Blogger Andy Otto has released a new audio meditation on his God in All Things site. He introduces it this way:
Who am I? Who do I want to become? Who has God made me to be? These are some of the deepest questions we can ask, yet all God calls us to is to be more ourselves, our true selves.
Visit Andy’s site for the full text, or listen to the audio embedded below.
If you’re receiving this via e-mail, click through to listen to the Who Am I? meditation.
We’ve talked many times on this blog about the importance of gratitude. As we head into the weekend, here’s a challenge from author Tommy Newberry:
In the next 48 hours, overdo the gratitude – both in prayer and in person – express your appreciation as though you’re only allowed to keep those blessing[s] that you show that you are clearly and genuinely thankful for possessing.
What are you most grateful for today?
We have not always made choices that lead us to praise, honor, and serve God. We have not always acted as if we believe that we are loved. We have not always treated everything in our lives as a gift.
We come to the humbling awareness that we are sinners, that we have often been ungrateful and unfaithful. We have failed to respond to God’s offer of love by failing to love God and love our neighbor. Sin is the failure to bother to love. Sin is not simply the things we do but also the things we fail to do. Ignatius traces all this to a lack of gratitude—failure to recognize everything as a gift to be cherished, fostered, and shared. For Ignatius, ingratitude is the greatest sin and the root of all sin. It is, in the end, the failure to love as God has loved us.
This realization leads us to sorrow. Ignatius invites us to pray for sorrow and shame, for a deep interior knowledge of our sinfulness, of the disorder in our lives, and of our ingratitude and lack of response to God’s offer of life. This sorrow leads us to contrition and repentance—a turning toward God, whom we have offended. We realize that we have distanced ourselves from the one we most desire.
We are sinners, but we are forgiven. The two are connected. Only when we claim our sinfulness and stand in sorrow before God can we truly experience God’s mercy. We are loved sinners. God loves us even when we are sinners. Only when we know the depth of our sin do we know the depth of God’s mercy. We are not as good as we thought, but we are much more loved than we ever imagined.
—Excerpted from Discovering Your Dream by Gerald M. Fagin, SJ
September really is the best month of the year. With September comes that crisp, fresh air with a slight chill in its breath, whispering of the cold to come. The leaves change up our streets from blankets of green into glorious transient masterpieces of awesome color that seem to change just a little each day until one day the wind blows the canvas clean for another year. The children are all decked out in their new school clothes, the school buses make a grand re-entrance in morning traffic, and the sound of children’s laughter as they play returns to schoolyards everywhere. It’s easy to find God in September because everything is so alive at this time of year, and so beautiful, and so new. It’s like New Year and spring and even an art exhibit all at once.
In particular this year, I am finding God in the fresh start that September brings. Thankfully, God is clearly a fan of giving us fresh starts. We can see examples of God’s offer of a fresh start in the sacraments of Baptism and Reconciliation, in covenants God made in the Old Testament, and in the many Gospel stories of people Jesus healed. Fresh starts are everywhere in our relationship with God, so the question becomes whether we’re prepared to take God up on that offer. My mind turns to the story of the rich young man, who asks Jesus what he needs to do to gain eternal life. Jesus gives him an incredible offer, which I will paraphrase as, “Drop everything and follow me; start fresh.” Unfortunately, at least in that moment, the young man just couldn’t take the offer. Something held him back.
This September, perhaps it would do us all well to take some time to think about what is holding us back from a fresh start. Is it time to give up a bad habit? To devote more of our precious time to those in our lives who need that time more than we do? To come back to Mass after having stepped back for a while? Whatever the case may be, I pray that we all experience the excitement, the freedom, and the beauty that come of the fresh start that God unfailingly offers to us all.
With the new school year starting, we thank all teachers for their work on behalf of students of all ages. Today we highlight three prayers for educators.
Saint Louis University’s Sunday Website provides resources for preparing for weekly Mass and better understanding the readings. One of the reflections for yesterday takes up the question, “Does God want us to be happy?” Read it, and explore the rest of the site here.
This past month my wife Sarah made a five-day Ignatian retreat. When she returned it had felt like I hadn’t seen her in weeks, but as she walked through the door she was glowing. As she began to share about her prayer experiences and how vividly the Gospel stories unfolded in her imagination, I knew she had a very real encounter with God. I could feel the graces she received spilling out onto me, and I began to tear up. I recalled praying with some of the same passages on my own retreat and how I too was beaming when I returned home.
Moses’s face was also shining when he encountered God on Mount Sinai. When he descended the mountain with the news of a new covenant, the people could see how his face glowed. “Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God,” the Scripture says (Exodus 34:29). He had such an intimate encounter with the divine that his face could not help but show this joyful truth. Where do you think the expression “You’re glowing!” came from?
Sarah’s face could not hold back her joy, and I couldn’t help but feel some of those divine rays reaching from her to me. Making a retreat is a very special time, because it allows a lengthier encounter with God. Imaginative prayer can help take it even further as we imagine ourselves in the presence of Jesus, chatting with him, journeying with him, and being fed or healed by him.
Pope Francis’s emphasis on having a personal encounter with God is nothing new, but he’s brought attention to its life-changing power. I think the public has noticed how the pope’s face shines with joy. Our faces can shine too, like the pope, like Sarah, and like Moses. When we meet God face to face in prayer and allow ourselves to be touched by God’s divine rays, we too will be glowing with joy.
Chris Lowney wonders about “The Real Measure of Our Schools” in an article for the Jesuit Networking blog. He asks: “Who are our students becoming? How successful are our schools at forming these men and women for others?”
Those are important questions to ponder as the new school year gets underway. For more on education the Jesuit way, read:
Each Sunday we ask our Facebook community, “Where have you found God this weekend?” The submissions are often very thoughtful, such this one from Cassi O.:
In the heat of my house with its broken a/c that won’t be fixed till tomorrow night, and [it] feels like temp outside is 107. Actual temp is about 93. I’m feeling grateful for having a/c that works most of the time. I meditated on all the people who never have that luxury, not only all around the world but the inmates here in Florida where none of the prisons have a/c. God is found in sweat and tiredness as much as He is found in lilies and butterflies.
Whatever the temperature in your area, it’s a good reminder to look for God in the times of sweat and tiredness too. If you’re not already connected with the Ignatian spirituality community on Facebook, now’s a good time to join the conversation.
The Apostleship of Prayer uses the idea of a trip to the movies to explain the Examen to children in this fun presentation.
For more on praying the Examen with children, see the article of that name by Becky Eldredge.