HomeSpiritualitySmoking as a Path to Devotion

Smoking as a Path to Devotion

cigarettesFor years, in times of stress and pain, Brian Busse, SJ, would find a quiet place to smoke a cigarette or two. A bad habit to be sure, but it was the first step in the direction of reflection and self-awareness. He quotes the Jesuit Anthony de Mello: “Be grateful for your sins. They are carriers of grace.”

Smoking became a path into devotion. It asked me, sometimes demanded me, to find a place apart, a few moments of solitude. It required me to breathe. It gave me a sense of self reflection. It required equal parts honesty and self-deception. A smoker (if she’s not totally delusional) confronts mortality. A smoker might begin to ponder their self-destructive habits with greater transparency. They may know when or why they smoke – to light up admits the need, admits the trigger. There may be self-deception – I can stop any time. I’m freely choosing this. – but even here is an opportunity for honesty. We accept that we’re conflicted.

 Read the whole thing.

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Jim Manney
Jim Manney
Jim Manney is the author of highly praised popular books on Ignatian spirituality, including A Simple, Life-Changing Prayer (about the Daily Examen) and God Finds Us (about the Spiritual Exercises). He is the compiler/editor of An Ignatian Book of Days. His latest book is What Matters Most and Why. He and his wife live in Ann Arbor, Michigan.


  1. I wish I’d thought of that when I was smoking. In stead, I just smoked and annoyed people and developed cancer – twice. But I quit 20+ years ago and am cancer free and able to breathe. And now I’ve found other ways to annoy people.
    Thanks for a great piece.

  2. The smoke in our house was the same and my doctor and parents kept feeding me antibiotics for my “bronchitis.” They didn’t know then about allergies and inflamed lungs and sinuses. Never open a door as that might waste something. And then after all that I smoked on and off for 30 years. I could have bought a condo with the money that went up in smoke. Stupid. Out I’d go at 5 am to the balcony when it was minus 30 outside (celsius, minus 40 is forty below) wrapped in clothes and jacket with a cup of coffee so I could smoke. Two puffs and the coffee had ice crystals.

      • I’m in Calgary, rained night before last, but awoke to snow, then blowing snow. I didn’t think it would stick as the ground hasn’t frozen but boy was I wrong. The roads are bare now, sidewalks treacherous, grass and hills covered in white – will warm up later this week, expect it to melt.

    • I’m glad you quit, a difficult thing to do. I’m particularly concerned about the marketing of flavoured cigarettes to young people, enticing them even further.

      • I know. When I was a teenager drugs were just starting in our little Rocky Mtn. hole so most of the activities among that age group involved booze and sex. Much as people chant about kids today there really is no difference except that the toys are deadlier.

  3. Both my parents were smokers, the air in our home was a haze of smoke from rising til bedtime. My father quit when I was in my teens, my mother kept it up until we buried her at the age of 78, having ruined her lungs. She always said it was her only pleasure in life. Sad to think there was nothing else that could fulfill her the way rolling and smoking her cigarettes did. I used to have to pick up her papers and tobacco on the way home from school, and if the corner store was out of her favourite brand, and I came home with a substitute, it would land me a beating.
    I was constantly sick as a child and did not enjoy good, no make that great, health until I married at the age of 19. So, you might say smoking left quite a negative impression on me in many ways. In fact, my husband and I were awakened this morning around 5 a.m. by the sounds of a neighbour smoking outside, coughing and choking so badly I got up to look out of the window to see if he was all right when the noise finally subsided – and there he was, in his bathrobe, in the snow, inhaling deeply, having spent the better part of half an hour fighting to breathe.
    I’ve watched people trying to quit, the awful struggle they have with nicotine addiction, am always hopeful those who have managed to free themselves are able to remain liberated.

  4. Ah yes smoking. The easiest way out is to state that the habit is not a part of you. It is well known we quitters (17 years) that a reformed smoker is worse than a recovered alcoholic: we preach harder. We get graphic too (black exuding lungs etc).
    Beautiful article.


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