Looking for a tasty fall snack or autumn beverage? This episode of Pre-Prans with Ruthie, the Ignatian cooking show, has some ideas.
Host Ruthie Blacksea is also featured in the Food and Faith series from Loyola Press, where she tells us her favorite meal to cook and shares some thoughts about how cooking is prayerful.
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Advent begins on Sunday, so it’s time to think about what you might want to do this year to prepare yourself anew for Christ’s birth. Here are some online tools to consider incorporating into your prayer and reflection this season.
Explore sacred art during this season of hope. Weekly videos offer commentary about works of art related to the Sunday Scriptures. And related dotMagis blog posts each Sunday invite you to take the message of the readings and art further by engaging in Ignatian contemplation.
During this Advent, Other6 will provide daily prompts to help you focus on finding God in different ways, such as in holiday traditions, seasonal surprises, or encounters with others.
Vinita Hampton Wright leads an Advent retreat on her blog, Days of Deepening Friendship. “A Season for Stories” will cover stories in Scripture, in Christian history, in our personal lives, and in books and film.
For more Advent resources, see our list here.
Earlier this month, Paul Campbell, SJ, wrote about a favorite Jesuit of his who may not be familiar to some readers: Bl. Pierre Favre. Now the Vatican Insider reports that Pope Francis will likely canonize Favre (also known as Peter Faber) in December, so it’s a good time to learn more about this companion of St. Ignatius, sometimes called the “second Jesuit.”
Words of Favre
Prayer for Detachment
Doing Good and Praying Well
Attend to the Smallest Things
Father, Lord of heaven and earth, you revealed yourself to Blessed Peter Favre, your humble servant, in prayer and in the service of his neighbor. Grant that we may find you and love you in everything and in every person. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
Years ago, I came across a greeting card with a quotation attributed to Anton Chekhov: “Any idiot can face a crisis; it’s this day-to-day living that wears you out.” At the risk of sounding like a pessimist, this quotation resonates with me. Sometimes, life seems like one big series of trivial annoyances. I drop my empty coffee mug into the wet gutter as I get out of the car. My son leaves his lunchbox at school, necessitating a drive back. The printer won’t print. These little frustrations can, I’m ashamed to say, take up far more space in my mind than they should.
Lately, though, I had a thought: what if I react to these little irritations not with grousing, but with gratitude? What if, for every little hiccup of life, I pause, redirect my thinking, and turn the episode into a chance to practice thankfulness?
And so I’ve been trying to retrain my perspective. When my younger son tugs on my arm during Mass to say that he needs me to take him to the bathroom, I make myself think: Isn’t this easier than those years that he was in diapers? When I keep trying to fit that Everest-sized mound of dirty clothes into the washing machine and the clothes keep spilling back out, it’s a golden chance to remind myself that it’s still easier than washing all these things by hand. Maybe the next time that commuter mug rolls out of my overfull hands, I’ll take the opportunity to be grateful for coffee and for the kind husband who brews it for me each morning. Maybe I’ll even send a little thought to the people in far-off places who grow and harvest it, making my morning ritual possible.
It’s not a total spiritual transformation. When these annoyances happen, I still feel that immediate flare of frustration, like the click of a lighter; I’m only human, after all. But with a little gratitude, I can at least keep myself from piling on the kindling. And this new habit helps me remember that Thanksgiving isn’t confined to one Thursday in November. With a little conscious effort, I can celebrate it constantly, every day of the year.
After eight days of silence and stillness on my retreat at Eastern Point Retreat house, I was ready to return to the noise of my life—the “Mom, guess what?” The “Mom, can you hold me?” The clatter of little feet on our kitchen floor. The boisterous shouts of our children playing together that turn frequently into fits of laughter.
I was ready to return to conversations with my husband that often occur in snippets between tying a kid’s shoe and pausing to help a child with a task. I was ready to return to the delicate balance of work and family.
The retreat provided much rest and time to refuel. God surprised me with many gifts and graces during our extended time together. As the retreat ended, though, I knew it was time to return home, to my daily resting place. While God was readily found in the complete silence and stillness of retreat, my call was not to stay there. My search for God and the deepening of my relationship with God happens within the busyness of life. I am called to live as a contemplative in action. My call is to seek God daily amidst the beautiful racket of my life. Just as God found me in the silent and still moments of retreat, I am now more aware that God, too, will find me in the sound and motion of everyday life.
