Lord Jesus, Teach Me to Be Generous

In celebration of our fifth anniversary, we invited our dotMagis bloggers to reflect on the individual lines of St. Ignatius’s Prayer for Generosity.
Prayer for Generosity - "Lord Jesus, teach me to be generous" line highlighted
“I don’t want your charity,” the young boy retorted. “I want your privilege.” My friend, a director at a local food pantry, shared with me this insight from a young client. As I did my Examen, the comment kept recurring to me.

It is relatively easy to give charity, to give in a way that maintains the ongoing power dynamics and makes me feel good. Giving charity is giving from my excess, but not so much that I am lessened by it. But to give my privilege—that’s another story.

That story begins, honestly, before I was born. I was privileged in utero by a mother who was not only healthy herself, but who lived in a healthy environment with access to nutritious food and prenatal care. Compared to that of billions of people on this earth, my privileged life was practically embedded in stone by being born into citizenship in a country of freedoms, education, and stability. I have been privileged with a relatively stable family, more than comfortable shelter, and all the basics of life. I can sleep soundly at night in peace and quiet, free from fears of violence. I have the privilege of having a good job, a loving husband, healthy children, and a community of faith that fills my soul with reinforcement and insight. And this list does not even begin to encompass the pure privilege of simply being alive, breathing deeply and sitting in the presence of God for mere wisps of time.

As the enormity of my privilege begins to overwhelm me, I realize that very little of my privilege came directly from my choices or control. Very little, if any of it, is deserved or earned. Sitting in this undeserved whirlpool of privilege, my only possible reaction is to want to share it all with others.

No longer is my frame of reference one of charity and giving from my excess, preserving first and foremost my own security. When I begin by admitting my own privilege, I have more than enough, and I want others to experience that same joy. Giving my privilege away means not handing down a life jacket to those floundering in the water around me, but actually pulling others up onto my boat. It means advocating for others to have the same privileges I have, even if that means they are no longer, well, privileges for me. Ironically, in coming to a place where I am secure enough to actually give away power, I realize one of the greatest privileges of all is to build up someone else.

Lord Jesus, teach me to be generous, by first recognizing honestly all the graces that I have been given in this life, including life itself.

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Lisa Kelly
Lisa Kelly is a wife, mother, and Ignatian Associate living in Omaha, Nebraska. She works to help organizations integrate spirituality into their planning and systems. She and her husband, Tom, completed the 19th Annotation in 2005, just prior to spending two years living in the Dominican Republic with their three young children, supporting the work of the Jesuit Institute for Latin American Concern. Additionally they have lived in El Salvador and Bolivia for extended periods.


  1. Hello Lisa!
    I live in Brazil and I´m member of CLC (Christian Community of Life – Ignatian spirituality for laity).
    I read your post and I was very interested in your job description (“works to help organizations integrate spirituality into their planning and systems”). Could you tell me more about that?

    • Ana,
      My official title is Mission Integration Consultant which means I work with a faith based organization to identify ways their faith can be more systemically integrated into their processes. This would include everything from forming leaders to understand and practice Servant Leadership to leading strategic planning that begins with identifying the consolations and desolations that have been present within the org for the previous year to establishing practices for retreats, reflections, and formation education to looking at the impact of the work product of the organization to recognize how it reflects the call of Christ in this world. There are so many ways we could integrate our faith into our work environment. Ignatian Spirituality has enabled me to understand that God is present in all our work environments, we just need to be willing to admit that and reflect it.
      I am a member of Ignatian Associates which operates similar to a CLC as an Ignatian faith community. So glad to hear CLCs are thriving in Brazil!

  2. Thank you Lisa. Happy 4th of July to you and your family. Your words made me think – really hard. Thinking and thinking really hard about my life, my choices, and all that I’ve been given – you helped me to do that today. Thanks for that. God Bless!

  3. I believe that “the world is transformed through the power of suffering love.”-Thomas Merton. How much do we really suffer for our brothers and sisters? Do I give away my excess, or do I give away my necessary best and “suffer” with true peace and joy in my heart, not because I have done anything to deserve it. I should do it to please my Father, and share the gifts of grace and mercy that he gives FREELY to me each and every day of my life.

  4. How true. I have been very privileged indeed and would give anything to give my privilege away to my spouse.

  5. A very powerful reflection, especially now as we seek to find answers for all the illegal immigrants coming across our borders. Although I believe it has been a political football, God is calling us to respond with a generous attitude.

  6. Hi
    I look at this material and find it helpful. Do you think its possible for non-Catholics to follow Ignatian spirituality? I am an evangelical Anglican.

  7. Hello Lisa
    your reflection made me to think and reflect more on “generosity”.
    thanks for your nice reflection
    Anthony Suresh sj

  8. Hello Lisa,
    I wonder how you integrate spirituality in planning and systems. How can I know the framework and models?
    These would help us in our work for the mission.
    Thanks for this!

    • Wilson,
      I use a version of the Best Year Yet corporate strategic planning tool that I adapted to integrate Ignatian practices and terminology. It invites groups not just to plan for growth and development, but to prayerfully invite the Spirit into their planning and include an awareness of consolation and desolation into their functioning. I’d be happy to share it with you sometime or discuss how it might work for your group.

  9. Hello there,
    Finding the Ignatius meditation & prayers , fantastic & interesting ,
    As I joined a group to do ignatius group prayers for lent this year !

  10. Thank You ,Thank you ..I have been praying St Ignatius prayer for generosity every day for years because I love the prayer so much and expresses my desires to serve and love God so eloquently,and now I love this prayer ever so much more.

  11. I am participating in a most enjoyable series on Ignatian Spirituality and Discernment; wonderfully educational and true delight and food for the soul! Both the prayer for generosity and the “suscipe” prayer are recommended for our daily prayer time and listening to the Lord. I am so grateful for an opportunity to tune into and enhance both my prayer-life and “how” I pray.
    My thanks to the Loyola Institute for Spirituality in Orange, CA.

  12. I never thought one word “generousity” would cause me to stop and reflect as much as this one has. Thank you for your words.

  13. Reading this post, I was immediately pulled back to the recent description of Pope Francis advice for meditating on the crucifix. That’s the ultimate self-giving. A person in pain is accompanied by our Lord, Jesus. My friend, a priest said recently that the cross wasn’t about dying for our sins so much as faithfulness. Well, I guess what I’m trying to express is that it is faithfulness to loving US, the exquisite generosity of God.


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