Sunday, January 27, 2008

Ignatian Meditation for Dummies

Well, I'm back from the abyss! After a week's preparation and a weekend's frenetic activity, the "Associates' Weekend" has come to a close. I was privileged to plan and prepare dinner, dessert, and brunch for 18 guests this weekend in addition to having to cook this week's Sunday dinner. I had to do an extra load of laundry as my clothes had begun to smell of pancakes, grilled steak, and bacon!

On a more edifying note, it was my honor to have been asked to present a little presentation on "Ignatian Meditation" to the Associates (guys discerning a vocation with the Society of Jesus). I've decided to offer to you what I gave to them.

Two prefatory notes:

1. This is meant as an Introduction. It'll probably not be helpful to those with a great deal of experience.

2. Ignatian meditation is counter-intuitive to many of us. Mommies and Daddies should actually have the easiest time, I reckon, with this sort of prayer. Why? Because they have watched their children "assume" roles: Harry Potter, Spiderman, Dora. Ignatian Meditation asks that you enter into the story of scripture, that you become a part of the action. It engages the imagination...a faculty that we "modern" folk seem to have abandoned.

My advice for this prayer: be a child again. Let the wonder and excitement of taking on a new character, of 'putting on' another, captivate you. Allow this naivete open you to the movement of the Spirit, enkindling your heart.

Points for Ignatian Meditation

1. Find a quiet place to pray. This may be in your room, a chapel, your office with its door closed.

2. Establish a sense of inner peace and tranquility. Let the cares and concerns of the moment slip away. Sometimes reciting a decade of the Rosary or a favorite prayer from memory will help to ease you into the prayer.

3. As you relax into God's presence, take a moment to greet the Lord. Ask God to give you the grace to see what God desires for you.

4. Slowly read a passage from scripture. Get a sense of its geography and flow. Is there something that stands out to you?

5. Read it again. Is there something in particular that is touching your heart - either enlivening or frightening you?

6. Now be a child: place yourself in the scene. Are you a main character? A spectator? Think about the following:

1. What are you wearing?
2. What are the sights? Smells? Textures? Sounds?
3. What is going on around you?
4. Who else is there? Do you recognize those around you?

7. Surrender to the story. Interact with your surrounding, allow yourself to be guided by the Spirit as you speak and engage with others.

8. Do not try to control the prayer. Surrender! Let the Spirit guide you.

9. How are you feeling? Is your "heart on fire?"

10. As you bring your prayer to a close, perhaps you might take a few minutes to speak to the Lord about your experience. Be candid - tell God what/how you have felt.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Let me be passive-aggressive for a moment

I have read with much interest the dismay expressed by several bloggers over the election of our new general. I must admit: I don't understand it because, by all accounts, he is a wonderful man of prayer and service and will be an excellent leader for the Society. One of my Jesuit heros - a man who offers the model of the type of Jesuit I aspire to become - has said that this is the best possible choice for General.

For those who worry about the Society's concern for justice:

Christian belief is not merely concerned, as one might at first suspect from all the talk of belief or faith, with the eternal, which as the "entirely Other" would remain completely outside the human world and time; on the contrary, it is much more concerned with God in history, with God as man. By thus seeming to bridge the gulf between eternal and temporal, between visible and invisible, by making us meet God as a man, the eternal as the temporal, as one of us, it understands itself as revelation.
Not too shabby, I'd say. But coming from the Holy Father's Introduction to Christianity this may come as a shock to some (page 54, if you want to check).

My point is this: the Holy Father recognizes the importance of the temporal order. He's an Augustinian thinker --- read City of God book XIX if you should like. "Revelation" is not some book that comes floating down on a pink cloud; rather, it is an encounter IN HISTORY that calls for the response of faith.

The Society of Jesus realizes, much to the chagrin of many, that "Revelation" is not a series of propositions. It is an encounter (Jn 1:18 - Jesus makes known the Father. It is through an encounter with Christ that we have come to know God....he didn't give us a Summa or a list of "Top-10 Things About God." The Holy Father presses on this point, also on page 54). The difficulty with encounter is that it is refracted through the lenses of history. We struggle, as many love to point out, but the fact of the matter is that we're discerning how God is inviting us to respond today.

