It can sometimes feel like we’re “running on empty” in the spiritual life. Ignatian spirituality offers a plethora of ways for us to refill our cups.
Find community in a faith community. St. Ignatius learned that he was most healthy, both spiritually and psychologically, when he was travelling with companions on the path. As such, community was an essential part of his plan for the Society of Jesus. We too need the nourishment of a community in which we can live our faith authentically. Such communities foster a sacred respect for each member and gratitude for the diversity of gifts that each individual brings to the table. In loving communities of faith, we experience the Holy Spirit working in powerful ways and get a taste of what it might mean to bring the Kingdom of God to earth.
Get out into nature, where the Creator’s love is spelled out for us. In his autobiography, Ignatius recounts a pivotal moment in his spiritual journey which took place on the banks of the Cardoner River. There, enveloped by God’s love, he tasted God’s mercy and realized the presence of God in all things. For many, mountains and waters are “thin places,” where it’s easier to encounter God. If we aren’t able to hit the trails or get to the shore, though, we can still find God’s touch in our daily surroundings: seeing a flower popping out of a crack in the sidewalk, feeling a cool breeze upon our faces, or smelling fresh-cut grass.
3. Being Present
Be mindful of the gifts God bestows on us each moment by focusing on the present instead of dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. God is continuously creating and breathing life into all of creation. Jesuit Fr. Jean-Pierre de Caussade, referring to The Sacrament of the Present Moment, said, “no moment is trivial since each one contains a divine kingdom and heavenly sustenance.”
4. Observing Silence
Take time each day to cultivate silence. Calm your mind and heart, and listen for the prompting of the Spirit. St. Ignatius found silence to be so critical that he demanded that complete and absolute silence be observed by exercitants during the Spiritual Exercises. Fr. Adolfo Nicolás, SJ, speaks poignantly to this: “That means that our hearts are our monasteries and at the bottom of every activity, every reflection, every decision, there is silence, the kind of silence that one shares only with God.”
5. The Examen
Pray the Examen daily. As you reflect on the events of the day and your responses to them, you will notice where you encountered the Divine. Through the practice of the Examen, we are reminded that our God is not a far-off, disinterested God, but a God who is present throughout our days and intimately available to us.
Make or listen to music that lifts your soul. Good music is a surefire way to fill your cup. St. Ignatius recollects in his autobiography how a chord of music even brought him to a deeper understanding of the Trinity: “While praying the office of Our Lady on the steps of [a] monastery, his understanding began to be raised up, in that he was seeing the Most Holy Trinity in the form of three musical keys, and this with so many tears and so many sobs that he could not control himself.”
Take time away to renew yourself. On the seventh day, God rested. God commands us to rest too! Sabbath requires that we examine what renews us and what we need to step away from to make space for renewal. As he progressed in the spiritual life, Ignatius left behind the excesses of his youth and came to realize the importance of balance. Sabbath is a way of finding balance by building regular rest, recreation, and time away into the schedule.
“Humor helps enlarge one aspect of a person’s life so that it becomes to some extent laughable. But that said, humor would never do any harm. Humor is, moreover, important for a healthy spiritual life.” (Mark Rotsaert, SJ, in the foreword to Jesuits Telling Jokes) Laugh at yourself, laugh with others, and let the God of surprises lighten your load.
9. Nurturing Yourself and Others
Take gentle care of yourself and others. We believe that each individual is created in the image and likeness of God and that we are each temples of the Holy Spirit. When we digest this fully, we come to realize just how important it is to care for ourselves in our totality—mind, body, and spirit. Recognizing the Divine present within each individual also serves to inform us of the sacred responsibility we have to care for others. As St. Irenaeus put it, “The glory of God is the person fully alive.”
These are just a few of the ways in which Ignatian spirituality offers to fills our cups. In what ways do you find Ignatian spirituality fills your cup?