Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Inexplicable Encounters With God

ST. IGNATIUS’ AUTOBIOGRAPHY, part 19

Something of this can be gathered from the five following points.

First. He had a great devotion to the Most Holy Trinity, and thus daily prayed to the Three Persons distinctly. While he was also praying to the Most Holy Trinity, the objection occurred to him as to how he could say four prayers to the Trinity. But this thought gave him little or no trouble, as being something of only slight importance. One day while he was reciting the Hours of our Lady on the steps of the same monastery, his understanding began to be elevated as though he saw the Holy Trinity under the figure of three keys. This was accompanied with so many tears and so much sobbing that he could not control himself. That morning he accompanied a procession which left the monastery and was not able to restrain his tears until dinner time. Nor afterwards could he stop talking about the Most Holy Trinity. He made use of many different comparisons and experienced great joy and consolation. The result was that all through his life this great impression has remained with him, to feel great devotion when he prays to the Most Holy Trinity.

Second. Another time there was represented to his understanding with great spiritual delight the manner in which God had created the world. It had the appearance of something white out of which rays were coming, and it was out of this that God made light. But he did not know how to explain these things, nor did he remember well the spiritual illumination which at that time God impressed upon his soul.


I can remember from an early age having a sense of God’s presence. I cannot always remember exactly where it came from, though I do have an image of walking into a church as a child and being awestruck. I also remember distinctly a certain evening, when I was about 12 years old. I was upset at having been mistreated and was, frankly, sulking. It was nighttime and I’d gone outside to get away from everybody. I laid down on a grassy incline, looking up at the stars, feeling sorry for myself. As I contemplated the beauty of the stars, I had the most consoling sense of God present with me. I was not alone in my sadness. Given the many difficulties of my adolescent years, this may very well have been one of the things that kept me going. I certainly haven’t forgotten that otherwise insignificant moment.

Though not exactly the more mystical types of experiences which Saint Ignatius describes, I think there is a certain similarity to what he is describing. It seems to me the more “ordinary” nature of my own experiences suggests that God doesn’t offer such moments only to great saints. No, these types of spiritual consolations, I believe, are things that we can all experience. Indeed, many of you probably already have. There’s just the problem that, as Saint Ignatius explains, we do not know how to explain these things, and perhaps we don’t even remember them well. We just know that in some way we had a brief encounter with the divine. God touched us.

7 Comments:

Blogger Steve Bogner said...

This reminds me of my pastor's homily yesterday. He spoke a bit about 'being present', and how that can lead us to recognize and be responsive to God in others. SOmetimes we can't explain it, but maybe if we are never 'being present' we won't get to the experience in the first place?

8:17 AM  
Blogger angelmeg said...

God offers an intimate relationship to even we ordinary "saints". The trick is being aware of when we do experience God.

That is one of the greatest gifts that Ignatian Spirituality has given to me. Finding God in all things has really opened my eyes; even those of my memory; to the graced moments in my life when I experienced the transcendent, but just didn't have the words to describe what I was experiencing.

Maggie

8:37 AM  
Blogger Susan Rose, CSJP said...

When I'm at the ocean, I am overcome by the "is-ness" of God. Something about the roar of the ocean, the vastness, the majesty of the waves.

7:46 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

Susan Rose,

Funny you should say that! Just today I was reading through the Psalter and ran across the 3rd Psalm and v. 4 leapt out: "More powerful than the roar of many waters, more powerful than the breakers of the sea, powerful in the heavens is the LORD."

AMDG,

-Joe

8:07 AM  
Blogger Cynthia said...

It's hard for me sometimes to feel God in this way. I really have to struggle and put effort into it to get just a smidgen of feeling. It's worth it, but I wish it was easier for me.

10:54 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

Because the feelings of religious experience can be so nebulous, I'm not ever sure if I'm generating them or if God is ... I'm glad for those rules of dicernment that speak of consolation with and without cause.

2:21 PM  
Blogger angelmeg said...

I learned a long time ago that when I stopped "trying" to get those kinds of experiences I began to experience them more easily.


I think sometimes we "try" to hard.

Maggie

4:33 PM  

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