Monday, May 29, 2006

A Must Read: Julie D.'s Reflection on My Life With the Saints

A beautiful reflection, based on Jim Martin's book, on Happy Catholic. Here's an excerpt:

Where the personal aspect in this book came in, however, was when Martin began writing about Ignatius of Loyola and explaining the precepts of Jesuit prayer and theology.

In an Ignatian contemplation we attempt to place ourselves in a particular scene, often from the Gospels. In the story of the Nativity, for example, Ignatius asks us to imagine ourselves with Mary and Joseph on their way to Bethlehem: "to see with the sight of the imagination the road from Nazareth to Bethlehem, considering the length and breadth, and whether the road is level or through valleys and hills; likewise looking at the place or the cave of the Nativity, how large, how small, how low, how high, and how it was prepared."

I don't know how to express what a sense of homecoming and joy I felt at reading this. It was how I had prayed from the beginning, imagining how the dew on the grass felt when Mary arose from traveling overnight on the caravan to Elizabeth's, how the sunshine would have hit both of them warmly as they embraced at the Visitation. This was right. This was me. It was cemented by Martin's telling of how he had been unable to get into using his imagination in this way.

"Isn't it all just in my head?" I asked. "Won't I just make the people in my fantasy do what I want them to do?"

"Not necessarily," he said.

I sat there, confused.

"Let me ask you something," David said. "Do you believe that God gave you your imagination?"

"Sure," I said.

"Don't you think that God could use your imaginations to draw you closer to him in prayer?"

Yes! And Amen! Though in the back of my mind I was finding it tremendously ironic that the order whose spirituality seemed to speak to me most was one that I distrusted. But that is in line with my experience also. Not only do I know much less that I usually think but God often is making a joke out of it at the same time. Which came home again just a couple of pages later.

Theologians often describe Ignatian spirituality as "incarnational." In other words, while it recognizes the transcendence of God, it is also grounded in the real-life experiences of people living out their daily lives.

It is a spirituality that reminds us that God speaks to us through prayer -- but also through our emotions, our minds, and our bodies. God can communicate through sexual intimacy, romantic love, and friendship. God can be found in Scripture and in the sacraments. God can show his love through your sister, your coworker, your spouse, your next-door neighbor, a teacher, a priest, a stranger, or a homeless person. Finding God in all things. And all people.

And through prompting a loving friend to give a book that leads someone back to the path she has wandered far from when she has lost her way. Just the way I experienced this morning and have recognized since God began calling me to him. Gosh darn it ... I think I have a Jesuit soul. For all the reasons I mentioned above, that ain't easy to admit, y'all!

For the first time in I don't know how long I was actually excited about prayer.

Go ahead, read the whole thing!


Blogger Julie D. said...

Glad you liked it Mark! :-)

6:14 PM  
Blogger Gashwin said...

Dagnabit -- I got a copy as a gift and forgot to bring it with me ... it's packed away in a box ... oh well ... I'll get to it soon enough. All I've heard is good things!

10:52 PM  

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