I have a lot to say on this issue, but I fear that I'll get carried away. I'm excited for this new General and I hope that my readers will join me in my prayers for him. In my experience of the leadership of the Society - and I know quite a few delegates - they are all men of deep prayer and discernment. I would not be so bold as to question the guidance of the Holy Spirit in these matters and, frankly, I'm horrified by the number of bloggers who think they know better than the Spirit. There are not a few out there who could do well to close their mouths and fold their hands and do some praying rather than prattling.

Saturday, January 19, 2008


The New Superior General of the Society of Jesus:

Father Adolfo Nicolás, SJ
Spanish-Born head of the Jesuit Conference of East Asia
and Oceania

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

I have no shame

As many readers know, I often write about my own struggles with weight and how, when I was in high school, I attended Weight Watchers. I've never posted a "Before" picture so here is one taken just a month before I started attending meetings:

Back to Classes

Right outside my window, workers are hammering and digging and sawing and pounding. They have been doing so since a little after 6:00 am. I'm glad that I get up at 5:30 am each day, but this racket is terribly distracting. The dust kicked up by their construction is putting a strain on my Sharper Image Air Filter and I'm having to clean it every other day. 

For newcomers, let me offer a little salvo about studies. My present mission as a Jesuit is to study philosophy and theology here at Fordham University. My mission includes as well ministerial or apostolic engagements: I take students to various Masses throughout the metropolitan area and I teach the tin whistle. The past two semesters I was an instructor in the Irish Studies department where I taught Introduction to the Irish Tin Whistle. At heart, however, I am a student and I am again with a full set of courses this semester.

So what am I taking?
  1. Classical Modern Philosophy. We focus on Descartes, Hume, Locke, Spinoza, etc.
  2. Intro to Thomas Aquinas. Title says it all.
  3. Social Analysis. This is an inter-disciplinary seminar that helps to foster a reflective attitude and analytic skill set that we can bring to ministry. 
  4. German for Reading Knowledge. 

I'm enjoying things so far. My classes are actually spaced in such a way that I have free time to do reading and studying during the week. Last semester my classes seemed to be spaced awkwardly such that I never had a free afternoon...although, with the awful noise outside, I don't know that I'll get much work done in the afternoons, at least not in my room.

So that's all for now. Nothing neat or cool has happened thus far. I'm anxious for the election of the new General of the Society of Jesus and, post-election, I'll have more to post!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Sound Ordinance?

Right outside my window, a back-hoe has been running since 5:30 this morning. Actually, they were out there at 5:30 and they started this enormously loud machine at 6:30. So I've been up since 5:30. Don't they have sound ordinances that protect normal people who like to sleep until, oh, say 7:00 am?

ANYWAY, we're now back from our Vow Renewal Retreat held at Inisfada. I feel refreshed and renewed and excited for the new semester. I have a bit of work to do before classes begin on Monday, but I reckon things will get sorted soon enough.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Prayer Request

I would ask that you keep the Society of Jesus in your prayers as they begin the 35th General Congregation. This is an important event in the life of the Church: a new leader of the nearly 20,000 member Society of Jesus will be elected. You can follow the proceedings on a page maintained at Creighton University.

Morning Offering
with Prayer for GC 35

God, our Father,
I wish to respond to your love
in all I will do today.
I offer you my prayers, thoughts, words,
actions, and sufferings
in union with your Son Jesus Christ,
who continues to offer himself in the Eucharist
for the salvation of the world.

I pray for the Society of Jesus
preparing to celebrate
its 35th General Congregation,
bringing together Jesuits from all over the world.

May the Holy Spirit, who guided Jesus,
guide them to your Son’s Heart
so that they may love and serve you in all things
to your greater glory and honor.

With Mary,
the mother of our Lord and of the Church,
I pray especially for this month's intentions
as proposed by the Holy Father.

Flute playing priest finds YouTube fame