From Formation to Action

From Formation to Action

I came to Ignatian Spirituality via the 19th Annotation of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.  The 19th Annotation and my Jesuit based studies for a Certificate in Spiritual Direction at Spring Hill College have formed who I am.  I came as I was, with prior life formation already in place.  Although new formation has occurred, I also bring to the equation and to the Catholic Church to which I returned who I was and who I am.  One of the prior formation events that I brought to the table was my prior formation in nonviolence.  I became a conscientious objector to war at about 20 years old and left the Catholic Church to join an historic Peace Church.  I did not know at that time that Vatican II allowed for such matters of conscience.  In my studies of Ignatian Spirituality I have found links to nonviolence and social action.  See note 98:

 

(098)

Eternal Lord of All Things

Eternal Lord of all things, in the presence of Thy infinite goodness, and of Thy glorious mother, and of all the saints of Thy heavenly court, this is the offering of myself which I make with Thy favor and help. I protest that it is my earnest desire and my deliberate choice, provided only it is for Thy greater service and praise, to imitate Thee in bearing all wrongs and all abuse and all poverty, both actual and spiritual, should Thy most holy majesty deign to choose and admit me to such a state and way of life[1]

 

The bearing of all wrongs, all abuse, and all poverty is the heart of a nonviolent lifestyle.  Seeking to align our personal desires and discerning our choices only for God’s service and praise is the heart of Ignatian discernment.

 

Although some might attempt to change who they are to fit the constituency of a particular organization, Church, government, or group in order not to offend that group, or to be popular, the giving of the self (kenosis) to live only in the love and grace of God requires one consider what is the most loving thing to do and what will bring greater glory to God regarding one’s own birth, formation, life, burial, and resurrection.  To be popular, approved of, to value in essence riches, honor, and pride is diametrically opposed to the discernment which leaves one absolutely free to choose and do only what God wants and do what brings God greater glory.

 

The third degree of humility of which Ignatius speaks allows for one’s recognition of particular gifts, although not for one’s own conceit, pride, and vanity, but for service and praise to the Lord our God. See note 167:

 

(167) The Third Kind of Humility

This is the most perfect kind of humility. It consists in this. If we suppose the first and second kind attained, then whenever the praise and glory of the Divine Majesty would be equally served, in order to imitate and be in reality more like Christ our Lord, I desire and choose poverty with Christ poor, rather than riches; insults with Christ loaded with them, rather than honors; I desire to be accounted as worthless and a fool for Christ, rather than to be esteemed as wise and prudent in this world. So Christ was treated before me.[2]

 

Fr, Joseph Tetlow has this to say about the Third Degree of Humility:

 

The lover in this case is made greater by love. The Beloved chose to empty himself, taking on the ways and characteristics of a servant. He did not mind being told that he was seriously mistaken about God and the people. He did not mind being considered mad. And his way led to great suffering and death. The person who wishes to be meek and humble as Jesus was can say to the Father honestly, “Treat me as you treated your own Son.” Such a prayer has nothing to do with negative self-image or despising the gifts of the Spirit. On the contrary, heroic love is meek and humble, but it is also glorifying. Just look at what happened in the end to Jesus of Nazareth.[3]

 

It is possible one might be considered a little crazy, a little radical, and that one may be viewed simply as mistaken, but sometimes one’s particular gifts may not perfectly fit the spiritual needs of others.  In this case, it is better to let the Creator deal directly with the creature. In the end, all will be well.

 

In my case, I am not led to accept everything as is in the Catholic Church.  I am somewhat of an activist who desires change in some areas of the Church, like Women being Deacons, like Communion shared especially with non-Catholic mates of members, like something being done about the sex abuse scandal, like perhaps a married Priesthood, like a commitment to non-violence in Catholic cultures all around the world.  No more war. No more Catholics killing and bombing fellow Catholics because Catholics will be encouraged not to kill at all. I am feeling the most loving thing to do, and what will bring greater glory to God, is to not accept everything as is in the Church and try to “fit in,” but to promote Ignatian Spirit led change and improvement in the Church.  I have been able already to effect some minor changes.  I don’t think I am being prideful; I think I am being realistic that this may make me look down upon by some.  Good.  I have made some mistakes already on this path, and I am sure to make more, but I am willing to submit to correction and supervision and to realize that the time may not be right yet for such changes.