As I make my way in the working world as a minister for one of the largest and busiest parishes in the Cleveland diocese, I often find myself frantic with the next thing on my to-do list: Confirmation prep, youth night, retreats, the weekly bulletin, website, videos, service events. There is an unending amount of work to be done and relationships to be fostered, and one of the evils of such a fast-paced schedule is that it’s easy never to stop. But St. Ignatius challenges us to pause in our frenzied lives to give thanks to God. Not just by saying thank you in passing but by actually stopping our lives to recall the gifts God has provided us. Ignatius uses beautiful language in the Spiritual Exercises when he talks about this. He writes that we need to take the time to relish and savor the many gifts we are given.
How often is it that we forget to savor the tiny aspects of our day that lead us to God? I know that I personally spend hours working through my to-do list, but somehow, “Give thanks to God,” and “Pray the Examen,” easily find a way to be bumped off the list. Somehow or another I convince myself that I don’t have time. However, James Martin, SJ, profoundly writes, that “savoring is an antidote to our increasingly rushed lives.” And without this savoring we become “human doings” instead of “human beings.” Martin’s quote was a serious wake-up call for me, because I often fall into the trap of becoming a human to-do list, missing the opportunities to savor the infinite gifts that God offers me.
This week I had the opportunity to catch up with an old friend, and she saw how overwhelmed I was with work. We spent over an hour talking about life, work, and relationships, and I walked away with a simple theme from our conversation: “Fight for the space to give thanks.”
We must fight for the space to give thanks—to savor God’s gifts. And we fight because it’s so easy not to give thanks.
So today I invite you to join me in fighting to savor all of God’s gifts in our busy days. True gratitude to God brings a deep healing into our lives. It becomes medicine for our frantic souls.
There’s a terrific new video from the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, just in time for the 2013-14 college basketball season. It features classic teams as well as new ones from the 28 institutions in the United States, and highlights the unique mission of this consortium. Check it out even if you are not a basketball fan.
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For the past several years, Paul Campbell, SJ, has spent the week before Thanksgiving hosting a Week of Gratitude on his blog, People for Others. This year’s posts are inspired by quotations about thankfulness. Read Paul’s thoughts and join in the lively community discussion in the comments too.
Do you have a favorite short quote about thankfulness? Here are some words from Joseph Durepos to get us started (from his post “Giving Thanks”).
If you’re lucky enough to celebrate Thanksgiving in a warm and dry house with people who care about you and enjoy more food than you can possibly eat–this means you’re one of the fortunate ones–don’t feel bad about it; just appreciate it.
Catholic Mom Lisa Hendey recently interviewed author Chris Lowney about his new book, Pope Francis: Why He Leads the Way He Leads. In talking about the leadership style that the pope exemplifies, Lowney says:
Great leaders know themselves very deeply: they’ve come to grips with who they are, their strengths but also their inner demons. But even though they reflect deeply on themselves, leaders don’t get stuck inside themselves: they get over themselves, and live to serve others. So those would be the first two commitments that great leaders make: to confront themselves deeply, but then to serve others.
Read the entire Q & A with Lowney at CatholicMom.com.
With Thanksgiving approaching, it might be good to take the time to look at gratitude from St. Ignatius’s perspective. Gratitude is often diluted—a word we hear in passing that has lost its depth. Every Thanksgiving before dinner my family goes around the table and each person names something they’ve been thankful for in the past year. It’s a nice way to start a meal. It even becomes a prayer of sorts, but would Ignatius expect something more?
I propose that Ignatius would tell us that gratitude ought to be expressed daily, for all things, and always pointing back to God.
Expressing gratitude is the first step in the Examen. It’s a prayer meant to be prayed once or twice per day. In this Ignatius gives us a model for daily gratitude. In practice, the Examen can become so natural that we find ourselves being aware of God’s movements throughout the course of the day. And Ignatius would likely exhort his followers to respond to those graced movements with gratitude, not just a once a year, but each day.
Daily living encompasses a slew of emotions, activities, and relationships, all of which are gifts from God. Ignatius places gratitude in the Examen as a signal to us to get in the habit of thanking God in the context of those daily gifts. The Contemplation to Attain Love in the Spiritual Exercises broadens this awareness to the gifts of our entire lives, including our birth, family, friends, talents, interests, sacraments, and even God’s very desire to dwell with us. Can we say thank you for those gifts of a lifetime?
Pointing Back to God
As Ignatian spirituality reminds us, gratitude is ultimately expressed in the context of God. It’s prayer. When I thank my family at the dinner table or express my gratitude for others in my life, I ought to keep in mind that it is God who makes these gifts possible. The reminder is there in the original text for the Examen in the Spiritual Exercises: “Give thanks to God our Lord for the benefits received.” God gives the benefits. God gives us family and goodness and grace. So when I give thanks to the people in my life for the gifts they share with me, I am also giving thanks to God who makes those relationships possible.