In his message for Lent 2015, Pope Francis warns against “a globalization of indifference.” He says:
Indifference to our neighbour and to God also represents a real temptation for us Christians. Each year during Lent we need to hear once more the voice of the prophets who cry out and trouble our conscience.
God is not indifferent to our world; he so loves it that he gave his Son for our salvation. In the Incarnation, in the earthly life, death, and resurrection of the Son of God, the gate between God and man, between heaven and earth, opens once for all. The Church is like the hand holding open this gate, thanks to her proclamation of God’s word, her celebration of the sacraments and her witness of the faith which works through love (cf. Gal 5:6). But the world tends to withdraw into itself and shut that door through which God comes into the world and the world comes to him. Hence the hand, which is the Church, must never be surprised if it is rejected, crushed and wounded.
God’s people, then, need this interior renewal, lest we become indifferent and withdraw into ourselves.
My brother came to stay with my family recently while he attended training in our city. While I was happy to welcome him, I worried about how we were going to survive three whole weeks under one roof. As adults, my brother and I get along well in short doses, but after a while I inevitably launch into lecturing my brother and attempting to tell him how to live his life. I mean well, but I admit it’s not an endearing quality in me. I prayed that God would help me to be a good hostess and that the weeks would go by passably. My prayers were answered in wonderfully unexpected ways.
My brother quickly blended into our family life, sharing in our nightly dinners and helping out around the house. Each night I’d find him diligently studying at the dining room table while my daughter studied downstairs. We fell into a routine, and I hadn’t picked a fight yet. While this was all well and good, God didn’t stop there.
In the last week of my brother’s training, he had one morning off. He accepted an important job interview for that morning before his final exam that afternoon. We then discovered that the interview was going to be quite lengthy. The timing was so tight that even difficulty parking would make him late for the exam and thus turned away. When we discovered there was no way around this scheduling nightmare, I invited my brother to place it all in God’s hands and let God’s plan come to be.
As it turned out, my brother had a good interview and went on to write his exam on time. (He did exceptionally well on it, too, I must boast!) That night, I asked my brother what I should write about in my next blog post. He answered without hesitation, “How God answered my prayers and stayed with me today.”
This touched my heart very deeply. My brother was a Canadian Forces soldier who fought for our country in Afghanistan. In part as a result of what he experienced during his deployment, going to church is very hard for him. In my brother’s words that night, I was reminded that while he may not be at church every week, my brother still has very real faith, and he is just as much a part of the Body of Christ as any of us who lead more active lives in the Church.
We are all a part of the Body of Christ, and God knows each one of us by name. Never was that made clearer to me than in my brother’s words that night.
Each week of Lent, we’ll provide an Ignatian prayer for you, inspired by a video from Arts & Faith: Lent. The video and prayer for Ash Wednesday are below.
“See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!”
—2 Corinthians 6:2
The union in openness of body and mind and heart that is prayer begins with attention to each.
First your body: Sit upright, legs crossed or not, feet on the floor or not, lower back pressed against the chair. Or not. Breathe.
Now the mind: As you are able, let these words spill through the mind and down your spine into the earth. Let your thoughts puff away with each breath. As new ones come—tethered as they are to joy or pain—hold them like wounded birds. Then set them aside to heal. Breathe.
And the heart: Vulnerability means able to be wounded. Of course there is resistance. Notice it. With your breath and with energy, pull back the vines and push open your heartgate. Breathe.
Tilt your chin up to the heavens and, with eyes open or closed, look back at the One who looks at you with great affection.
Clown or Visitor?
Possibly the strangest and most impactful of Ignatian insights is this: trust in your holy desires. The imagination is sign language for our inarticulate desires. Our imaginations are raised Braille texts for our blind desires to finger.
As we begin to pray with the image, we trust our imaginations and our desires and ask: Where do you find yourself as you contemplate the scene? Which role are you drawn into? What happens?
Perhaps, for example, you are the clown, alone in your cell this Ash Wednesday, basking in the light. Trust your imagination. Let a story unfold.
How does the light feel on your knees and hands? Are there birds singing outside or people on the street? Do swaying branches scrape the stone?
How did you get here? What happened the night before?
Were you cast into this isolation by another, or did you come of your own accord? How do you feel?
Are your arms crossed, back arched, head bowed as in the painting? What might you be protecting? What are you resisting? What do you want?
Has anyone come to see you? Who would you want to be there?
What might you say? What do you want to say? What do you want?
Who might you ask to stay with you in your inner room?
How does the visitor respond—in words or feelings or images or memories?
It is only by basking in the light that we store up courage to face the darkness.
But perhaps you are the visitor.
How did you enter the room? How did the door feel against your hands? The bars as you lean against them from above?
How does the room feel—warm and sad, contrite and quiet, cool and hopeful?
Does the man turn to look at you as you enter? Are you expected? Welcomed?
Do you walk toward and sit beside him? Stand before him and embrace him? Stand some paces apart in quiet company?
Are words needed? What do you do want to say? What does he need to hear?
Do your words, your distance, your embraces have an impact? How does he respond? Was it what you were hoping for?
How do you feel?
We are not strong enough. Even when our love is not received we face the darkness together—from love, trusting in love, walking toward love.
Speak with the Lord about the story you and he have painted with your imagination. Speak as one friend speaks to another.
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.
