Today is the feast day of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuit order. St. Ignatius believed that all should be “Ad majorem Dei gloria,” which translates to “For the greater glory of God.” You can check out the link at his name, or do your own search if you want to learn about the life Ignatius. It is actually a life worth learning about, if you ask me. However, today I wanted to write about some things that I have read about this saint, and (continue reading at the Times Union…)
If I am honest, I had a great retreat, but it – in true retreat form – it stripped me of my defenses. As a result, since I have returned, I feel like I am living at the intersection of ennui and acedia. No, I am not depressed, I know what that feels like and I am not there. Will I go there? Perhaps, but I am not worried. However, I will say that the corner at which I stand offers a view of that state!
Where I am now is a necessary place, however. I am reminded what it is like to depart from one spot, and to not yet have arrived at the next. It all has a vaguely Lenten quality to it, despite being in a different liturgical season. The heart has a hard time following a specific calendar.
God makes good use of this time if we pay attention. I heard that this morning when I read the first reading, from the prophet Jeremiah. What happens if we do not listen deeply to our God who longs to be close with us?
Today God asks Jeremiah to get a new loincloth, and to not put it in water (more about that in a minute), but directs him to wear it. Jeremiah complies. Then God tells Jeremiah to hide the loincloth in a rock, which he does. Ultimately when directed back to the rock, Jeremiah finds the loincloth rotted, which God then compares to his people, Israel.
The rotting is not the worst thing, is it? It is what we do with it that matters. I don’t think that I am “rotting” by the way, although others might disagree! Aren’t we all called to put on new self, and more than once in our lives? The life, death and resurrection of Jesus is a call to transformation. This is the work of a lifetime, not a one-time event. That three word saying comes to mind – change or die!
Yet change is the most difficult thing, isn’t it? Perhaps a call to change is at the heart of my state of being? Of course it is! What is God asking of me? What is God asking any of us? And whether we look at Jeremiah, or Jesus, or to pretty much anyone else in Scripture, change is the one constant request of God to God’s people. All I can do right now is to try to be still, functioning the best that I can, and try to be attentive – and obedient.
All of which is easier said than done…
Regarding putting the loincloth in water, this struck me powerfully today. It reminded me that to be baptized is to be baptized into death with Christ so that we might rise with Christ. This is deeply sacramental and it is about the sacramental call to a common life in the Lord Jesus. If we do not take that plunge and come out the other side, what happens? We are like some individual little cloth, tucked away safely in the notch of the rock, rotting away. Perhaps this is a stretch of a thought, but it is on my mind.
This is not a song, but it is a video worth sharing. In this week’s Gospel we hear about the loaves and the fishes, and I could not help but think of that very Gospel as I heard Father Ed Schmidt, SJ talk about food, waste and feeding people in our times. As he says himself, the Food Network is not where you would typically find a social teaching, but in typically Ignatian style (Father Schmidt is a Jesuit), he finds God “in all things.” (I also wanted to post a Jesuit video as the feast of St. Ignatius is coming up on July 31.)
The Tomie DePaola mural in the Chapel at the Dominican Retreat and Conference Center.
As you enter the driveway the sign has a subtitle that reads, “Solitude on a busy highway.” I enter and pull into a space near the front door. Entering with a number of other people, we are greeted warmly. After signing in, we open the door to our right and enter the sacred space.
The chapel is simple, yet it possesses a great call to quiet, deep places. Quietly slipping into our seats, we are waiting for the evening of prayer to begin. Sister Sue Zemgulis, OP lit the candles, and it was time. I sat quietly, falling into a place of prayer, helped by seeing the figures from the Tomie DePaola mural, all the Holy Women bearing witness. (Read about it here.)
One Thursday a month, the Dominican Retreat and Conference Center in Niskayuna offers Sung Vespers in the spirit of Taize. Despite having lived here for nearly 5 years, and having attended many events at the Retreat Center, I had never been to this Taize prayer service. That was to change this evening, accompanied by my great friend Sue Karpovich, ready for something that would touch my soul. I was not disappointed.
As we sat in the Chapel, Sister Sue began the prayer with some simple instructions. There were a number of people present, including some familiar faces. (I was delighted to see my friend, classmate and story-teller extraordinaire, Marni Gillard!) Sister Sue offered a beautiful reading from Brother Roger, he of blessed memory, founder of Taize. Then the prayers began, all in song and chant. It was an hour of heavenly peace. We all came together in this space, to sing and pray as one.
