Archives for posts with tag: IIC 2013

How can we live our brokenness?  Jesus invites us to embrace our brokenness as he embraced the cross and live it as part of our mission.  He asks us not to reject our brokenness as a curse from God that reminds us of our sinfulness but to accept it and put it under God’s blessing for our purification and sanctification.  Thus our brokenness can become a gateway to new life. Henri Nouwen

I found this quote today in my inbox. Living my brokenness. I face it every day right now, a physical brokenness, from within, with a severe osteoporosis discovered these past weeks. Suddenly, life has changed, a new life which, strangely, I am welcoming.

As our weeks in Manresa came to an end, it dawned on me that the Christian path was for each one of us to become Christ-like, cruciform, Christic, i.e. to follow Jesus in his self-emptying, on a day-to-day basis. As St Paul said:

Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Phil. 2:7-8

As our immersion into Ignatius’ world came to a close, I sensed, from the Mystagogy (mystical understanding) of the Spiritual Exercises to the cosmic vision revealed at the end, that “I was called to a Christic [self-emptying] pilgrimage, in the company of Ignatius, my family and friends, and Ignatian companions — with the hope of helping some souls on the way.”

During the Course, as I followed Ignatius’ life and work, I started to comprehend how he saw, experienced, and followed Christ. It became obvious that to join Christ in his building of the Kingdom, I too needed to let myself be emptied, to die to myself [however one does this]. I was to accept kenosis, the ‘self-emptying’ of one’s own will and becoming entirely receptive to God’s divine will. (Wikipedia)

A call to kenosis… I have no idea of what this call entails. Is this madness?

‘The Spirit is the vulnerability of Godde; we too are invited to be vulnerable,’ our lecturer, George, told us. I had never thought of Godde as vulnerable, but in fact this is the way She is with us, ever hoping we will turn back to her; this is the way Jesus was, going to the end of his logic of compassion and self-giving…

This vulnerability, Godde’s or ours, comes in so many flavors,  colors, shapes, and ways. Challenges at work, heartbreaks with loved ones, health issues, sudden unexpected and unwanted changes and, finally, aging.

Hasn’t Ignatius taught us to say,

“Take, Lord, and receive my liberty, my memory, my understanding and my entire will. All that I am and possess. You gave it all to me. Now I return it all to you: Do with it as you wish. Just give me your grace and your love, that is enough for me.”

Godde’s grace and love is such an enormous gift. How can anyone say, ‘Just’ give me…

Vulnerability, or brokenness, has come to me this time with a physical illness, hidden in my spine. How fortunate I am to discover this now, when there are ways of taking care of it! Still, doctors have prescribed for me to do ‘nothing.’ I find and express so much of what I am in what I do…

With every challenge comes a grace. The grace which comes immediately to my mind is the ability to notice all those around me who are suffering, often much more than I do.

I like to remember that our vulnerability, our suffering, and our brokenness are scooped up in Teilhard de Chardin’s Mass on the World:

Over every living thing which is to spring up, to grow, to flower, to ripen during this day say again the words: This is my Body. And over every death-force which waits in readiness to corrode, to wither, to cut down, speak again your commanding words which express the supreme mystery of faith: This is my Blood.

Henri Nouwen, from his own experience, tells us that our brokenness, with its purifying and sanctifying impact, can become a gateway to new life. A new life, a new understanding, a new freedom.

May it be so.

Art: Mary Southard, It Takes A Universe

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In the week preceding our eight-day retreat in Manresa, we were given a sapiential [from sapientia, wisdom] reading of both Ignatius’ Autobiography and Spiritual Diary. We were to read these two documents in a contemplative manner, as archetypal stories, in which we can recognize our own.

Let us take the battle of Pamplona (30 May 1521). Iñigo de Loyola is just thirty, a brave courtier and soldier who has just convinced his captain to fight off with a few dozen men hundreds of French soldiers. He is wounded in the leg, badly. He is so courageous in the face of adversity that his enemies pay him homage and carry him back on a litter to his castle in the Basque country (it took the men two weeks to reach their goal — an agony for the young man). Inigo who had not given up his dream to be a great courtier does not like the way his leg has been set and has it broken again. Alone in his room, with nothing to do, he asks his sister-in-law, who’s been raising him from the age of 7 till 14 when he left to become a page, to give him something to read. Two books can be found in the house: one on chivalry (fiction) and a life of the saints.

