Arts & Faith: Lent logoEach week of Lent, we’ll provide an Ignatian prayer for you, inspired by a video from Arts & Faith: Lent. The video and prayer for Palm Sunday, Cycle A, are based on Matthew 21:1–11.

“The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!’”

—Matthew 21:9

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. 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.

Happiness and Heartbreak

Imagine it’s a beautiful spring day. The sun is shining, the air is warm, and the sense of new life surrounds you. You are walking along a narrow path in a large city that you’ve visited many times. You love this place—the small, narrow streets crowded with people, the marketplace with its smells and noises. As you walk, you see a crowd forming along the street in front of you. It looks like they are lining the street for some reason. You wonder what’s going on, so you walk towards the street. When you get closer, you can hear people chanting, but you can’t make out the words. They seem to be waving something up and down.

When you get to the street, there are many, many people smiling and waving large palm branches. Some have put their cloaks on the ground. There must be some royalty or wealthy person coming, you think. You look down the street, and a few feet away is a man sitting on a donkey. He is waving to the crowd, but his face is so serious, almost sad. You get to the front of the crowd so you can see him more closely. He is in front of you and stops. He looks at you. You recognize him. It’s Jesus; he’s the one everyone’s been talking about. Jesus speaks to you. What does Jesus say? What do you say to Jesus?

Jesus lingers there for a few minutes. He seems like he wants to get off the donkey, to stay with you, to enter the main part of the city. But he doesn’t move. He sits there looking at you. The crowd’s voices get louder and louder. They are yelling out, praising him saying, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” But Jesus does not seem happy. He reaches down for your hand. You reach up and hold Jesus’ hand. What do you say to Jesus? What does Jesus say to you?

What time in your life did you feel both happiness and heartbreak? How did Jesus help you through it?
Is there someone you want to bring to prayer on this Palm (Passion) Sunday who is experiencing happiness mixed with heartbreak?

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: Palm Sunday.

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April 12, 2014

In celebration of the upcoming 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.

"What do I do with my life? Do I create unity around me? Or do I cause division by gossip, criticism, or envy?" --Pope Francis, The Church of Mercy

Few of us gossip out of delight in maligning another. My suspicion is that most gossip arises from either a misguided desire to defend oneself against another who is perceived as harmful, or in order to connect more strongly to others in our social groups.

When in conflict with another, it’s common to talk to one’s friends in order to sort out one’s feelings and discern how next to act. Certainly in many friendships, conversations are often centered on discussing relationships with others and offering advice and support. How, then, can we avoid gossip?

Pope Francis’s words offer us a clue as to where to draw the line between gossip and heartfelt conversation: does the conversation aim to work toward unity and reconciliation, or is its aim self-assertion or putting down others?

A Jewish tale tells the story of a man with a tendency toward gossip who went to see a rabbi. The rabbi asked the man to bring him a pillow full of feathers. They then went to the highest floor of a tall building where the rabbi asked the man to cut open the pillow and let the feathers fly. He then instructed the man to gather up all of the feathers. The man was horrified at the impossibility of the task, for they were now widespread. He realized the ways in which gossip spreads in directions that he never intended, and went home contrite and determined not to gossip further.

I suggest four ways to avoid the temptation to gossip and criticism:

  1. We can meditate frequently on our own shortcomings and how we might feel if our shortcomings spread like feathers.
  2. We can speak directly to those with whom we are in conflict rather than using gossip as a passive substitute for active dialogue.
  3. In interpersonal difficulties, we can ask our friends to help us to see our own shortcomings in the situation and the other’s good. Here, true friends help us work toward restoring unity in relationships.
  4. We can actively meditate upon some good character trait of the person whom we are tempted to malign. Gratitude for others’ good gifts is a natural antidote to criticism and gossip.

What would you add to the list?

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April 11, 2014

This post is based on Week Six of An Ignatian Prayer Adventure.

dusty feet

In the ancient Middle East, men who trained to be rabbis memorized the laws and traditions of the Hebrew Scriptures. The final stages of this process involved applying to a well-known rabbi and asking to be one of his disciples. If the rabbi agreed, the disciple would follow him everywhere, in hopes of becoming just like him. There are even ancient stories that say disciples followed so closely they were covered by the dust of their rabbi’s feet.

Rabbis were the elite ones entrusted to pass on God’s promise to God’s people. Not everyone could be a rabbi, and those who didn’t make the cut returned to their family trade, making wine, farming, or fishing.

When I imagined Jesus choosing me as one of his disciples, I immediately felt unworthy. I didn’t know enough theology, and my knowledge of Scripture was nearly pathetic. I simply wasn’t good enough. But Christian author Rob Bell brilliantly writes, “Jesus calls the not-good-enoughs.”

