On a cold February night, about 15 people stood outside in a parking lot of a burger joint, singing with guitar accompaniment. The people in the restaurant must have wondered why. There was no audience to be seen. They weren’t trying to proselytize or sell anything. They were there to be the visible presence of Love—to me. Seven stories up, in the hospital a block away, I sat in an isolation unit. This would be my home for the next 30 days. I flashed my room light on and off so they would know which one was mine and that I saw them and heard them over the phone. I was isolated but never alone.
This is what it means to have an Ignatian community.
Community is one of the legs of this three-legged stool of Ignatian spirituality, the others being individual practice and ministry. Individually we pray daily, reliving the Spiritual Exercises, guided by a spiritual director to discern our life choices and challenges. We go out into the community to minister through activism. But having a practicing community of companions inspires, encourages, and assures us as we live the tenets of faith. No one of us alone in any pursuit can thrive. The dark forces are way too tempting. We need others who share our Principle and Foundation.
Community is showing up on a dark winter night in the freezing cold to let one friend know she is not alone.
Ignatius shared his Exercises with his friends in Paris for their sake, but they discerned to create a vowed community together. They knew they needed and wanted to journey with each other. They believed the Spirit brought them together, and they believed in each other. They were lay people—students when they met—but their hearts had been so transformed by the Exercises and their understanding of God that there was no going back to their individual pursuits. And yet, each did pursue his unique talents in service to others, the community, and God. They held each other accountable. They discerned together. They disagreed and got frustrated with each other. But their bond held together across oceans, because it was a bond forged in their spiritual practice. Often isolated but never alone, they were contemplatives in action, not a single contemplative. They were the Company of Jesus with a shared mission.
Jesus was clear on the need for spirituality to be lived through community as well. We pray the Our Father, not the My Father. Give us this day, not give me this day. And we remember clearly, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” (Matthew 18:20)
Community isn’t just going to Mass each week and checking a box. Community is walking this pilgrimage together, sharing our burdens and challenges and being vulnerable, humble, and intimate with others. Community is showing up on a dark winter night in the freezing cold to let one friend know she is not alone.
By Easter I was out of isolation and home. It was an intimate experience of Resurrection. Doctors, nurses, and a whole lot of treatment brought me back from the edge of this life. And yet it was my community that brought back my experience of Infinite Love and being carried by Something Greater than just science. The Resurrection brings the community together.
Sometimes you just have to flash your light so others who speak Ignatian can find you.
Photo by Steve Johnson on Pexels.
Thank you for this beautiful reflection, Lisa! Your words are comforting and uplifting!
I’m very glad to hear that you are home and doing well.
God Bless you!
Thanks Lisa for the soothing reflection. God bless.
Wow, What a wonderful story. Sometimes it’s harder to flash that light than to stand in the freezing cold as a supporter. You remind me that it’s all about relationship (duh!) and this story adds to what I can do to help create community in my church. Thank you so much.
Wonderful reflection, Lisa. I’ve been praying for you since you mentioned your illness . The reminder that we all need a community to learn, grow and pray with is so important . I’m thinking of spiritual direction, too. Thank you very much.
So glad you are doing well now.
I don’t remember exactly the first time I read one of your reflections but I can assure you that I downloaded it and printed it and kept it. Since then I have moved from New York to Florida to be near my granddaughters so all I know is that that reflection is in one of the boxes that 14 years later I still haven’t emptied.
Lisa, I’m so glad that you’re home and doing better. God wants you around to continue touching people, inspiring people and waking up people from their doldrums. Not that the following words may give you comfort but in the novel, MR. BLUE, the main character says that the Cross is the gift God gives His friends. I guess you’re His friend with all you’ve gone through.
Lisa, your reflections always touch something deep in me. Years ago when going through an Adult Spiritual Formation Program I first learned about the importance of community and it has changed how I treasure my faith, how I celebrate the Eucharist, how I pray. Thank you so much AGAIN for your reflection and for allowing God to use you to inspire us. May God give you more good health.
Elia ( another cancer survivor )
elia, you have no idea how grateful I am for your words! I am finally at the point where I can see my cancer as a blessing–a cross for my family and I for sure– but many many blessings have come from it. Now I will add your comments to that list. grateful to have you in my ignatian community!
Lisa, may you and your Ignatian community continue to bless and support one another. I’ve never forgotten your post regarding discernment and am awed by the power of prayer and medical science and just so happy to know you responded well to treatment. Thank you for your faithful posts.
still living day by day and learning so much from this pilgrimage. Thanks for taking the time to comment and your support on my journey,
So happy to see and read this reflection! I hope you are doing well. Keeping you in prayer. May our loving God bless you abundantly!
I’m sorry you were so ill but you obviously found God in [everything] your experience of illness and in the kindness of others. Thank you for shining this light to help us do the same.
I’m so glad to read this, Lisa…touched by your words and more by your presence. I have been praying for you.