Pray without ceasing…

December 16, 2011

Ever wonder how one could possibly fulfill Paul’s directive to the Thessalonians to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17)?  I have, and I’ve also been asked by students how one manages such a feat.  (Does sleeping count?)

Apparently St. Augustine wondered the same thing because he gives a nice interpretation of the phrase in today’s Office of Readings, which I thought worth sharing.  His answer struck me as rather “Ignatian,” in the sense that Ignatian discernment trains us to be attentive to our desires and where they’re leading us.  And our desire for the coming of Christ is one of the great undercurrents of this quietly joyful season of Advent.

So here he is, the ever-profound, ever-insightful St. Augustine:

[T]he desire of your heart is itself your prayer.  And if the desire is constant, so is your prayer.  The Apostle Paul had a purpose in saying:  Pray without ceasing.  Are we then ceaselessly to bend our knees, to lie prostrate, or to lift up our hands?  Is this what is meant in saying:  Pray without ceasing?  Even if we admit that we pray in this fashion, I do not believe that we can do so all the time.

Yet there is another, interior kind of prayer without ceasing, namely, the desire of the heart.  Whatever else you may be doing, if you but fix your desire on God’s Sabbath rest, your prayer will be ceaseless.  Therefore, if you wish to pray without ceasing, do not cease to desire…

AL, SJ

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Ignatius, civility, and Annotation 22

October 10, 2011

Last year I wrote a post arguing for a link between civility and truth; the reason we should speak with civility in the blogosphere or anywhere else is because doing so helps us to find the truth.  Understanding this connection helps us to spot those rare occasions in which a false civility actually stands in the way of the truth.

After observing some of the contentious turns discussion on Whosoever Desires has taken this month, I thought a return to this theme might be in order.  St. Ignatius had a few thoughts on the subject, many of which are as useful today as they were 400 years ago.

First, a bit of background.  Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises are a manual for giving retreats, which the saint composed over many years based on his experiences of prayer and spiritual conversation.  The first part of the manual contains “annotations” or instructions for the person conducting the retreat.  “Annotation 22” is one of the best known; in fact, it’s quoted in the Catechism (#2478)—which suggests that its implications for Christian life go well beyond retreats.

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Guilt & Gratitude

February 14, 2011

One of the pleasures of my time at Loyola has been getting to know some particularly thoughtful undergraduates who are living their faith with enthusiasm in a culture that is, to say the least, not always supportive.  I had an interesting conversation with a few of these students two weeks ago, in which one of them expressed regret that she did not spend more time volunteering.  In fact she said, “I feel guilty for not doing more.”

Now the young woman in question is a model Christian—generous, open-minded, and joyful.  (She also makes excellent soup.)  She does so much for others that I’m often tempted to ask her where she has managed to find days with more than 24 hours.  So the word “guilt” coming from her surprised me.

The conversation got me thinking about two things—the role of guilt in Christian life and the various pressures young people feel to volunteer.

“Catholic guilt” is, of course, a familiar trope in literature and pop culture, even if, for those of my generation, the idea now seems somewhat quaint.  As our sense of sin has evaporated, so too our sense of guilt—or so, at least, I thought until my conversation of a few weeks ago. Read the rest of this entry »


Jesuit daily reflections

September 21, 2010

There are a growing number of good resources for Ignatian spirituality on the web, and I discovered a new one today, daily reflections sponsored by the Magis Institute.  Today’s reflection was written by my good friend Joe Simmons, SJ, who was a part of the Jesuit Mission Band mentioned earlier on these pages.

I admit, I love the painting too.

I have heard Jesuits preach about Caravaggio’s famous painting, “The Calling of St. Matthew,” for the past four years now.  Are all Jesuits this unoriginal, or is there something especially compelling about this painting that speaks to the heart of the sons of St. Ignatius?
Michelangelo Caravaggio depicts a gaunt Jesus pointing at Matthew, who is seated around a table of well-dressed tax collectors in a shady customs post.  An oblique ray of light cuts through the darkness just above Jesus’ pointed finger.  The light bathes Matthew’s face, which betrays a look of tempered surprise – “surely, not I Lord,” he seems to say.  Matthew knows he is not a wholly worthy disciple of Jesus – look at the company he keeps and the life he lives, after all!  And yet there is Christ, pointing at him and summoning, “follow me.”

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The Hope of St. Peter Canisius

December 21, 2009

+AMDG+

St. Peter Canisius, SJ (1521-1597), whose feast the universal Church celebrates today, is perhaps the most prosaic saint of the Catholic Church.  He passed his adult life trudging from town to town, stoking the smoldering embers of the Catholic faith throughout Western Europe.  Indeed, the continuing presence of the Catholic faith in both Austria and Bavaria owes much to his tireless labors: he founded 18 colleges, wrote 37 books, published a catechism that went through 200 printings, and threw himself into preaching and administration of the sacraments.

One aspect of St. Peter’s life that I continue to find comforting is the great spiritual harvest that God accomplished through his mediocre talent. Read the rest of this entry »