 

I am writing this essay as part of my discernment process concerning what to do with my CSD (Certificate in Spiritual Direction) degree.  I am led back to one of my Consolations without prior cause, which was to write a book which is now titled Let God In: One Ignatian Journey, and is soon to be published.  For Consolation without prior cause, see note 330:

(330)

God alone can give consolation to the soul without any previous cause. It belongs solely to the Creator to come into a soul, to leave it, to act upon it, to draw it wholly to the love of His Divine Majesty. I said without previous cause, that is, without any preceding perception or knowledge of any subject by which a soul might be led to such a consolation through its own acts of intellect and will.[4]

 

My consolation without prior cause was to write this book and to promote Ignatian Spirituality.  I think I need to stick with that consolation for now, and to wait to see what happens and where these matters lead.  If other consolations arise, and are like water dripping on a sponge, I remain open to considering them.  If they splash like on a rock, then no.  Getting too many things going, too many balls bouncing at once, could be thoughts of my own after the consolation without prior cause and such thoughts need to be carefully discerned.

 

Pray for me,

 

John Cooper

Tuscaloosa, AL

 

 

 

 

[1] The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Louis J. Puhl, SJ translation

[2] Spex, 167

[3] https://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/the-spiritual-exercises/the-third-degree-of-humility/

[4] SpEx, 330

Promoting Peace in the World: An Introduction to Living at Peace with the Other

Promoting Peace in the World: An Introduction to Living at Peace with the Other

This summer, 2019, Spring Hill College in Mobile, AL[1] offered its Summer Institute of Spirituality[2] classes and I participated in SPT571/471 Spirituality of Inter-Religious Dialogue, taught by Dr. Matthew Bagot. The required text was Finding Jesus among to Muslims: how loving Islam makes me a better Catholic, by Jordan Denari Duffner,[3] Liturgical Press, 2017. The class was modified for me to two credit hours which I need to complete my Certificate of Spiritual Direction (CSD) degree.[4] In preparation for this class I also read and/or referred to other books and articles listed in the Bibliography at the end of this essay.

Dr. Bagot and I agreed that for the additional one hour credit to make two total hours credit, I would write a three day retreat promoting inter-religious dialogue for Christians and Muslims using Finding Jesus among Muslims as the primary text, alluding to other recommended books I have read and refer to in the Bibliography. This research paper was to be ten to twelve pages, using Duffner’s thesis that “Interreligious dialogue allows us to grow closer to God in three ways: through the people we meet, through their religion, and through our own Christian faith.”[5]

I was attracted to this course particularly due to the linkage I recognized between Ignatian Spirituality, Duffner’s book, and Islamic thinking. This commonality of spiritual life is discussed by Duffner, “Noticing the strong faith community that my Muslim friends had, … I felt compelled to engage these aspects of my own faith tradition …Forms of prayer like the Daily Examen, devised by the founder of the Jesuit order of priests, St. Ignatius of Loyola, helped me to notice God more in my daily life.”[6] [7]

I set out to write an Ignatian style inter-religious retreat that both Muslims, Christians, and Jews could attend together in a common quest for Finding Peace in the World. I soon ran into a fork in the road, having exceeded my page limit and word limit, and I am now writing this document as an introduction to the retreat, Finding Peace in the World: An Interfaith Retreat for Muslims and Christians, which I will continue writing and post on my blog site[8] when it is finished. I plan to share the actual retreat with retreat houses and others who might like to find peace in the world through inter-religious dialog using a retreat format. In this introductory paper to that retreat I will expand on the spirituality of Duffner’s thesis and reexamine her thoughts in the lens of Ignatian Spirituality.

One of the features I appreciate about Jordan Denari Duffner’s writing style is the way she blends her life experience with her knowledge. This mix speaks to our common humanity and enlightens our soul as well as our mind. In Always Discerning, Joseph Tetlow, SJ quotes Richard of Chichester, “’O most merciful Redeemer, Friend, and Brother, may I know Thee more clearly, love Thee more dearly, and follow Thee more nearly, day by day.’”[9] It is this combination of knowledge, of love, and human interaction that speaks to the spiritual meaning of Duffner’s three part book. Part I is Meeting God in Muslims; Part II is Encountering God in Islam; and Part III is Reembracing God in Christianity. This combination of knowledge, love, and human interaction is a day by day task that also speaks to us in an eternal voice if we believe Muslims will be a part of the Communion of Saints. Duffner’s book is her personal testimony to knowing God in the eyes of the “other,” following God in the eyes of the “other,” and loving God in the eyes of the “other.” If we continue thinking like this book seems to hint at, maybe one day we will find there is really no “other” and that we are already in communion with each other and the One Divine Mystery, if we can only imagine it.

We must address the meaning of Islam itself. “Islam is the act of giving one’s self over to God, and aligning one’s own will with God’s; a Muslim is a person who willingly undertakes this act of devotion, and experiences the peace that comes with it.”[10] The heart of true spirituality is the giving up of the self, Kenosis, or self-emptying. It is this submission and giving of the self that creates peace that is often thought of when the word Islam is used. “Submission to God’s will is the sole basis of any authentic religion.”[11] This is why when we speak of Islam and speak of authentic spirituality we must at the same time speak of peace. Hence, the title of this essay is Promoting Peace in the World: An Introduction to Living at Peace with the Other and the title of the retreat I am writing is Finding Peace in the World: An Interfaith Retreat for Muslims and Christians.

If we are going to discuss the threefold blessings[12] of interfaith dialogue, we may ask, “What is this type of dialogue? “The Catholic Church teaches that interreligious dialogue is part of our vocation as Christians.”[13] Duffner mentions Pope John Paul II’s encouragement for each person to engage in this type of dialogue to further the mission of the church. God is in dialogue with humanity, the one God we commonly believe in and as Catholics view as One Trinitarian being is Himself in a dialogue of love, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. “The goal of dialogue, like the rest of our life, is to grow closer to God.”[14] Half of this dialogue is to listen, and half is to speak. The job of a Spiritual Companion is very much to listen. To be a spiritual companion with Muslims, in dialogue with them in prayer, in action, in worship, in life experience, and in eternity, is to fulfill our mission in life of drawing closer to God and sharing His love. It is Duffner’s goal to focus on this dialogue with Muslims, because that is Duffner’s personal experience, but the principles we discuss are applicable to other faiths, particularly to Abrahamic faiths.

Beginning with Part I of Finding Jesus among Muslims is Meeting God in Muslims. Normally when we meet someone for the first time, our focus is find some common ground. “Where are you from?” “What do you do for a living?” Finding common ground is fundamental to our task of meeting God in the “other.” From a Spiritual perspective, Christians, (especially Catholics) have much in common with Muslims (especially Shia Muslims). Surah Maryam is one of the longest surah’s in the Qur’an. The respect Muslims show for Mary and their devotion to her is a wonderful beginning point for finding, as Catholics, commonality with Muslims. The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius is heavily laden with Marian prayer. When we think of Mary, perhaps in our Ignatian prayers of imagination, we might pick up the Qur’an and contemplate what Mohammad wrote about her. “The Qur’an speaks more of Jesus and Mary than of Muhammad, though less than of Abraham and Moses… He [Jesus] is called God’s word cast into Mary, and he is God’s spirit blown into her to effect Jesus’s fatherless conception.”[15]

Duffner also speaks of the commonality of good works, justice, and mercy that Christians and Muslims share. Mercy is crucial to Islam. When one meets a Muslim, one should meet Mercy. “In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful”[16] begins the surah of Maryam, and Mercy is mentioned at the beginning of every surah in the Quran but one.[17] From a spiritual point of view, what if when a Muslim meets a Christian, the Muslim should meet unconditional love? Would that this would happen in every case, then Mercy and Love would walk the face of the earth together.

