Editor’s note: Throughout July, we’re celebrating 31 Days with St. Ignatius, a month-long celebration of Ignatian spirituality. In addition to the calendar of Ignatian articles found here, posts on dotMagis this month will explore ways of Experiencing God in the Ordinary. The inspiration for our theme is the new book by William A. Barry, SJ.
I always wanted to make strata but had never had the time. I had been told it was easy, and it’s true that it’s really not that difficult, but one must have the time to dice, slice, sprinkle, and layer. With the pandemic having slowed the pace a bit, I decided it was time to tackle the recipe. I prepped the ingredients, dried out the bread, and swiped the finely diced shallots into the butter that had just started to sizzle in the pan. The meeting of the butter and the shallots released a rich aroma. Stirring away, I savored the smell as the shallots began to caramelize.
The delicious aroma quickly permeated the house. The shallots hadn’t been on the stove two minutes when my high school senior bounded down the stairs, landing right behind me.
“So, what are you cookin’?” he asked excitedly as he towered over me.
“Strata. It’s going to be a while.”
“Oh, OK.” He disappeared, grinning in anticipation.
When the timer went off a couple of hours later, we gathered around the table. A deep-seated joy arose within me as I observed my family delighting in the meal. I remember the same joy on my mother’s face when we savored her meals. I also felt a deep joy at the moment itself, having my family all gathered together, knowing that my eldest would soon be off to college. But there was even more packed into this moment; it was a fleeting thought that maybe I was experiencing an inkling of how God feels as a parent when we savor God’s gifts. I imagined God gazing at my family with me, smiling in delight, and feeling this joy with me. To an onlooker, the gathering around the table may have seemed like an ordinary meal but, in that moment, I found it anything but ordinary.
It’s moments like these that give rise to the gratitude that we speak of in Ignatian spirituality. In his new book, Experiencing God in the Ordinary, renowned writer and spiritual director William Barry, SJ, speaks of the ordinary moments that comprise our days as fertile with potential meeting places with God.
I suggest that you take some time to notice things around you. Look, listen, smell, taste, and touch what surrounds you. You’ll be surprised by God, I’m sure…Such smelling (or looking, tasting, etc.) can be a spiritual exercise: we forget ourselves, at least a little, and focus on the other. This can be called contemplation. What it does is quiet our inner lives so that God has a shot at surprising us. (115)
As our divine parent, God delights when we notice and savor the gifts God places in our paths each day. As Fr. Barry puts it, “All is gift.” (113)
Ask God for the grace to notice the gifts in your daily life. Let God surprise you! And when you do notice those gifts, don’t be afraid of that childlike impulse to bound toward God and say, “Thank you.”
Prayer to Notice God’s Surprises
God, help me to notice the countless gifts
You spread throughout my days.
Help me to savor them and
Respond to you unreservedly, in childlike excitement.
Let my delight bring you joy, and
Give me the grace to let you surprise me!
How have you experienced God in the ordinary? Share with the hashtag #31DayswithIgnatius.