When I embarked on the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius in Daily Life (aka Annotation 19) nearly twenty years ago, asking for a grace before entering the time of prayer was one of the first things I learned.
In The Ignatian Adventure: Experiencing the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius in Daily Life, Father Kevin O’Brien SJ explains
Ask God to be with you in this time of prayer. In words that flow naturally, make a simple offering of your time, attention, and energies. For example, Ignatius suggests one such preparatory prayer: Ask God our Lord for the grace that all my intentions, actions, and operations may be ordered purely to the service and praise of the Divine Majesty. (SE 46) (Kindle Locations 286-288).
The grace I ask usually depends on the passage I am to pray, while being often related to Jesus Christ: how I want to grow to love Him, to follow Him, to understand Him. What fruits do I want to receive from this moment spent in His company.
When time comes to close my prayer, I chat with Jesus, both telling him what I have understood and taking time to listen. Sometimes, it is just a question of spending a silent moment in His presence.
Before I get up to start my day, I jot down a few notes on what went on during this moment with Christ, whether I was moved to tears, felt bored or threatened, what was said… I also check whether I received the grace I asked for.
The grace asked for also evolves with the flow of one’s life. I have seen friends asking for a grace directly relevant to their life, whether a difficulty with a boss, a family situation, or a health problem.
Paul, my husband, and I have developed a morning prayer which has changed over time. At first, we read the daily mass at the kitchen table and prayed for family members and friends. Before reading, we always asked for a grace — a grace for that day. Now we first spent time praying on our own. Then we get together and share our respective understanding (usually strikingly different) of the passages.
I used to like to ask for the grace to live in harmony with Godde’s will, to live in the Spirit, or to live in the presence of Godde. Sometimes, when I feel tired, I asked Godde to carry me to the goal post. There are as many graces as there are situations really.
At night, before I fall asleep, I check whether I received the grace I asked for in the morning. So often, I do. A sort of trust in Godde has developed over time, a connection being formed between Godde and me. [I do believe Godde is connected to me always. I’m the one who strays…]
These days, I have developed a health condition: I find myself with osteoporosis and it is going to take me a while to adjust to being shorter, brittle, and getting tired more easily. I will learn to live in a new way. As D’Arcy says in Pride and Prejudice, “I will conquer this.”
Discovering the extent of osteoporosis was a shock. At times I feel scared. For the time being it is curtailing my mobility. I am accustomed to doing a lot: at this point, I can only do little.
Browbeating myself for not having watched out for it earlier is tempting. I should have known better. But this is about the past, a past which I cannot change. If I look into the future, my mind goes straight to the worst case scenario. The safest place really is now. Now where Godde is.
At this point, every morning I ask for the same grace: joy, health and strength.
Joy, because one can be joyful in dire circumstances; joy is a grace that transforms despondency into hope, fear into courage. With joy, the world is luminous with Godde’s presence.
Health feels like a far-fetched dream; with prayer, courage and perseverance, however, it may be attained [friends in similar situations did succeed this way].
And strength comes from holding Godde’s hand at all times and praying Our Lady of Montserrat every time I think of Her. Strength also comes, of course, from messages from my family and friends.
From my days in Manresa, by the way, I have gained new friends: Ignatius and his Companions. Thanks to our lecturers, these men who lived long ago all have become real to me. I call on them for inspiration, for companionship, for support. I am in wonder and awe at feeling surrounded at times by 16th century Jesuit priests, all younger than I am.
You may want to start the day asking for a grace. Be as honest as you can with your needs. Do you need more hugs in your life? Ask for them. [Godde’s hugs feel out-of-this world.] Are you in need of hope? Ask for it. Godde never finds us silly. Everything’s all right with her. At the end of the day, check where, when, and with whom, your grace came through. You will be surprised.
One with you in Cosmic Christ.
Photo: Ignatius of Loyola