Jesus looked at me with love, and I dropped everything to follow him. It’s a moment in my Ignatian Prayer Adventure that I can never forget. He took a chance on me—burned out, broken, confused, not-good-enough—and he chose me to be his student, teaching me how to be like him. Recalling this simple truth helped me to remember Jesus’ affinity for the weak and the broken and the way he brings out the greatness deep within us.

This week of the Exercises gave me more peace than I’ve had in a long time. Why? Because I spent quality time with my rabbi, following him closely. We went to different towns healing and giving life to those who were spiritually dead. It was a journey that was intimate and real—one that made me excited to follow with all of my being.

My prayer is that you realize you’ve been chosen—chosen in your brokenness to be one of Christ’s great ones. And in your journey together, may you follow so closely that you are covered by the dust of the Lord’s feet.

Image by Greg Mote under Creative Commons license.

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April 10, 2014

This November, an “International Seminar on Ignatian Pedagogy and Spirituality” (SIPEI) will be held in Manresa, Spain. The goal is to strengthen the dialogue between spirituality and Ignatian pedagogy with a global vision. Ahead of the conference, those involved in Jesuit education are invited to participate in a virtual portion of the seminar.

See a video introduction to the SIPEI:

For more information about the virtual or in-person offerings of SIPEI, visit their website. The November gathering will also be live-streamed so people around the world can participate.

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April 9, 2014

In celebration of the upcoming 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.

Pope Francis - “Let us ask ourselves today: are we open to ‘God’s surprises’?”

In Pope Francis’s 2013 Pentecost homily, he challenged us, “Let us ask ourselves today: are we open to ‘God’s surprises’?” When our hearts are open, and we are able to get beyond the fear of change and submit ourselves to God’s plan—even when it seems to conflict with our own plans—amazing things can happen. Amazing things like my husband finding God.

One of my favorite surprises from God came while I was dating the man who would later become my husband. He had called me one day to set up a date, and in scheduling I mentioned I had to get to Mass that day first. When he responded that he’d love to go with me, I was speechless (I am never speechless, though many of my friends surely wish that I was). We hadn’t been dating long, but I did know this was not a guy who had set foot in a Catholic Church. What on earth was this guy up to? I was suspicious, but something inside me told me to let him come. After all, I couldn’t tell him he couldn’t come to church, right?

My husband will tell you that he just wanted to spend time with me and figured that if that meant having to go to church to do it, then he would endure it. He’ll also tell you what a surprise it was to him that we didn’t just kneel and chant Latin stuff for hours on end. He actually enjoyed it, and he’s been going to Mass with me ever since.

I think God loves a good surprise as much as anyone, and it can be a fun way of revealing His plan for us. I am still amused when I think of how God used my husband’s attempt to get a date with me as a means to bring him into the Church. God is truly a God of wonderful surprises (even the wonderfully scary ones He sometimes sends). Yes, indeed, let’s open our hearts to God’s surprises, because God knows the wonderful places they might take us.

How has God surprised you?

Enter for your chance to win a copy of The Church of Mercy and be one of the first to read Pope Francis’s book!

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April 8, 2014

Jesus faced his suffering with resolve. That’s the message this week in our Ignatian Workout for Lent. Listen to Tim Muldoon’s reflection below. If you’d like, share some of your own reflections in the comments.

Prayer

Lord, you know my fears and you yourself knew what it was to be afraid in the face of suffering. Send me the consolation of your Holy Spirit, so that I, too, can face my fears with resolve, knowing that I seek only to do what you ask. Grant me your grace even in those times when I cannot feel you near, and when I walk blindly in the hope that what I do is right.

Action

Identify a goal in your life that has been on the “to do” list but which, perhaps out of fear or some other kind of resistance, you’ve been avoiding. Resolve to face it with courage. Do it today.

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

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April 7, 2014

Arts & Faith: Lent logoEach week of Lent, we’ll provide an Ignatian prayer for you, inspired by a video from Arts & Faith: Lent. The video and prayer for the Fifth Week of Lent, Cycle A, are based on John 11:1–45.

“Jesus wept.”

—John 11:35

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.

Jesus Weeps

Imagine you are walking on a small and narrow path through a forest. There are trees and plants on each side of the path. You stop and look up, but you can barely see the sky through the tree limbs heavy with leaves. There is the sound of crows squawking, but you cannot see them. You are walking because you needed time alone, time to think about what is next in your life. You feel like there is something you are supposed to be doing, but you cannot figure it out. If I give myself some time alone, you think, maybe I will begin to understand what’s next.

You are looking down at the narrow path so that you can see the rocks and roots on the path and not trip. As you walk, you hear a sound that makes you stop. You look around, but it’s hard to see through all the foliage. You continue on the path, but the sound gets louder. As you look ahead, you see someone sitting on a large rock under one of the trees that line the path. He is holding his head in his hands and seems to be crying. As you approach him, you realize he is not just crying, but weeping so hard that his body is shaking. He looks up at you with a tear-stained face. You see that he is Jesus. What do you say to him?