Repetition is the return to a previous period of prayer for the purpose of allowing the movements of God to deepen within the heart. Through repetitions, we fine-tune our sensitivities to God and to how he speaks in our prayer and in our life circumstances. The prayer of repetition teaches us to understand who we are in light of how God sees us and who God is revealing himself to be for us.
Repetition is a way of honoring God’s word to us in the earlier prayer period. It is recalling and pondering an earlier conversation with one we love. It is as if we say to God, “Tell me that again; what did I hear you saying?” In this follow-up conversation or repetition, we open ourselves to a healing presence that often transforms whatever sadness and confusion we may have experienced the first time we prayed.
In repetitions, not only does the consolation (joy, warmth, peace) deepen, but the desolation (pain, sadness, confusion) frequently moves to a new level of understanding and acceptance within God’s plan for us.
To use this method, select a period of prayer to repeat in which you have experienced a significant movement of joy, sadness, or confusion. You might also select a period in which nothing seemed to happen—perhaps because of your lack of readiness at the time.
To begin, recall the feelings of the first period of prayer. Use as a point of entry the scene, word, or feeling that was previously most significant. Allow the Spirit to direct the inner movements of your heart during this time of prayer.
Joanne’s elders were dealing with an array of spiritual concerns, including strained family relationships, accepting the aging process, how to deal with change, and worries about where they would live the rest of their lives. They wanted to know how to pray and to explore different ways of praying. One person asked, “How do I know what God is saying to me?” Joanne’s straightforward reply brought light: “Only by sitting in prayer can we learn.”
Although few experienced any “big revelation” by the end of the program, most felt a greater confidence in God and were able to trust more deeply. “God will take care of me,” said one 100-year-old woman, “and now I have the Scriptures to fall back on.”
In 1969, Fr. Dick Perl, SJ, “pioneered the revival of Jesuit pilgrimage” when he took a 10-week journey from St. Louis to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City and back again. His novice director sent him on his way with $150 and a small pack. Fr. Perl shares the story of his pilgrimage and concludes:
One of the basic thrusts that Ignatius had for his novices when he sent them out with no money was: “God will provide.” And how God did provide for me. Whether it was a ride when I was hitchhiking, food when I was hungry or a place to lay my head at night, the Lord always delivered.
Perl’s trip included a night on the porch of a hardware store in Kentucky, threats of jail in Mississippi, a shrimping job in the bayous of Louisiana, hopping trucks and freight trains, and experiencing the generosity of strangers. Read his story here.
The pilgrimage experiment, where novices are sent to different destinations with $5 and a bus ticket, is now a regular part of Jesuit formation. The goal is practicing trust in God.
Authenticity is the first test of my values and purpose. If I say I’m here on earth to repair the world or to be holy, do I really, really mean it? Do these ideas make me live and work differently, or do they ultimately hold no more significance than an empty slogan emblazoned across a glossy corporate annual report? Can I say that I’m here on earth for a reason, or am I simply drifting along, grasping after whatever suits a short-term need or a current fad?
If authenticity of purpose is the first test, then putting purpose into practice is the second and equally daunting challenge. For the loftier our purpose, the more we test our imagination to find everyday ways to demonstrate that purpose in how we live. I may be inspired enough to commit to building the civilization of love, but can I live that extraordinary-sounding purpose throughout life’s very ordinary routines of commuting to work, answering office e-mail, keeping a house clean, balancing a checkbook, and doing chores?
Our values are the answer; they are the means by which we translate purpose into practice all day, every day.
Arrupe College of Loyola University Chicago is scheduled to open in August, 2015, as the world’s first Jesuit community college. According to a story in the Phoenix, Loyola University’s student newspaper:
It is an extension of Loyola and aims to provide prospective students with the same liberal arts core curriculum classes offered at the university, but at a more affordable cost, according to the Rev. Stephen Katsouros, S.J., Arrupe’s dean and executive director….
“This is really the result of President Fr. Garanzini. His vision and the Jesuit mission of making this kind of education available and accessible to lots of different people, particularly people who are marginalized economically,” said Katsouros. “The Jesuits and our colleagues do not want our colleges and universities to become elite. [If we do so] we are leaving such great and college-deserving students behind.”
Ash Wednesday is February 18, 2015, so today we’re highlighting some of the many Ignatian-inspired features designed to help you observe Lent.
Growing in Friendship with God This Lent
Join us for a new dotMagis series based on the words of William A. Barry, SJ, as they appear in the book Lenten Meditations: Growing in Friendship with God. Each Wednesday we’ll share Fr. Barry’s meditation for the day and a reflection it inspires.
Arts & Faith: Lent
Enjoy a visual prayer experience this Lent. Each week includes a video commentary about a work of art inspired by the Sunday Scriptures and an accompanying Ignatian reflection here at dotMagis.
An Ignatian Prayer Adventure Join in an adapted version of the Spiritual Exercises, perfectly timed as a Lent and Easter retreat. This year guest blogger Elizabeth Eiland Figueroa will share her experiences with the retreat through posts on Tuesdays. The retreat begins on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, February 15, and concludes the week after Easter.
Other6 Prays Lent
We’re providing daily topics to help you get in the habit of finding God in different ways this Lent.
Igniting Our Values
This is a program from the U.S. Jesuits. The description reads, in part, “Together, we will prayerfully consider the meaning of discipleship and the significance of Ignatian values in today’s dizzyingly distracted world.”
Women of the Passion
Popular prayer sites Sacred Space and Pray as You Go collaborate to offer this online retreat that follows the Passion of Jesus as it was experienced by the women in the Gospels.