

Prayer

Find an image or icon of Christ that allows you to see him with the eyes of your heart. Speak your heart to him. Listen to him.

Action

Express your love for someone who is a living icon of Christ: a parent, a spouse, a brother or sister, a friend. Do not let the day go by without telling this person how much he or she means to you.

If you’re receiving this via e-mail, click through to listen to Tim’s audio reflection for Easter Week. Learn more about the book that inspired this retreat.

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April 21, 2014

Arts & Faith: Lent logoToday, we provide an Ignatian prayer for you, inspired by the Arts & Faith: Easter video. The video and prayer for Easter Sunday are based on John 20:1–9.

“Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.”

—John 20:8–9

Preparation

As you begin this time of quiet prayer, I invite you to find a comfortable place to sit with your back straight and your legs planted on the ground. Breathing normally, take a few moments to breathe in and breathe out.

Spend this time centering yourself to listen to what God may be saying to you during this time of prayer, to listen to what rises up in your heart. Close your eyes for a few moments. As you sit with your eyes closed, use these or similar words: “Here I am, Lord. Here I am.” When you are ready, open your eyes and pray.

Do You Understand That I Must Rise?

It’s a sad but beautiful dawn. You are not sleeping, so you decide to get up and go for a walk. You want to think over what has happened and what it might mean. He is dead. You know that; you saw him die. But there was something else, something you can’t quite make sense of, something that felt unfinished about it all, something unsettling. You keep walking with your eyes down, trying to understand, trying to make sense of it all. Your mind bounces to the many times he talked about the need to die so he could rise. What did that mean?

The sun is up now, and you look up to feel the warmth of the rays against your face. Looking ahead, you notice some women running down the path. They seem to be in a joyful panic, like something frightening but wonderful has happened. As you get closer to where they came from, there is man standing there. He is standing so tall, so confident. It’s as if he has accomplished something impossible. Getting closer, you realize it’s him. It’s Jesus. You know you saw him die. How can he be standing there? He looks at you with eyes that are clear and sure. He speaks to you. What does Jesus say to you? How do you respond?

Standing closer to Jesus, you feel a strength coming from him. You want to reach over and embrace him, to touch him to be sure it is really Jesus. He seems to know your mind and the questions swimming around in your head. Jesus reaches over and touches your hand. You feel a surge of energy rush through you. “It is you,” you say to Jesus. “It is you!” Tears stream down your face. Jesus says something to you. What does Jesus say? What do you want to say to Jesus?

Today, Easter Sunday, is a day when life conquers death. How does my belief in the Resurrection change how I live my life?
Who do I need to share the hope and joy of the Resurrection with today?

Concluding Prayer

Glory be to the Father,
and to the Son,
and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning,
is now, and ever shall be,
world without end.
Amen.

If you’re receiving this via e-mail, click through to watch the video Arts & Faith: Easter.

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April 20, 2014

Arts & Faith: Lent logoAs we move from Lent to Easter, we’ll provide Ignatian prayers for the Triduum, inspired by videos from Arts & Faith: Lent. The video and prayer for Holy Saturday are based on Matthew 28:1–10.

“Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.’”

—Matthew 28:10

Preparation

As you begin this time of quiet prayer, I invite you to find a comfortable place to sit with your back straight and your legs planted on the ground. Take a few moments to breathe in and breathe out.

Spend this time centering yourself to listen to what God may be saying to you during this time of prayer, to listen to what rises up in your heart. Close your eyes for a few moments. As you sit with your eyes closed, use these or similar words: “Here I am, Lord. Here I am.” When you are ready, open your eyes and pray.

Do Not Be Afraid

The night air is cool. The sky is bright with a full moon shining down. You are walking along a path in the park near your house. The trees are moving gently in the breeze. It’s a beautiful, peaceful night. You smile at the beauty of it all, but there is heaviness in your heart. You know that you have so much to be thankful for, but there is something gnawing at you, making you feel anxious. You look up at the sky and want to pray, but no words seem to come. Your thoughts are far away.