1 In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful. 2 Praise be to God, Lord of the worlds, 3 the Compassionate, the Merciful, 4 Master of the Day of Judgment. 5 Thee we worship and from Thee we seek help. 6 Guide us upon the straight path, 7 the path of those whom Thou hast blessed, not of those who incur wrath, nor of those who are astray.[18]

When one reads the Qur’an, one ought to remember that everything the Qur’an says and means is prefaced with the presupposition of the Mercy of God. Reading the Qur’an with spiritual eyes means reading the Qur’an with eyes of Mercy, Allah’s Mercy. Even the “sword verse,” Qur’an 9:5 ends in Mercy.

Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wheresoever you find them, capture them, besiege them, and lie in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they repent, and perform the prayer and give the alms, then let them go their way. Truly God is Forgiving, Merciful.[19]

We Christians have our own difficult Scriptures and “sword” verses too which should be tempered in God’s final Love, Mercy, and Grace.

In the process of expanding more on the Spirituality of the threefold blessings of interfaith dialogue in growing closer to God though meeting God in Muslims, through their religion, and reembracing our own Faith in God,[20] Duffner gives us her viewpoint on meeting the Image of God in Muslims. Here is where we run into a little difficulty concerning God’s Image in Muslims. Duffner fully believes God’s Image is in Muslims, “I have encountered God’s image and spirit in Muslims countless times.”[21] I fully agree with her and for that matter, I believe God’s Image is in every human. Ignatian Spirituality asks us to find God in all things.[22]

Houser Divine Union cropped

[23]

The graphic above speaks to my personal view of the spirituality of God’s Image being in man. This is the Eastern view, but others, even in the Catholic Church have a viewpoint of God being absolutely transcendent, as do most Muslims, to my knowledge. “Naught is like unto Him (cf. 112:4) is among the most famous phrases of the Quran, as it provides a succinct and unequivocal assertion of God’s complete and utter transcendence (tanzīh). Like unto Him renders ka mithlihi, which literally reads “like His likeness.””[24] I confirmed my inclinations that Muslims would not agree that the image of God is in us, with one of my Muslim friends, yet he explained God as being Omniscient, Omnipotent, and Omnipresent. I suggested that if God were omnipresent, He could be present in us too. The apostle Paul, speaking to the Greek intellectuals from whom some of our Western ideas about God come, stated, “From one ancestor [140] he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, 27 so that they would search for God [141] and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. 28 For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’”[25] He understood. For a more detailed viewpoint on this matter see Quran 50:16 “We did indeed create man, and We know what his soul whispers to him; and We are nearer to him than his jugular vein.”[26][27]

My friend, Mirza, may not agree about God’s Image being in mankind, but he did agree with me and would agree with Duffner about God’s Spirit being in mankind. See Qur’an 15:28:

And [remember] when thy Lord said unto the angels, “Behold! I am creating a human being from dried clay, made of molded mud; 29 so when I have proportioned him and breathed into him of My Spirit, fall down before him prostrating.”[28]

The Qur’an is full of references to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a key area of commonality for experiencing the Spirituality of finding Jesus among Muslims.

We have viewed the Spiritual Blessings of interreligious dialogue with individual Muslims. This discussion has drawn us closer to God in many experiential ways. Examining Part II of Finding Jesus among Muslims, let us consider how we encounter God in the religion of Islam. Can the religion itself help us grow closer to God? When I grew up in the Roman Catholic Church I heard that the Catholic Church is the one and only true Church. Subconsciously I think I realized some problems with that way of thinking, and for matters of conscience regarding war and the Sabbath, I left the Catholic Church at about twenty years old for another one and only true Church that I felt I was being called to join. That is a little humorous, looking back at it now, but before too late I realized that God is at work in the whole world and in people of different religions. I did not know in 1969 that in 1965, Vatican II, in the fourth draft of Nostra Aetate addressed certain issues that are relevant to my concerns then and our discussion today.

