An Ignatian approach to Letting my Sons Grow

Photo by Linda Douglas, Ripley Ohio

Photo by Linda Douglas, Ripley Ohio

To those of you who have ever followed the suggestion to take a difficult life transition and pray over it: Have you ever done just that, only to be left with the feeling of being even more exposed and mixed up than when you sat down with your (now luke warm) coffee?

That’s what happened for me just now.
Morgan and Theo gift

Rather than the familiar: “golly gee, thanks God, that was a nice little hug” type of reflection, I ended up with an unwound ball of yarn pile of emotions. I started with an Ignatian reflection by Maryanne Rouse (Creighton University, College of Business) and followed her suggestion to imagine I am a part of the first reading in today’s Catholic Lectionary.

Here is what she wrote:

Can you imagine–40 days of face to face conversation with God? That is the experience of Moses, according to today’s First Reading. We don’t know who was speaking more of the time–God or Moses? The conversation transpired behind a closed tent. What we are told is that at the end of this time, Moses comes out with the “words of the covenant,” the Ten Commandments in hand.

This First Reading cries out to be addressed with Ignatian Contemplation prayer, that is, the form of prayer that Ignatius did not invent, but popularized in the Spiritual Exercises. Imagination is a key tool.

To enter into this form of prayer, you need to set aside thoughts that you are not imaginative, that God cannot speak to you through this tool as God does through other tools, e.g. thought, feelings, senses, to name a few.

First, read the entire text, Exodus 33: 7-11; 34: 5-9. 28. Next place yourself in the scene: What do you see? What can you hear? Smell? Feel? Taste? Maybe not so much to taste in this story, though you may be aware that this entire time, Moses neither ate nor drank anything.

Then rewind the story in your mind after inserting yourself into it. When I have prayed this, I have found myself taking the part of a serving girl, totally left out of the action and not happy… Next step: what might God want to say to me through my place in this story?

I tried imagining myself as several different people – I was Moses, the wife of Moses, a pregnant mom, a too old to be pregnant mom…no matter how I read it though…I was a mom, and my son was going off to try to understand what instructions God was giving him.

Behind my closed eyes, no matter how my imagination sliced and diced the scenes, these plans involved travel for him and none for me. For days on end there would be no communication with my son the pilgrim. By allowing myself to imagine this as the time of Moses and young Joshua (an assistant to Moses) a good old-fashioned pile of letters wasn’t even coming forth.

It was me, a dusty tent, and a bunch of stars with no answers while the rest of the campsite snorted and snored the night away.

This all happened in ten minutes of prayer. Fertile imaginations are not necessarily something to envy if you struggle to let your mind wander.

After making some Eggos for our 11 year old, I went back at the reflection for another five minutes or so. It was like the maddening experience I’m having with one of our computers: we turn it on, it boots up, then boots itself back down…then, brrrzzsssuuuppt beePbEEp…it boots back up in an endless loop without ever actually starting up.

Same images, same tears, same not knowing where my kid is or what Moses is telling him to go off and do with his life.

Internet access denied, quick and easy answers unattainable.

On one hand, I didn’t need 30 minutes of tearful prayer to know that I am having trouble coping with the fact that my son, the one whose personality tends to mimic mine, is looking at colleges that are eight hours away. As in, he is waking up this morning in a hotel with his dad and is right now on campus with energetic and brilliant tour guides. As I sit here and type, a young Jesuit scholar is chirping away about how great life became as soon as he left his weeping mother, and for the first time in his boring life, he discovered the depths of his being and mind in the hallowed halls of the University of ForgetToCallHome.

I’m exaggerating. I could not be more excited for this kid. He is bored. He has been bored in school for a very long time, and I’ve been saying forever that college will be his time to shine and let that intellect of his go hog-wild.

Sunrise on the Ohio River, Ripley Ohio

Sunrise on the Ohio River, Ripley Ohio

So, that’s what I’m up to this morning. If you too are feeling jagged emotions that are about letting go, I’d recommend a beautiful song by Kate Rusby called “Underneath the Stars”.

It is making me feel better able to sit with the unknown. What choice do we have anyway?

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A Post from Last Summer about Tired Hands

What a lucky couple of finds amongst a shoulder full of Monday confusions.