Sometimes in the midst of all the craziness, all it takes is an hour in a place close to home. We all think that we have to deserve some peace and freedom, or that we have to work for it, travel afar for it, or only find it in the most obscure and exotic places. Tonight I was on that busy highway in Niskayuna, I saw the sign, and I drove in feeling one way. An hour later, I departed, having found that solitude on a busy highway after all. What a gift!
Less a musing ,more of an invitation – to find your inner Iggy!
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Now we know that as Roman Catholics we are not to simply understand Scripture literally, but what are we to think?(See Dogmatic Constitution On Divine Revelation, DEI VERBUM, chapter III, item 12, paragraph 2.)
Are we to let go of every person and thing in our life?
In a sense, yes. And then – no.
I am no expert, far from it, but I think that God in God’s persistent and ardent pursuit of us, is trying to get our attention. If that means losing and letting go of every person and everything, God will ask that of us. That makes me think of Job, of course. This is all very hard to understand, but we are called to not understand alone, which is in our head – but we are called to live this way.
Today I begin the week thinking about what God truly asks of me… and what seems like my complete inability to comply with the least of it.
What about you? What have you heard, thought or believed about this?
Not a song today, but a trailer for a DVD (that looks quite interesting!) for a film about Kateri Tekawitha.
Today is the feast day for Blessed Kateri, soon to be Saint Kateri. She is a local saint for us and what great joy it is to see her cause progress as it has. Let us also pray for the newly merged parish of Blessed Kateri. The former St. Helen’s in Niskayuna and the former Our Lady of Fatima in Schenectady, are now merged as Blessed Kateri, under the pastoral leadership of Father Bob Longobucco.
Yes, I know, I have not been much of a blogger. First I was away, but then I came back, but I was still on vacation and kind of busy. Then it was time to return to work, and that pulled me. Also, I wanted to spend time doing things like reading, sleeping and actual (gasp!) exercise.
Plus, I feel like I have nothing to say! Which is very sad, as I read an amazing and provocative book when I was on retreat, and I have written most of my review of said book… but not finished it. I have several interview questions for the author of the book, but I have not really focused to get back on track.
We have some BIG things going on here with the fam, so that pulls me away. Nothing bad, just some things that pull at us, both physically and emotionally. We will be away this weekend as a result of this, so more non-writing time it seems.
I will be back – patience, please!
Each day is remarkably like the one before it, and the one after it. Rising bell rings at 5:15am, loud dinging and donging, reminiscent of something from convent in the The Sound of Music. Lauds starts at 5:50am, with the words that begin the day; “Lord open my lips, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.“
6:50 is Terce, followed by mass at 7am. Sext is at noon, the midday meal follows, with our major meal of the day coming out at about 12:20. None at 3pm, Vespers and rosary at 4:40, a light supper at 6:15. The day rounds out with Compline and Office of Readings at 8pm. Then, the Great Silence – until the next day at 5:50am.
Such is life at the Monastery of Our Lady of Grace, in N. Guilford, Connecticut.
The days blend together, but not in a blur. One loses a sense of what day it is, guided by bells, prayer, nature and rhythms of life. With no television, no radio, no internet to distract me, I drift off. Sleeping and waking, bells, prayer and walks.
There is some talking – I converse with other retreatants at mealtime. There was one person the first day, then I was on my own for the weekend, which was selfishly wonderful. On Monday someone new came – a lovely woman. On Tuesday, a real treat, a friend from the monastery from 17 years ago reappears! Providence and grace!
There were two conversations with sisters, who do try to keep silence. Sister Mary Ann, the prioress, is someone who has had a profound influence on my life and I have not seen her in 17 years. We have a tearful, joyful reunion! I also spent a bit of time with Sister Susan, who I used to visit with periodically.
It is most interesting to see what happens when you spend a week in relative silence. It changes everything. While I can’t always get away for a week of it, it was an overdue retreat, so a week was necessary.
Do you feel like you have silence in your life? Do you feel like you need silence?
While I love to talk about silence, I have not done a good job of nurturing it in my life. The retreat was a big help and I hope to maintain more quiet in my life – which is time spent with God.
Here is how Night Prayer, or Compline would end each night, with the Domincan Salve Maria and another Dominican chant, O Lumen Ecclesiae, which is a prayer for St. Dominic.