The Church regards Muslims with esteem: they adore the one God, living and enduring, the all-powerful Creator of heaven and earth who has spoken to people; they strive to obey wholeheartedly His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham did, to whose faith they happily link their own. Furthermore, as they worship God through prayer, almsgiving, and fasting, so they seek to make the moral life—be it that of the individual or that of the family and society—conform to His Will.[29]

Duffner mentions a similar passage on p. 57. Vatican II contains clear breaks from prior Catholic teachings that for many, such as myself, who returned to the Catholic Church after many years, find refreshing and Spirit led. Signs of this Spirit, signs of God, are called ayat in the Qur’an. Duffner quotes the Qur’an regarding these signs of God in nature, in the birds of the air, the rain, the cattle, crops, and in humans.[30] We have already mentioned how well this viewpoint of seeing God in all things fits into Ignatian Spirituality. In some mysterious way, God is everywhere, in all things, in all humans, and even in all religions! Duffner quotes Pope Francis, “’The universe unfolds in God, who fills it completely. Hence there is a mystical meaning to be found in a leaf, in a mountain trail, in a dewdrop, in a poor person’s face.’”[31] Pope Francis was finding his inspiration from a sixteenth century Muslim mystic, Ali al-Khawas.

What a breath of fresh air has overcome the sometimes stale winds which the Spirit needs sometimes to stir up in our own religion. The Spirituality of the “other,” the Spirituality of the other’s religion, can sometimes help overcome legalistic hurdles set into our minds. Thank God Pope Francis,[32] a Jesuit, schooled in Ignatian Spirituality, can accept these winds and speak like this. I have thought several times as I write to mention how some of this spirituality fits into the beliefs of St. Francis. Duffner mentions this association on pages 62 and 63, suggesting that some believe that St. Francis, while on a peace mission to sultan Malik al-Kamil in the thirteenth century, well before St. Ignatius, may have drawn inspiration for some of his prayers from Muslim sources.[33]

This brings up the concept of praying together. We all live on the same earth, breathe the same air, and eat the same food. Can we all pray together? I think a prerequisite for Spirituality is humility. I have most of my life been much too proud and conceited, and probably in my best state, I am still so. While taking the 19th Annotation of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius about five years ago or so, I latched on to the Ignatian Spirituality idea of giving up everything to live only in the love and grace of God and started to tell others about it. Before too long I ended up being wrung through the wringer, suffering a business bankruptcy, and getting relieved of some of that pride and conceit. Duffner’s chapter 4, The Width of a Hair, is now my spiritual view of what I know about things and what I believe all religions know about God. If all mankind, and all religions were run through a wringer, stirred up in a washtub, and spilt into the ocean, our knowledge, and all we are so proud of, is just a drop in the ocean to what God knows, how much God loves, and how Merciful God is. Duffner speaks to my idea under the heading “’The One and Merciful God.’”[34]

Duffner quotes Pope St. John Paul II’s 1985 address to Muslim youth in Morocco, “’We believe in the same God, the one God, the living God, the God who created the world and brings his creatures to their perfection.’”[35] From a spiritual point of view, isn’t this and other quotes from Pope Francis[36] in a similar vein refreshing? What is so refreshing about it from a spiritual point of view is that if we believe these things, we relieve ourselves of our disordinate affections, giving up ourselves, emptying ourselves, of vanity, conceit and pride. St. Ignatius often warned of the evils of riches, honor, and pride. How much better off eternally would we be if we could rid ourselves of such evils?

We must now address the last section of Duffner’s book, and address how the spirituality of inter-religious dialogue has, or is going to help us reembrace our own Faith tradition. When I left the Catholic Church, I did not leave Christianity. Other Christians besides Catholics have God’s Holy Spirit too. The Spirit is an indelible sign of God’s Presence. It is a wind that blows where it will. Eventually with the election of Pope Francis, I began to reexamine my relationship to the Catholic Church. Here is a man who thinks like St. Francis, I thought. Pope Francis is a part of my reexamination, the 19th Annotation is another part, and the Holy Spirit is the elephant in the room concerning why I came back to the Catholic Church. I believe I needed to be set free to think like we are thinking right now. The world is a big place, the Catholic Church is a big place, and Islam is a big place. Nothing is always perfect, always right, always the one, true and only thing to consider, but spiritually, let us consider however big God is. God is GREAT!

