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

girl with hands out as if giving a giftWhile there’s nothing wrong with “random acts of kindness,” what if we were more intentional about those acts?

Cultivating a habit of gratitude is the most reliable way to extricate ourselves from every pattern of sin and disorder in our lives. We can begin by securing five minutes in our lives every day, during which time we count the blessings and mercies we have received in the past 24 hours. If we do that faithfully, we will soon find the constant generosity of God to be amazing, even overwhelming. At the end of the five minutes, ask God to reveal to you one person for whom you should perform an act of kindness that day as a concrete expression of your gratitude. Then act accordingly.

Read the full article, “How Gratitude Can Transform Your Life,” by Robert McTeigue, SJ.

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October 6, 2014

The Jesuits in Britain produced the below video, asking the secret to Pope Francis and how he inspires people. The answer lies in three of his regular topics:

  1. Invitation to be missionary disciples
  2. God’s mercy and compassion
  3. Emphasis that the Church should show concern for the poor and the excluded


If you’re receiving this via e-mail, click through to watch the video What Is the Pope’s Secret?

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October 3, 2014

math

Ginny Kubitz Moyer learned a lesson in finding God when she helped her son with his math homework. She concludes:

But St. Ignatius believed you can find God in all things, and ultimately I believe it, too. Some things and situations are easier than others, but maybe that’s why we need other people; they find the connections we miss, just like my son did when his math homework became an occasion to think of the Creator. Other people see the fingerprints of God in places where I just see smudges. And when they share, they gently train us to have a sharper, clearer vision than we did before.

Read Moyer’s full post and consider: How are other people helping you to find the connections to God this week?

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October 1, 2014

Fr. Bill Creed, founder of the Ignatian Spirituality Project, answers What’s the most important thing to know about Ignatian spirituality?

If you’re receiving this via e-mail, click through to watch the video What’s the Most Important Thing about Ignatian Spirituality?

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October 1, 2014

young man thinking

I’ve recently begun a year-long course on spiritual direction. The purpose of the course is not just to learn how to listen to and companion someone in his or her journey with God, but to become a contemplative. Contemplation is a word we tend to associate with the mystics and the saints of yore who experienced fantastic visions. We make it into something complicated, as if becoming a contemplative takes years of prayer and effort. In reality, contemplation is a “long, loving look at the real,” as described by Walter Burghardt, SJ.

Contemplation is the most basic element of prayer, because it asks us simply to open our eyes and look. We cannot even begin to pray without looking at our reality. Spiritual direction involves the exploration of one’s prayer and how God moves within the life of the directee. The director helps the directee open his or her eyes and recognize God’s presence in his or her lived experience.

I am reminded of a time a few years ago when I was a hospital chaplain. I felt so drained at the end of the day that I did not feel I had the energy to pray. At times I would write in my journal so I could process some of my experiences with patients. I may have talked to others about the graces and challenges of the day, but I never sat down to pray. And because of my exhaustion I had little energy in the morning for prayer either. When I told my spiritual director that I had not been praying, he asked me what I was doing. I told him about the journaling, the talking with others about my patient visits, how the experiences and people in the hospital were often on my mind, and the bit of spiritual reading I was doing. “Sounds like you’re praying quite a lot,” he told me. My director helped me open my eyes to the reality of God all around me. I was indeed being attentive to my reality, but I had failed to recognize fully God’s presence there.

Many of us have practiced contemplation without even realizing it. When was the last time you people-watched? When did you stare out at the birds or notice the nuanced wisps of the clouds? That is contemplation: taking a long, loving look at the real. It’s when all distractions melt away for a moment, and we simply see what’s before us. The key, however, is opening our eyes wide enough to recognize where God is in what we see.

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September 30, 2014

online writing retreat with Vinita Hampton Wright

Author and editor Vinita Hampton Wright will be hosting an online writing retreat at her blog this week. The theme is “Writing for the Soul,” and she explains it as a time to use writing to help participants figure out what’s going on in their lives, how they feel about it, and what dreams are bubbling up to the surface. All materials are available for free online, so whether you’re curious about writing as a spiritual practice or already write for the soul, it’s a great opportunity. Check it out at Days of Deepening Friendship.

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September 29, 2014

In yesterday’s morning homily, Pope Francis spoke on the theme of vanity. In one notable section, he asked: “How many Christians live for appearances? Their life seems like a soap bubble. The soap bubble is beautiful, with all its colours! But it lasts only a second, and then what?”

soap bubble

Those familiar with the Two Standards meditation might have the temptations of riches, honor, and pride in mind when they continue reading the pope’s thoughts on vanity. Pope Francis said vanity, “sows wicked anxiety, takes away peace. It’s like those who put on too much make-up, and then are afraid the rain” might come.

For more about the Two Standards, view this video with Kevin O’Brien, SJ.

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September 26, 2014