Practice, Love

playing pianoI’d like to propose a juxtaposition of two ideas that emerge from the Spiritual Exercises: practice and love. Without getting into too much insider baseball on how Ignatius’s text emphasizes these themes, let me suggest a brief thought exercise that you might take into prayer.

  1. We learn anything by practicing: the piano, soccer, algebra.
  2. Jesus calls us to love one another as the Father has loved Jesus.
  3. How do you practice love?

Notice that embedded in observation #1 is the basic idea that practice itself isn’t always fun or instantly gratifying. In fact, it can be tedious. But what makes us do in the tedious times (what Ignatius might call desolation) is the hope that it will bring forth some fruit in our lives. To practice love like Jesus—to work at it day after day—what might that mean for you? What are the many practices which, when added up, help you develop into a virtuoso, a poet of love?


  1. When all people can practice to be at peace with God, then we will have a wonderful world full of love. Practice to have inner peace/love so that it can be given to others. I cannot give what I don’t have…. Have love to share it with others.
    Tim this message of practice and love is so good followed by the comments!

  2. To me what is implicit in “practice” is purposeful action. Rolling up one’s metaphoric sleeves and setting to a task. Inherent in this is a desire to follow an objective, in this case, loving as the Lord did. Though my intention may be pure (even this is questionable at times), it is fraught with the fallibility of humanness. Fortunately, Jesus asks only for the attempt at spiritual progress. Only he was the embodiment of spiritual perfection. I would do well to keep this in mind on my spiritual journey.

  3. Thanks. I agree that the more I practice listening, not criticising etc. The easier I slip into the same practice next time. Of course the opposite is also true

  4. Thank you Tim Muldoon for an excellent piece, and all of you for your thoughtful comments. I agree with Suzanne, all so helpful.

  5. What a great goal to have – to become a virtuoso, a poet of love! Enough to inspire in the daily struggle to love, in the easy times but especially so in the challenging moments. Thank you!

  6. Sometimes a word, phrase, or sentence echoes in my heart and I know that this idea is “up” for me, spiritually. Today it was this: “To practice love like Jesus—to work at it day after day—what might that mean for you?” That sentence moved into my heart and settled in. I don’t know exactly what the answer is, but the previous comments help immensely. I found a desire to do this and a belief that, with and through the grace of God, I can make some progress in this area of my life, not to self-perfect, but to become more of who I was created to be. In fact I see the goal is to become less rather than earn trophies in spiritual growth. When the student is ready….

  7. When I think that I cannot possibly listen for one more minute, I listen more closely. I am mindful that the loving thing to do is not always going to feel good, as I am called upon to present difficult information and to challenge people’s thinking quite frequently. I spent a good bit of time on “how to say it,” and then when it is said, I hope for the best. A little prayer beforehand does not hurt. Thanks for this reminder that if it seems like it is work and practice, it is because it is. Too often the Hallmark card version of love entices.

  8. It can be a challenge when so much of what we do is relational with others. When one gives love, it is not always reciprocally received. I love Walt’s approach. It is almost like the ten commandments which puts God first in the first three commandments and neighbor in the last seven commandments. This is awesome prioritizing as it is only through Christ that our love will grow.

  9. Though I forget or fail often, these are some of the ways that I practice loving each day:
    First, I strive to love God by:
    1 Maintaining a heartfelt desire for God
    2 Having some form of intimate communion with God each day
    3 Daily renewing my personal acceptance of Jesus as my Savior
    Also, I attempt to love others by:
    4 Watching for opportunities to speak a word of kindness or perform an act of service or generosity (sometimes just listening!)
    5 Express gratitude to anyone who was helpful to me
    6 Pray for others
    7 Forgive and extend mercy; ask for forgiveness when I’ve been offensive
    8 Share my love of God with others when the opportunity arises
    9 Stay joyful and humble in my dealings with others


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