Perhaps Jordan Denari Duffner and Finding Jesus among Muslims has brought you to reexamine your thinking about your own Faith. Perhaps just reading this essay has motivated you to reexamine some things you thought you believed. Maybe something spiritual has touched you. I hope so. This is the reason I have written this essay, to expand on the spirituality of Duffner’s book and view it through the lens of Ignatian Spirituality. Duffner explains how her interreligious dialog touched her inner being and brought her back to the Daily Examen,[37] an Ignatian form of prayer.[38] She says, “St. Ignatius of Loyola, helped me to notice God more in my daily life. I developed a deep personal friendship with Jesus, who became a companion to me…”[39]

Duffner looks back to over fifty years ago, to a crown jewel of her Catholicism, Vatican II. She quotes Lumen Gentium, “But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, first among whom are the [Muslims]: they profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us adore the one, merciful God…”[40] She also mentions the essential dogma of Lumen Gentium that one must live by one’s conscience. She mentions another Catholic term, the “communion of saints” and her heart’s desire is that heaven is full of Muslims.

Essential common ground we share with Muslims is the constant reexamination of our “self.” This is another spiritual aspect of our discussion. “Muslims share with Catholics the foundational, basic parts of the spiritual life, things like a constant returning to God through prayer, and an emphasis on trust in God.”[41] The emptying of toxic self is essential to giving up everything to live only in God’s love and grace. This surrender is the root, s-l-m in Islam and Muslim, the surrender of giving up the self and our own selfish will to the One, true God, to enter this Divine and Mystical union, to continue living in Eternity, in communion with Him, and one another. This surrender brings us peace. “’I am no longer legitimizing the violence that has been done toward the other group…I take on the responsibility of what has happened in the past from my own group, what my group has inflicted.’”[42] Therefore we return to the title of this essay, Promoting Peace in the World: An Introduction to Living at Peace with the Other. Will you join us in communion to experience the spirituality of our quest to enter dialogue and experience this peace with God and each other, in combination with the knowledge we now have about what we should be doing in this life and the next?

John Cooper

http://www.jcooperforpeace.org

Bibliography:

  • Finding Jesus among Muslims: how loving Islam makes me a better Catholic, by Jordan Denari Duffner, Liturgical Press, 2017. ISBN 9780814645925
  • American Islamophobia: understanding the roots and rise of fear, by Khaled A. Beydoun, University of California Press, 2018, ISBN 9780520970007
  • Islam and Christianity: theological themes in comparative perspective, by John Renard, University of California Press, 2011 ISBN 978-0-520-26678-0
  • Peace Primer, Quotes from Islamic & Christian Scripture & Tradition, edited by Ken Sehested and Rabia Terri Harris, co-published by Muslim Peace Fellwoship & Baptist Peace Fellowship, 2002 (pamphlet)
  • Common Ground: Islam, Christianity, and religious pluralism, by Paul Heck, Georgetown University Press, 2009, ISBN 978-1-58901-507-4
  • Orientalism, by Edward W. Said, Penguin Classics, 2003, ISBN 978-0-141-18742-6
  • The Qur’an: a new translation, by M.A.S. Abdel Haleem, Oxford University Press, 2010, ISBN 978-0-19-95395-8
  • The Go-Anywhere Thinline Bible Catholic Edition, Harper Collins Publisher, 2010
  • Several articles, Ignatius of Loyola: Apostle to the Muslims, by Damian Howard, SJ; What is the Koran?, by Roby Lester, Jesus in the Quran: Pious, Obedient, Favored Servant of God, by Francis X. Clooney, SJ; Islam and Ignatian Spirituality, by Renato Oliveros, PHD; ‘The Study Quran’ and the Battle against Ignorance, by Francis X Clooney, SJ; On Pluralism, Intolerance, and the Quran, by Ali S. Asani, How to Read the Qur’an, by Ingrid Mattson; and The Human in the Qur’an, by Renovatio.

