There is lots of exciting new work going on in the Society of Jesus these days, and I have been blessed to be part of one piece of it this summer. The project is called “Hearts on Fire,” a series of mini-retreats given across the midwest by a team of six young Jesuits. The focus of the retreat is helping young adults to live their Christian faith in daily life. We have adapted some elements of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius in what we hope is a catchy, inspiring way. The two days include Eucharistic adoration, confessions, talks, discussion groups, contemplation, and even musical entertainment. We have completed two retreats already, and are looking forward to the last three. Pictures and more information are below the fold.
There are two central things that we hope people take away from the weekend. One is a spirit of loving dependence on Jesus. This comes especially through an introduction to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuits. Ignatius was driven to help people recognize just how dependent we are on the love and mercy of God. His methods of prayer, including using our imaginations to place ourselves in Gospel scenes with Jesus, are designed to give us a greater sense of just how we find the answer to all of our hopes and dreams in the love of Christ.
The other central take-away is some practical advice for making this faith in Jesus real in our daily lives. We do this through an effort known as the Apostleship of Prayer. Many people are part of this effort without even knowing about it, because, in its most basic form, it is the Morning offering, made famous in Catholic grade schools around the world. Here is a modern form of the prayer:
God, our Father, I offer you my day. I offer you my prayers, thoughts, words, actions, joys, and sufferings in union with the Heart of Jesus, who continues to offer himself in the Eucharist for the salvation of the world. May the Holy Spirit, who guided Jesus, be my guide and my strength today so that I may witness to your love. With Mary, the mother of our Lord and the Church, I pray for all the Apostles of Prayer, and for the prayer intentions proposed by the Holy Father this month. Amen.
In its essence, the prayer is very simple – I unite my heart with the heart of Jesus, by offering to Him every aspect of my day. In that simplicity, there are all sorts of beautiful levels of meaning.
One is the living of the Eucharist: just as Jesus has offered himself for us and to us in the Eucharist, we now attempt to give our little offering, taking our whole lives into our hands and presenting it back to the Lord. Our lives can become Eucharistic, a thanksgiving offering back to the Father, in union with Jesus.
Another profound level is that in the heart of Christ, we can stand united in prayer with everyone else around the world who makes the same offering every day. The prayer I reprinted above calls these people “Apostles of Prayer,” or, in other words, those whom the Lord has called to be his witnesses through their prayers.
This unity with other believers leads ultimately to our union in the Church, which has one earthly focus, among others, in the Pope’s mission. Pope Benedict XVI continues to offer each month two intentions that he asks all Christians to join him in offering to God. This month of June 2010, we pray for the defense of human life from conception to natural death, and for the Church in Asia.
Through these two ideas, of loving dependence on God, and of offering every moment of our day in union with Jesus, we hope our faith can grow a little stronger!
The photos here are from our first retreat, in Milwaukee, WI. July 9-10 we will be in Columbus, OH; July 16-17, in Chicago; July 23-24, in Des Moines. I hope some WD readers can come out to join us!
For more info, check out the following: