This post is by Lisa Kelly, as she prepares to begin An Ignatian Prayer Adventure. Starting this online retreat on February 7, 2016, makes it perfectly timed as a Lent and Easter retreat.
The eyes of a penitent lower as a blackened thumb outlines the shape of a cross across the forehead. And with the solemn words, “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” the adventure of Lent begins.
I must admit I had never really thought of Lent as an “adventure” before. But this invitation to do the eight-week Ignatian Prayer Adventure drew me in. What if Lent were not about just that time before Easter, refraining from meat, or going to Reconciliation? What if it weren’t all focused on sins and suffering and sacrifice? What if instead it was a journey—a 40-day journey? An adventure?
Webster’s dictionary has two definitions for the noun “adventure.” The first is an undertaking usually involving danger or unknown risks. Seeing as how this is an adventure whereby my “mode of transportation” will be 30 minutes of prayer each day in my prayer space, I need not worry about the physical risks of this journey. In fact, the only thing I am risking is my time and my heart, a heart that constantly aches for depth of understanding and love. The second definition, however, is much less foreboding: an exciting or remarkable experience. Remember this is Lent we are talking about here. If you don’t usually associate the words “exciting” or “remarkable” with Lent, then you haven’t been walking this road with Ignatius very long.
Standing on the precipice of eight weeks of prayer with the Spiritual Exercises is like standing on the edge of the Shire with the world of both good and evil and mostly unknown laying before you. You can stay put in your Hobbit hole and just have a typical Lent, participate in all the rituals, and find that Holy Thursday comes in the blink of an eye with you pretty much the same person come Easter Monday as you are today. Or you can sit in your Ignatian imagination and become aware of the excitement and curiosity that well up within you as Jesus offers to be your traveling companion on this adventure.
Imagine a 40-day journey with Jesus right there with you every day: time for just the two of you to road-trip together. Each day will offer different vistas on life, new invitations to consider, some rocky paths to climb, and lots of exercise for your soul. You need not pack much—a Bible, maybe a journal, and a dedicated space to pray. Each day you’ll make it a little farther down this path to who knows where God is calling you. Suddenly Lent is not the down side of Mardi Gras, but the most exciting and remarkable thing to happen to you in a long time. With all the spirit of Bilbo Baggins, it is time to shout, “I am off on an adventure—through Lent!”