Senses Awake to a New Day

I live in an old seminary in Grand Coteau, a rural village of Louisiana. My third-floor bedroom window is about level with the tops of the trees which surround the building. Poking out of the sea of treetops, the steeple of the wood-frame country church is clearly visible. All of it—the church, the trees, and the seminary building—are more than a hundred years old. I’m the only thing that is young in this scene. Most […]

Listening to My Son

As new parents, my husband and I are learning quite a bit these days. The past few weeks have been filled with new sights and sounds, new hopes and new fears. In the midst of it all, we are frequently offered advice that often is unsolicited, well-intentioned, and contradictory. And so we nod and we listen and let it wash over us, soaking in what seems worthwhile. And we are working first on listening to […]

Finding God in the Soundtrack of Life

I once read that the music we listen to becomes the soundtrack of our life. I just love that sentiment! As in a movie with a great soundtrack, music can transport us in time and evoke in us emotions we had thought were long gone. Have you ever noticed how certain songs bring you right back in time? For me, “The Servant Song” is one of those songs. I remember singing this song in my […]

Listening to God in Nature

I once went to Morning Prayer during a retreat. While other mornings had been filled with beautiful words and guided meditations that I no longer remember, on this morning the leader simply opened the windows in the room to a spectacular view of the woods and read one line from Psalm 46: “Be still, and know that I am God.” It was exactly what I needed: to look out into the trees and simply rest […]

Listening on the Sea of Galilee

Last year I was on a boat with 50 people on the Sea of Galilee. Admittedly, this makes praying pretty easy. Our joke during the Holy Land pilgrimage was that you didn’t really have to “imagine” anything, as you do in the Ignatian way of praying. All you had to do was open your eyes and look around! In the Ignatian tradition, people are encouraged to use their senses to picture themselves in a passage […]

Encountering God by Tasting a Plum

More than 20 years ago, I sat at my desk, at my first publishing job, feeling overwhelmed. The desk was piled high with projects, and numerous stresses pressed against my mind that day. To save money, I’d packed a lunch. Unwilling to leave my desk—perhaps I could work while eating?—I bit into the red plum I’d brought. And then everything changed. When a plum is at the perfect point of ripeness, your teeth break its […]

Opening My Hands

In the summer I try my best to go to daily Mass. I’m a high school teacher, so I have plenty of time to do so. But during the last month I made a serious commitment to build up a new film company, and I’ve found the work to be overwhelming. The work never stops and there’s an unending number of new projects, opportunities, and people to meet, so that I somehow convince myself that […]

Application of the Senses

St. Ignatius suggests that we can pray about our senses the way we pray about keeping the Commandments (Spiritual Exercises 247). More characteristically, he suggests using our senses to start contemplating: see the persons, hear what they say, and observe what they do (SE 106). These are traditional uses of the senses. One application of the senses, though, makes Ignatian contemplation quite distinctive. It is usually referred to as “the application of the senses,” and […]

Touch Heals and Restores

While all of our senses help us to learn and to know about the world, the sense of touch is perhaps the most intimate. Our skin defines our very boundaries as physical persons and is a point of connection to other people, nature, and objects in our world. All of us had fundamental experiences of touch in our receiving nurture as babies: we were held when we were fed, rocked and soothed when upset, and […]

The Symphony of Your Day

There are certain routine sounds in our lives that call us into action simply by reflex. The morning alarm clock jolts us out of bed and into our morning routine. The ring tone on our phone beckons us to drop what we’re doing and respond to the person seeking us out on the line. The familiar beeping of a microwave leaves our taste buds anticipating another delicious meal. Familiar sounds call us into familiar actions. […]

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