Monday, October 01, 2007

Ignatius of Loyola: A Spirituality for Our Time

The Messenger
Grace Episcopal Church, Madison NJ
October 2007

Ignatius of Loyola: A Spirituality for Our Time

One of the goals for my first few weeks at Grace was to be present for as many events as possible so that I could get a sense of the life and ministry of our church and to meet as many parishioners as I could. After three wonderful, busy weeks I can tell you in all sincerity – there is a lot going on at Grace Church! I have been so impressed and moved by the deep and costly commitment that many of you make to the ministries, committees and activities of this vibrant church. Whether we’re enjoying the Men’s Breakfast at the Bagel Chateau first thing on a Friday morning, praying the Daily Office in the morning or evening quiet, offering a Sunday afternoon service at a nursing home, or throwing a great party after an ordination, it’s clear that the Kingdom of God is being built here on Madison Avenue and King’s Road.

One of the lesser-known gems of Grace Church is the contemplative prayer group led by Mary Lea Crawley that meets in the Children’s Chapel at 9:15AM on Saturday mornings. After hectic weeks of starting a new job and moving to a new place I have found this practice of centering prayer to be an enormously valuable opportunity to get back in touch with God, who so often is best found and heard in silence. Of course, it is possible to practice centering prayer on your own, but there is something powerful in being present with others who are being mindful and attentive. I hope you will consider joining us on Saturday mornings.

I especially want to invite you to an expanded edition of contemplative prayer on Saturday, October 20. From 9:15AM to 1:00PM I will offer a “quiet day,” or a mini-retreat, on the spirituality of the Sixteenth Century mystic and founder of the Jesuits, Ignatius of Loyola, who is commemorated by the Episcopal Church on July 31. Some of you know that before entering seminary I taught at St. Peter’s Prep in Jersey City, New Jersey’s lone Jesuit high school – and also my alma mater. Although I was aware of Ignatius and the basic outline of his spirituality, it was only after I had left St. Peter’s that I became increasingly interested in Ignatian Sprituality. In my last semester at seminary I wrote my thesis on how two very different Jesuit high schools attempted to put Ignatian Spirituality into practice.

I am convinced that Ignatius offers a spirituality for our times and a spirituality particularly well-suited for busy people trying to juggle work, family, church and community responsibilities. Someone has summed up Ignatian Sprituality as “a spirituality for busy people.” What exactly is Ignatian Spirituality? Pedro Arrupe, who renewed the Jesuits in the mid-20th Century, described Ignatian Spirituality as “Constantly seeking the will of God.” In short, Ignatius was concerned with discernment. He believed that we could become aware of God’s love and will by reflecting on our own everyday experience and especially through the use of our imagination. And he believed that once we became aware of God’s love and will we would experience metanoia – a change of heart that would transform our lives.

There is much more to say about Ignatius and his spirituality so I hope you will join Mary Lea and me on October 20th for a day of prayer, learning, sharing and reflection. We will have a simple breakfast available. Please let me know if you’re coming or if you have any questions or comments.