As you look around, you see a man standing in a clearing under a tree not far from you. He is looking your way. He raises his hand and motions for you to come to him. A part of you thinks this is not a wise thing to do, but you walk over anyway. As you approach him, you see he is Jesus. His body is covered in a white cloth. When the moon shines on the cloth, it seems to glow in the dark. You walk up to him. Looking at you, Jesus asks, “Where have you been?” What do you say to Jesus? How does he respond?

As you stand there, you feel the anxiety growing inside you. Your mind is a jumble of confusion and questions. You want to ask Jesus about so many things, but the words won’t come, because the anxiety keeps growing. Your heart is racing. Jesus looks into your eyes. He is calm and peaceful. He reaches out and takes your hand in his. You stand there feeling his energy pass to you. It is soothing and calm. You hear the tree branches gently move with the breeze. You think it sounds almost like music. Your heart slows down. The anxiety you were feeling seems to drift away. Jesus looks at you and says, “Don’t be afraid. I am with you.” What do you say to Jesus?

Jesus tells us not to be afraid. What fears do I need to give to Jesus so that I can live in freedom?
Who are the people in my life who are crippled with fear? How can I bring Jesus’ calming presence to them?

Concluding Prayer

Glory be to the Father,
and to the Son,
and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning,
is now, and ever shall be,
world without end.
Amen.

If you’re receiving this via e-mail, click through to watch the video Arts & Faith: Holy Saturday.

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April 19, 2014

Arts & Faith: Lent logoAs we move from Lent to Easter, we’ll provide Ignatian prayers for the Triduum, inspired by videos from Arts & Faith: Lent. The video and prayer for Good Friday are based on John 18:1–19:42.

“He said, ‘It is finished.’ Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”

—John 19:30

Preparation

As you begin this time of quiet prayer, I invite you to find a comfortable place to sit with your back straight and your legs planted on the ground. Take a few moments to breathe in and breathe out.

Spend this time centering yourself to listen to what God may be saying to you during this time of prayer, to listen to what rises up in your heart. Close your eyes for a few moments. As you sit with your eyes closed, use these or similar words: “Here I am, Lord. Here I am.” When you are ready, open your eyes and pray.

Is it Finished?

The day begins with a bright sun and a blue sky. Imagine you’re walking along a street feeling joyful and peaceful. You pass by people who are smiling because the day makes everyone feel alive and fresh. Springtime has that effect on people. After walking about an hour, you notice that the sky is turning dark. Big, gray and black clouds have moved in, as if a tremendous storm is about to happen. You think of finding a place to wait it out, but something keeps you moving forward, pulling you to continue. You see a hill in the distance. People are standing around what looks like several men hanging from trees. Getting closer, you see that they are crosses. The man on the center cross is covered in blood and sores. On his head is a wooden crown with thorns that pierce his skin. You see that it is Jesus. His eyes catch yours. He looks at you with eyes that don’t show pain, but peace. He speaks to you in a voice that only you can hear. What does Jesus say to you? Is there something you want to say in response to Jesus?

Some of the people around you are crying. Some are yelling at Jesus, telling him to come down if he truly is who he says he is. You want to turn away, to walk away, but you can’t. You stand there caught in the horror, yet knowing this is not the conclusion to Jesus’ life. You want to tell those around you that this is not the end, that there is more. It is not finished.

Someone comes up to you, wrapped in a cloak, and stands beside you. You can’t see his face, but he holds out a hand to you. In his hand, you see the nail mark. You realize it is Jesus. He removes the cloak from around his face as he turns to you. He looks at you with a peaceful, warm smile. What do you say to Jesus? How does he respond?

As Jesus stands beside you, you feel a power coming from him. It makes you feel safe and, at the same time, energized. Your mind is full of questions and races from one thing to another, but you remain quiet. Jesus turns to you again and says, “You know this is not the end. It isn’t finished. It has just begun. And now, it’s up to you.” He looks at you, smiles, and slowly walks into the crowd and disappears. You look up at the scene before you. On the cross, Jesus lifts his head and says, “It is finished.” Your eyes fill with tears. You whisper to yourself, No, it is not finished. No. It has just begun.

What are the crosses in your life that you need to bring to Jesus so he can help carry them for you?
How have you brought the good news of Jesus to others in your life?

Concluding Prayer

Glory be to the Father,
and to the Son,
and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning,
is now, and ever shall be,
world without end.
Amen.