1: A photo from last fall that I took in the morning, but to me, looks like a setting sun:

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2: A couple of minutes to re-read a poem I found last summer. This summer I am reading the poem from the perspective of an American Sign Language (ASL) student. I hope to reboot my skills in a month or so, and for one reason and another, I re-read this poem from a Jesuit point of view. This time, the speaker in the poem became Jesus, and the hands became those of an ASL interpreter WannaBe.

Here is a link to the poem by Erin Bertram. It’s an encouraging poem. Hope the same is true for you.

Here’s a link to a Free Jesuit Retreat

There is a great summer resource out there for those who want toCaringAndCourageousKids website, part of bday project reconnect or be introduced to the Society of Jesus prayer structure that comes from St. Ignatius.

In my case, I’ve packed my July with hopes and to-do’s because I am hopeful that another teaching job will come our way when school opens again on August 12.

Therefore, I’m on the speedy (15 minutes or so a day), reconnect tour of reading a few sentences or paragraphs about the spiritual exercises of Ignatius. The plan is to grab a quick break each day of this July.

Here is the link: http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/31-days-with-saint-ignatius/

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My husband and I both have emotional and spiritual ties to the Jesuits by way of The Milford (Ohio) Retreat Center and Xavier University (Cincinnati, Ohio). We’ve both dreamt of a month alone at a retreat house on silent retreat.

At which point the laundry dryer sound goes off or a basketball hits the side of the house and we are reminded that our current life phase is in no way monastic.

And,
the first fifteen minutes of this online mini retreat included the suggestion that with each basketball slam, or burned hamburger, we could choose to just think or say,”God is here.”

Have a great day and weekend, talk to you on Monday,

~ Kate

p.s. The tree photo is from a Facebook page I follow called “Caring and Couragous Kids,” a site that advocates healthy name calling.

Worried Wednesday: My Promise for Maurice and a Post from Brother Bob

Belief:

Holy Moses. This day took some turns and now my plan for an hour or two to write a post is down to about twenty minutes.

So here are some rambled thoughts…

Maurice Sendak is, simply wonderful. Please join me, if you want to anyway, in praying for him. Pray for anything. His health. His life. His death. (I know that he’s a bit elderly, but doing well in the health department last I heard). His family. His career. His legacy.

Or, pray for his fans. Which would be me.

I made a decision today after spending a long time studying a traveling display at a local library that is about his work as a children’s author. I knew a lot of what I read about his books, and how great that I learned quite a lot more!

The decision?

I am going to write him the most beautiful and heartfelt fan mail that he has ever received. Well, since 1989 anyway, which is when I wrote him last.

I’m not sure how I’ll put this into letter form but I want to tell him that since hearing an NPR interview with him last fall, I’ve prayed for him several times that his final chapter in life is the sweetest one ever. This isn’t how death always goes, but I want it to be a smooth slide none the less.

I’m also going to ask him to pray for a particular intention for me.

And, I’m going to promise to pray for his brother Jack during this Lenten season. Not sure at all why or what that will mean to him as a Jew, but it doesn’t matter. I didn’t know he had a brother Jack, and now I know that he does, or did, and I’m going to pray for the guy.

And trust:

I read a great post this morning about surrender, which by the way is what I have always loved about Sendak’s work. It is so joyful. Honest and joyful in the end.

The post was from a blog on my reading list that has gotten swept away from my attention because I have signed up for so many others. So glad I grabbed a look see this morning, as it related to what I was thinking yesterday, which was that getting anything out of Lent this year is going to take a lot of trust.

So, here is what I read in a blog named Spirlaw, a blog on spirituality and the law, which is written by brother Robert Sylvester, C.S.C. :

Mother Mary Francis, the abbess of the Poor Clare Monastery of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Roswell, New Mexico, makes a simple and useful point.  She says it is easy to say “I believe in God” but harder to say “I believe that God is in control.”

This says to us: to believe is one thing, but to believe and trust is quite another. To believe and to trust exceeds the boundaries of self, and all the anxieties we encounter.  Such belief and trust is liberating – it makes life easier.

This brings to mind St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians in which he admonishes us to abandon life in the futility of the mind which can alienate us from God. Indeed St. Paul reminds us that we are called to put away our former self, our old ways of life in favor of life in and with God through Jesus Christ.  (Eph 4:17-24)

 

Belief and trust.  A frame of reference for the Lenten journey, or anytime.

 

Loving God, grant we pray that we may do more than believe, but that we may believe and trust.

Nice eh?