Living with Purpose Mini-Retreat: Day One

Living with Purpose Mini-Retreat - text above photo of Fr. Kevin O'Brien, SJ

How can we live with purpose? Let’s explore that idea this week in our online retreat. In three parts, we’ll consider the demands and the benefits of living with purpose. Our guide is Fr. Kevin O’Brien, SJ, author of Seeing with the Heart: A Guide to Navigating Life’s Adventures. This retreat draws from the ideas in that book’s first chapter.

Opening Reflection

Living with purpose demands that we work through certain creative tensions. We must pay attention both to where we are walking and to the distant horizon: not so focused on our end that we miss out on what is right around us, not so focused on what’s around us that we lose sight of the end that keeps us on track. Like those early Jesuits, we are also meant to be contemplatives in action: not so reflective that we become preoccupied with ourselves, not so active that we miss the meaning that comes with taking time to reflect. Finding the right balance from day to day is challenging, so much so that we might be tempted to simply choose one over the other to make our life less complicated.

Too much is at stake for us to settle for such a false choice and to let life pass us by, living without purpose or direction. The French writer and poet Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, author of the classic The Little Prince, wrote: “A single event can awaken within us a stranger totally unknown to us. To live is to be slowly born.” The water in which we swim is imbued with such truth, beauty, and goodness that we lose much by not noticing it and by avoiding those creative tensions in all their glorious complexity. They are the path to the Love that moves the sun and other stars and impels us to love in return. For one who lives and loves with such purpose, something greater than Ithaka awaits. As the monk, mystic, and activist Thomas Merton shared in his journal, “He who loves is playing on the doorstep of eternity.”

—Excerpted from Seeing with the Heart by Kevin O’Brien, SJ

Poem: “Ithaka” by C. P. Cavafy

Read the story of Jesus visiting the sisters Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38–42). To whom do you more relate: Martha, who models “busy love,” or Mary, who displays “listening love”? Which muscles do you need to exercise more: the contemplative or the active ones? How can this exercise help you discover your purpose?

Scripture for Reflection

  • Martha and Mary, Luke 10:38–42
  • Purpose, Proverbs 20:5

For Further Reading

Purpose in this Moment by Lisa Kelly
Contemplation in Action by Marina Berzins McCoy


Use imaginative prayer to pray with the story of Jesus visiting Mary and Martha.

Close with an Our Father.

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  1. Thank you Father for passing on this practical yet spiritually rich reflection. Even though I “know” this truth, I often forget and need to be reminded daily. Apparently I’m a slow learner. Blessings and Love in Christ. Jeff

  2. Thank you father,
    I belief that God made every time made my own decisions . At those moments i tried to see them as my decisions bu in hindsight, those were His oppotunities He made to let me me change my own simple horizon. God bess you, father

  3. Thanks. Living with Purpose – is a meaningful point for consideration and action. It offers a manageable road map and an appropriate toolkit for onward journey.

  4. I very recently purchased ‘Seeing with the Heart’ so this is a very timely mini-retreat !
    Excellent 1st ‘episode’


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