If you’re receiving this via e-mail, click through to watch the video Arts & Faith: Good Friday.

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April 18, 2014

This post is based on Week Seven of An Ignatian Prayer Adventure. It was an assignment from my spiritual director, who suggested writing a eulogy for Jesus because of how close I became to him in my imaginative prayer. While some of this piece is not historically or scripturally accurate, the words express my experience with Christ in prayer. The setting of this particular reflection took place after laying Jesus in the tomb and before the Resurrection.

speech microphone

Good morning, family, friends, and loved ones of our dearest friend Jesus.

While my history with Rabbi Jesus goes a long way, I met with him often, following as one of his disciples. And I, along with a couple others, was with him until the end.

I’d like to share a few words about our dear friend, Jesus. My first memory of him was at his birth. I remember Mary asking if I wanted to hold him. I was hesitant, but she placed him in my hands before I could do anything. I couldn’t stop gazing at him, and Mary stayed close by—embracing me and quietly whispering, “You’re part of the family now.” And it was then that I realized how much love would come into this child’s life.

Jesus showed love in his life just like his mother—by staying close, embracing, and whispering confidently to everyone, “You are a part of the family now.”

As he grew older, I became a faithful follower. I watched him change lives. I watched him inspire. I watched him challenge the current understanding of who we are called to love. I can’t tell you how many times I felt unworthy to follow him. At times I didn’t even understand the mission, but I knew he had faith in me. He brought out the greatness within me.

This is what Jesus did throughout his life. Not only did he teach about God’s love, but he lived God’s love. His actions brought out the best of people. He came to people that were on the margins—“the unworthy”—and made them aware of the greatness buried deep beneath the cultural and societal norms. With love and tenderness, he met people where they were, showing them they had worth. He showed them that they, too, were able to love and be loved. Jesus gave people a renewed sense of their lives.

We walked from town to town telling people that God loves them and that God forgives them. What’s more, we told them that we loved them—and we meant it, Jesus especially. If there was one thing he was good at, it was helping people grow into their own human dignity—moving people towards the full humanity that God calls all of us to live.

This is what Jesus did, for all those people, and for me. Jesus saved me.

My friends, today, Jesus is alive in my heart. And while his death was incredibly agonizing and unjust, it would be an even bigger injustice not to honor, remember, and celebrate his life.

May we never forget Jesus’ mission and dream for the world. May we continue to follow and share his dream with every people and every nation. It’s what he would have wanted.

My Lord, it has been an incredible honor. I love you. I miss you. I will see you soon.

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April 17, 2014

Arts & Faith: Lent logoAs we move from Lent to Easter, we’ll provide Ignatian prayers for the Triduum, inspired by videos from Arts & Faith: Lent. The video and prayer for Holy Thursday are based on John 13:1–15.

“So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.”

—John 13:14–15

Preparation

As you begin this time of quiet prayer, I invite you to find a comfortable place to sit with your back straight and your legs planted on the ground. Take a few moments to breathe in and breathe out.

Spend this time centering yourself to listen to what God may be saying to you during this time of prayer, to listen to what rises up in your heart. Close your eyes for a few moments. As you sit with your eyes closed, use these or similar words: “Here I am, Lord. Here I am.” When you are ready, open your eyes and pray.

Washing Feet

The dining table is scattered with the remains of a meal enjoyed by all there. Imagine you are sitting at this table. Your hands are on your belly, and you’re feeling full and satisfied. The food and wine were savory and sweet. It brought back such memories of meals you shared with friends and family through the years—meals where love was shown, forgiveness offered, and hurts healed. A smile comes across your face as you recall the hours your mother spent in the kitchen getting ready to feed those she loved. Humming softly, she would carefully knead and fold the dough that would become her delicious, crusty bread.

There is much chatter around this table. You look over at these people you have traveled with through many towns and villages, bringing the message of hope and love. A peace comes over you, a peace that tells you what a good job you’ve done. Across the table you see Jesus. He is looking around the table, but his face is serious. He stands up, puts a towel around his waist, and comes toward you. You don’t understand what’s happening. Jesus stands before you, wrapped in a towel and carrying a basin of water. He looks at you and asks you a question. What does Jesus ask you? How do you respond?