What happened is well-known: he read both books, at first preferring the one on chivalry, which led him to daydream about feats and conquering the heart of a particular noble lady. Then the life of the saints appealed more to him. After a while, he found out that he felt much happier after daydreaming about becoming a saint than being a proud soldier winning his lady’s heart. [It turns out, by the way, that Inigo had been quite a ladies’ man, which he will continue to be all of his life, really. From a ladies’ man to a ladies’ spiritual guide.]

The cannonball changed Iñigo’s life, from a valiant soldier to a limping pilgrim saint. His days at the Court became part of the past; his journey with Jesus started on his bed in Loiola and finished in the Gesu, in Rome, with thousands of miles walked back and forth up and down Europe in-between. During his weeks recovering in his father’s home, his mind went from the Court of the King to the Kingdom of Godde. Regressing to former days, progressing to where he was meant to go.

A question which was given to each one of us during our Immersion Course was: what is the cannonball which shattered my dreams? What grace came out of it? What are the old me and the new me (my words)? Am I progressing or regressing?

Ignatius’ genius is that he was able to notice Godde’s work in his life, to reflect upon it, write about it, and help others with it.

As I reflect upon my life, I notice several cannonballs really. The first one being undoubtedly my father’s death when I was 16. This drastically changed my life’s direction. Every major drama ever since did the same, till I find myself here today…

The other major dream of Ignatius was to go to Jerusalem, live where Jesus had lived, and save souls there. First, the Franciscans did not allow him to stay. Then, life put one obstacle after another on his path. But he understood his need to study to become acceptable (and less scary) to the Church authorities. After many years of studies, he reached his own Jerusalem, which turned out to be Rome, where he did save souls, there and everywhere else where he had developed friendships. He also trained companions to help souls and founded the Society of Jesus.

What is my Jerusalem? That ultimate beautiful goal that cannot be but which morphs into another goal, so different and similar to that original one.

What is your Jerusalem?

All of this just for you to ponder. As I do keep pondering…

One with you in the Risen Christ.

Photo: Ignatius at the Battle of Pamplona

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For all these years that I have done my best to apply Ignatian spirituality in daily life, I have only done the review of the day in an erratic manner, sometimes for quite a stretch at a time.

In some places it is called the Review of the Day, in others the Consciousness Examen and, long ago apparently, it was known as the Examination of Conscience. All this ends up being rather confusing. Leaving conscience and consciousness aside as I am not sure of their exact definition, I will use the expression the Review of the Day.

While in Manresa, a little book was very strongly recommended to us: Discovering Your Personal Vocation: The Search for Meaning Through the Spiritual Exercises (Herbert Alfonso, SJ, Sheila Fabricant Linn, Matthew Linn and Dennis Linn). I liked it very much: it is truly a gem.

If I understand the book correctly, Godde has created me with a vocation in mind, not so much something to ‘do’, but someone to ‘be’. I will know who I am meant to be by finding out that which gives me life, that which makes me sparkle with enthusiasm and energy. One way to find this out is to review my day and to identify those moments when my heart expanded or closed down (my words).

Among other things, Herbert Alfonso explains that Godde comes to me in all sorts of ways to shower me with love. It’s up to me to recognize those daily gifts. It’s through them that I will find out who I am meant to be. Of course, there are also moments in my life which hurt me, scare me, anger me. Times of shadows, Sacred Space would say.

From what I have learned during the eight-day retreat in Manresa, my ‘false self’ moves in the shadows, and my ‘true self’ recognizes Godde (my words again). I will write about these two selves at a later time.

My current review of the day is also the outcome of a Morning Prayer given by a sunny Australian man early on in the Course. As he lead us through his reflection, I was struck by his idea of picking out one good moment and one bad moment out of the day; then to lift each one of them in prayer.

At the end of the day then, I sit comfortably with my notebook and a pen. I turn my mind to Godde, who loves me beyond belief and reason, and I review my day. All those gifts through which She came to hug me: the birds chirping, a friend’s unexpected call, my grandson sending me a short video, a newscast on the radio or an article online, an errand I suddenly decide to do and the positive feeling I am left with. I also look for these moments when my inner sky got clouded, windy, and unfriendly.

At that point, I pick one moment of each kind, and I lift that moment to Godde, using that prayer to talk to Her and share the moment for which I thank Her and for which I need Her help. One result which comes out of this: my scary times are getting less scary. I don’t feel alone with them any longer.

Since I spend some time with Godde in the morning as well, my day begins and ends with a time with Godde. Slowly, I’m learning again to be open and honest with Her. I am trusting Godde, which feels new to me.

In Her name.

Photo: Sky in viejo San Juan