Buttermilk and Cannonballs

pouring milk in cereal bowl - photo by Mateusz D on Unsplash

Editor’s note: Throughout July, we’re hosting 31 Days with St. Ignatius, a month-long celebration of Ignatian spirituality. In addition to the calendar of Ignatian articles found here, posts on dotMagis this month will explore the Ignatian Year theme, “To see all things new in Christ.”

Back in the days before I was married or had children—as in, before I had any baking supplies in my name or celebrated “Pancake Saturdays”—I had, at best, a limited understanding as to what one did with buttermilk. It sounded a lot like regular milk but with more dairy. And it easily masqueraded as plain old milk, seeing as it also came in those plastic jug containers and was stored in the refrigeration section of the grocery store.

You see where I’m going with this.

One afternoon, in those long-forgotten bachelor days, I found myself in a rush to buy groceries. We’re talking the basics: milk, eggs, beans, bread, cereal, peanut butter—that was about it. I grabbed what I needed and headed back to the house in which I rented a room, my meager collection shoved unceremoniously into the shared fridge.

The next morning, I pulled my cereal down from the shelf, grabbed that milk from the fridge, and undid the cap.

Something was not right. The consistency was off; the color was a little weird. I’d bought buttermilk instead of whole milk.

No matter, I thought. Milk is milk! I proceeded to pour that buttermilk into my cereal. And I proceeded to spoon that cereal into my mouth. And I proceeded to nearly vomit all over that shared kitchen.

Buttermilk is not the same as regular milk.

This month, we draw to a close the Ignatian Year: the 500th anniversary of St. Ignatius’s cannonball moment. Throughout these many months, we, as a global Ignatian family, have been invited to reflect on the theme: “To see all things new in Christ.”

The stakes seem really high with such a lofty theme. We might assume such work entails magical glasses that suddenly reveal sin and chaos everywhere we look. We pop those glasses on our faces and see nothing but disaster. Or those glasses—these proverbial new eyes—gaze inward, pointing out all our mistakes and failures and shortcomings.

We might resist seeing all things new in Christ, because we’re afraid of what we might see and the work it might entail. We might never look at our lives or our world the same again. And we just might not be ready for such a dramatic shift.

Look at St. Ignatius: When did he see all things new in Christ? Only after he led his battalion of soldiers to their deaths and got a cannonball to the leg! Is that really what we want?

Rummaging through our lives with the eyes of Christ might turn up some big, life-altering insights. But if we assume that Christ only deals in such life-altering moments, then we miss our God at work in the nitty-gritty here and now.

The Spirit is moving in and through and over every moment of our lives—which means every moment of our lives is primed for an encounter with Christ.

But do we have the eyes to see it? Do we have the confidence to fall back into the arms of our loving God as we go about our days? Are we able and willing to recognize that, yes, even in this bit of apparent monotony, God is at work, loving us, delighting in us, desiring our very best?

In this way, seeing all things new in Christ requires a different kind of spiritual stamina. It’s an accounting for the tiny details in our days and a belief that even in these little things, the voice of the Spirit can have a huge impact. The trajectory of our minute-to-minute existence hinges on these minute moments.

Just take that gallon of buttermilk. How often in our spiritual lives do we say, “Yeah, this looks right,” and plow ahead, paying no mind to the all-important details? How often do we settle for close enough?

How would you react to whatever is the spiritual equivalent to buttermilk in your cereal?

Those are the kinds of details we can better attune our spiritual selves to as we endeavor to see all things new in Christ. And our lives—and the lives of those we encounter—are better for it.

It doesn’t matter if it’s buttermilk or cannonballs; when we commit to seeing all things new in Christ, we commit to the truth that the entirety of our lives, of our stories, is saturated by God’s Holy Spirit. Everything matters; everything is an opportunity to encounter God.


Today in 31 Days with St. Ignatius, read The Awareness Prayer by Barbara Lee. Then use the hashtag #31DayswithIgnatius on your favorite social media to share what you love about Ignatian spirituality.

Photo by Mateusz D on Unsplash.

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Eric Clayton
Eric A. Clayton is the deputy director of communications for the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States. He has a BA in creative writing and international studies from Fairfield University and an MA in international media from American University. Eric writes Story Scraps on Substack. He lives in Baltimore, MD, with his wife and two daughters. Clayton is the author of Cannonball Moments: Telling Your Story, Deepening Your Faith and My Life with the Jedi: The Spirituality of Star Wars.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Though brief, life is an exciting journey on God’s Holy Ground. “Everything matters; everything is an opportunity to encounter God”- says Eric.

  2. Eric,
    Thank you! Once again your amazing writing offers pause, ponder and prayer. I love this, “a belief that even in these little things, the voice of the Spirit can have a huge impact. The trajectory of our minute-to-minute existence hinges on these minute moments.” The wonder and true awe of our encounters with the Divine are often missed, overlooked, or set aside. Grateful for you and your beautiful writing. Blessings and take care.

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