Jesus kneels in front of you. You move back in your chair. “No, Jesus. Please get up,” you say. He looks in your eyes. His eyes seem to look right into your soul. He smiles and offers his hand to take your foot. You hesitate. How can this be? you think. Jesus gently cups your foot in his hand. With his other hand, he pours the warm, perfumed water on your foot. He looks at you and smiles. It feels like there are just the two of you there. Jesus speaks to you. What does he say? What do you respond?

You look down and notice how dirty your feet are from walking on the dusty paths. Jesus simply and gently washes them and then dries them with the towel around his waist. Your eyes fill with tears. Here is Jesus, whom you left your home to follow, washing your feet like a servant. You lower your face and quietly weep. Jesus reaches up and puts his hands on your face. He gently whispers to you, “You are loved. You are loved.” He stands and hands you the jug of water and basin. Taking a towel, you wrap it around your waist and…

Do I let Jesus accept me for who I am, “dirty feet” and all?
Who are the people in my life whose “feet” need to be washed?
On this Holy Thursday, how can I accept Jesus’ call to follow his example of service?

Concluding Prayer

Glory be to the Father,
and to the Son,
and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning,
is now, and ever shall be,
world without end.
Amen.

If you’re receiving this via e-mail, click through to watch the video Arts & Faith: Holy Thursday.

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April 16, 2014

“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

—John 1:14

One way the Word becomes flesh and moves among us is through the particular words we—with all our limitations of imagination and vocabulary—choose to grapple with the ineffable, the infinite, the immanent mystery that is God dwelling within us.

mercy-ing

In his interview last fall, Pope Francis reflected that the first word of his Latin motto, Miserando atque Eligendo, didn’t translate well into Italian or Spanish. (Its English translation sounds no better to my ears: “by having mercy.”) To capture the sense he desired, the pope coined a new word in Spanish—misericordiando. “Mercy-ing” in English.

I’m both consoled and challenged by the pope’s notion that mercy is not just an object, but an action. Mercy-ing is a way of proceeding, a way of being in the world. Like Hopkins’s “just man who justices,” who, “acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is—Christ,” mercy-ing calls us not just to be merciful, but to be mercy. Dauntingly, mercy-ing calls us to be Christ.

I fear when I make mercy an object to be dispensed, it all too easily turns into something I measure and tote up. Gradually, I start to see it less as a gift and more as something I unconsciously expect to be repaid. Mercy becomes a commodity, a precious possession I willingly dispense only to the worthy or the well-disposed, those in a position to repay me, to be merciful in return, or at least those who will be appropriately grateful for the boon.

The desert fathers told the story of a monk put in charge of giving grain to the poor who came to the monastery gates. A woman came and filled her basket with grain. The monk weighed her basket and then chided her for taking too much. When she left, an elder asked him why he had measured the grain he had given. Was it a gift or a loan he expected to be repaid to the last grain?

Mercy-ing calls us to forgive the unforgivable, to look tenderly upon the unappealing and the troublesome, to be compassionate to the ungrateful. It demands that we give a full measure, packed down and flowing over, and to empty our granaries again and again for those who cannot hope to repay us. It asks us to open our hands and hearts, not because we expect mercy in return, but because who we yearn to become could not—did not—do anything less for us.

For in the end, none of us is worthy of the mercy God has shown to us through his Son, the Christ, who came a-mercying, crying, “What I do is me: for that I came.”

Help share Pope Francis's message of mercy.

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April 15, 2014

During this Holy Week, our Ignatian Workout for Lent invites us to reflect on trial and suffering. Listen to Tim Muldoon’s reflection below. If you’d like, share some of your own reflections in the comments.

Prayer

What does a meditative reading of the story of the trial stir up in you? What trials have you faced, or are you facing? Can you find a place in your heart where you are willing to trust God the way Jesus did?

Action

In the coming days, set aside time to undertake the stations of the cross. Give yourself time to consider how meditating on Christ’s way of the cross sheds light on the specific struggles you are facing.

If you’re receiving this via e-mail, click through to listen to Tim’s audio reflection for Holy Week. Learn more about the book that inspired this retreat.

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April 14, 2014