You stand there in front of Jesus, wanting to reach out but unsure how to do that. You want to comfort Jesus, but that seems so opposite to what you’ve been taught. He is the one to comfort me, you think. He stands up and says, “My friend has died, and I must go to him.” What do you say to Jesus?

Jesus starts to walk towards the path, but he turns around and beckons you to come with him. He reaches out his hand, and you take it. You walk along the path with Jesus and feel at peace. You don’t know where you are going, but you know that wherever it is, Jesus will be beside you. Jesus looks over at you and smiles a small, knowing smile. What do you want to say to Jesus? What do you want him to know about you?

Is there a decision you are wrestling with that you want to bring to Jesus?
How would you comfort Jesus as he weeps for his friend?

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: Fifth Sunday of Lent.

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April 5, 2014

Way of the Cross, courtesy Bernard Gallagher via Picturing GodThe Jesuit Refugee Service/USA offers an online Way of the Cross (also available as a PDF), with reflections and photographs from worldwide JRS projects.

“By prayerfully accompanying Jesus on his way of suffering and death, our gratitude for God’s gift of redemption grows stronger. And in this gratitude, we become more interested in assisting our sisters and brothers who suffer so terribly today,” said Fr. Kevin White, SJ, coordinator of Mission and Identity for JRS/USA.

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April 4, 2014

This post is based on Week Five of An Ignatian Prayer Adventure.

knotsIn Ignatius’s day a “standard” was another name for a military banner or flag. Therefore, the Two Standards meditation was a way of testing the retreatant’s allegiance. The overwhelming question was: Whose flag will you wave? I asked bluntly, “What kind of question is that? Who would ever intentionally choose to be on Team Satan?”

It seemed like a no-brainer. But when it came time for my prayer, it was much more difficult than choosing Christ over the evil one.

I entered what appeared to be a desert. It was dark and gloomy, and the wind had a distinct chill. Walking into the scene, I saw my friend and rabbi, Jesus, in the distance. As I looked closer, he had a cloth tied around his mouth and was tied up with heavy rope around his hands and waist. As soon as I saw this I ran to untie him, but I remembered that the choice wasn’t supposed to be this easy—it was a choice between the two greatest loves of my life.

It was then that I noticed something on the opposite side of Jesus. I saw an office desk, cluttered with countless books and magazines, and it, too, was tied up with rope. I was confused until I noticed that the books on the desk were my own—this was my future work desk. There were countless books and articles that I had written. I came closer and began to read title after title with my name on the bottom in an aesthetic font, “JURELL G. SISON.” Some even read, “New York Times Bestseller.”

These were my two standards. I was being forced to choose, and it wasn’t as simple as choosing between “Team Jesus” or “Team Satan.” These were the two greatest loves of my life. I always dreamed of publishing a book that would bring life to people, one that would help them discover faith at its finest. But this passion was taking over like a cancer. It was killing me, so I had to kill it. Needless to say, I chose Team Jesus, but it wasn’t without internal struggle and reflection about my priorities.

When we forget to hold God as the center, something else will surely take God’s place. When we take our focus off of God—shoving love, humility, and service to the side—something insidious creeps into us, turning our passion into poison. Sometimes we create our own demons without even knowing it.

The Two Standards meditation isn’t a choice between the good and evil that’s out in the world—it’s a choice that lies within one’s own heart. So whose flag are you waving?

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April 3, 2014

In celebration of the upcoming 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.

“True mercy, the mercy God gives to us and teaches us, demands justice; it demands that the poor find the way to be poor no longer.” - Pope Francis

Pope Francis has shared with the world his own inner Dr. Seuss. It’s not that he is speaking in rhyme or teaching children to count, but he is using his words to paint images of a world previously beyond imagination, a world of belief in something not only beyond us, but within us—each and every one of us.

Pope Francis and Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss) both believe in this fantastical world in which each person truly has unlimited potential. I can almost hear a homily from the papal balcony including the Dr. Seuss line, “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.” Rich or poor it makes no difference. The world is waiting to be graced by your brilliance. In their view, every person has within him- or herself the capacity to thrive and gifts to share with the world.

But what if you really don’t have any shoes on your feet? What if you are living in a refugee camp with no school to engage that brain in your head?

Well, in Francis’ fantastical world, you see, there are other creatures too, who simply wouldn’t let this be.

The pope believes all people have within them the call to share the mercy of God. This mercy is not just about forgiving people or being compassionate and charitable. Mercy also means demanding justice for those whose potential is blocked, clearing that pathway for them to fully thrive. Through direct service, accompaniment of the poor, and defending human rights, this “fantastical” world of mercy can be realized. In the words of the Lorax, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

Both Pope Francis and Dr. Seuss make us all want to believe not only in the sacredness of every life, but in our own capacity to serve it.

And so I ask you, Is this fantastical world really so odd? Or is it just another vision of the Kingdom of God?

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April 2, 2014