The Power of One

This whole universe, with its trillions of galaxies, began as a tiny speck of concentrated energy; smaller than a grain of salt. When you were first conceived, you were just a single cell, a mere pinpoint of life, barely visible to the naked eye but packed full of the potential for everything you would ever become—every action, choice, and relationship. You are just a drop in the ocean, but without you the ocean will not […]

Miss Woodland

The strictest teacher I ever had is also the one I recall as the gentlest. For most of the time she taught us mathematics, and she tolerated no nonsense, no lapses of concentration, and no bungled homework. She looked the part: severe, almost to the point of ferocity, with her silver hair impeccably pinned back. But she had another side. Her second passion was the garden. Occasionally she would walk into class with shining eyes […]

The Steps of the Examen

Today let’s explore the Examen through the lens of brief reflections pertaining to each step. The steps in this version of the Examen match what is presented in A Simple, Life-Changing Prayer by Jim Manney. Ask God for light. If we attune ourselves to look and listen, we may find God present within us, all around us, and speaking to us constantly. But if we don’t bother to look, it will seem that there is […]

Consolation and Desolation

During Lent, we reflect upon our spiritual state and on our interior movement. Are we moving toward more doubt, fear, and anger? Or are we moving toward greater faith, hope, and love? The Ignatian principles of consolation and desolation can help us. A person dwells in a state of consolation when she or he is moving toward God’s active presence in the world. We know we are moving in this way when we sense the […]

At the Turning of the Year

“Now bless thyself: thou met’st with things dying, I with things newborn.” —William Shakespeare, The Winter’s Tale With every new beginning, we look back over “things dying.” We look forward to “things newborn” and we hear those first three words, ringing out an invitation to us to bless ourselves, and allow ourselves to be blessed. Can we believe that God blesses all that is past? All of the last dying year? The projects, the relationships, […]

The Challenges of Life

When we are in transition, depending on how serious the breakdown is, we may feel as though almost every aspect of life has been disrupted. The old certainties, the old habits and comfort zones, have been dive-bombed. The old home, the old job, the old “me,” may be almost gone. It may be the time to ask, “What is that essential core of who I am that remains through all this upheaval?” This is an […]

Stories in Stones

I have a little bag of pebbles. They’re so attractive that I use them as visual aids for retreats and workshops. One day during a retreat in Ireland, I spread out the stones on a table. To my delight, one morning I find two of the participants poring over them, handling them as if they were diamonds, and marveling to one another. When I express my surprise, they explain that they have been missionaries in […]

Time Taken Out

Prayer is time taken out of the linear journey of our days, and it is also our most profound reality. When we pray, we move inward to our God center. Then we move out again. . . to our situation in the world. This movement into the center and out again brings about an act of transformation. This is not to say that we will come out of prayer transfigured, like Jesus on the mountain […]

The Hinterland Becomes the Heartland

What if that shadowy mystery beyond the span of our years turns out to be the real country to which our earthly days are just the fragmented signposts? What if the unconscious realms in which our conscious minds are floating turn out to be the embryonic sac that is beckoning us toward a reality far beyond imagination? What if that of my life that seems so total, so final, and so absolute turns out to […]

If You Lose Your Way in the Fog

If the worst happens, and the fog gets so thick that you really can’t move an inch, try using these tactics: Tell God, and maybe a human friend, how you feel, and ask them to pry you away from the negative force fields, even though you really want to stay where you are, in isolation. Force yourself to make contact with other people; go to town, walk around the market, make yourself a meal, phone […]

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