[1] https://www.shc.edu/

[2] http://departments2.shc.edu/graduatetheology/summer-institute

[3] See Denari Explain book at: https://www.facebook.com/ReligionNewsSvc/videos/jordan-denari-duffner-on-finding-jesus-among-muslims/10155409024697799/

[4] http://departments2.shc.edu/graduatetheology/spiritualdirection

[5] Finding Jesus among Muslims: how loving Islam makes me a better Catholic, by Jordan Denari Duffner, Liturgical Press, 2017, ISBN 9780814645925, p. 7.

[6] Ibid., p. 88

[7] See Ignatius of Loyola: Apostle to the Muslims, by Damian Howard, SJ and Islam and Ignatian Spirituality, by Renato Oliveros, PHD referenced in the Bibliography for further development of the Ignatian and Islamic spiritual connections.

[8] http://www.jcooperforpeace.org

[9] Always Discerning: An Ignatian Spirituality for the New Millennium, Joseph A. Tetlow, SJ, Loyola Press, 2016, ISBN-13 978-0-08294-4456-8, p. 75

[10] Duffner, p. xi

[11]Islam and Ignatian Spirituality, by Renato Oliveros, PHD, p. 4

[12] One may also want to reexamine what one means by “blessing.” See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blessing

[13] Duffner, p. 3.

[14] Ibid, p. 4.

[15] Common Ground: Islam, Christianity, and religious pluralism, by Paul Heck, Georgetown University Press, 2009, ISBN 978-1-58901-507-4, p. 34

[16] Nasr, Seyyed Hossein. The Study Quran . HarperOne. Kindle Edition.

[17] See Duffner, p. 22.

[18] Study Qur’an and Duffner, p. 22

[19] Study Qur’an, 9:5

[20] Duffner, pp. vii, 3, 7.

[21] Ibid, p. 31.

[22] https://www.loyolapress.com/our-catholic-faith/ignatian-spirituality/finding-god-in-all-things

[23] Moving in the spirit, by Richard J. Hauser, S.J., Paulist Press, 1986, ISBN 0-8091-2790-3, p. 27.

[24] Study Qur’an, Location 69660 of 126722

[25] NRSV, Catholic Edition Bible, eBook . Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition. (Acts 17: 26-28)

[26] Ibid. 50:16.

[27] https://www.al-islam.org/excerpts-from-the-holy-quran-an-eternal-guidance-to-mankind/allah-swt

[28] Study Qur’an, 15:28-29

[29] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nostra_aetate#The_fourth_draft

[30] Duffner, p. 58, 59.

[31] Ibid, p. 60

[32] In the tradition of his namesake, Pope Francis urges new approaches to dialogue here: https://international.la-croix.com/news/in-major-speech-on-theology-pope-urges-new-approaches-in-dialogue/10386?fbclid=IwAR0f1FmBtcUiPW8uV-ByxTHq_mb-dEJwEpJIL-MXFnz6xIs-3xNw5wDQlak

[33] Ibid, p. 62, 63.

[34] Ibid, p. 70

[35] Ibid.

[36] Duffner presents video of Pope Francis and little Muslim boy who wants to know if his Muslim Father is in heaven here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j4mORSTC0QY

[37] https://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/the-examen/

[38] Duffner, p. 88.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Ibid., p. 92.

[41] Ibid., p. 98.

[42] Duffner quotes Nayla Tabbara, p. 106.

Discerning Deeper Call to Action

Discerning a Deeper Call to Action and Experiencing Consolations in Ignatian Spirituality

Prayer

I have been a business owner and cabinet maker for 45 years.  In this role I have trained many apprentices.  Some I trained had taken classwork in trade school in order to “be” a cabinet maker.  A better term would be to “become” a cabinet maker.  Cabinet making is a skill and an art.  One cannot become a journeyman cabinet maker only by going to school.  One must experience the actual work of cabinet making and do it for many years.  One must learn every day.  In a lifetime, it is unlikely all aspects of cabinetmaking will be mastered so one can say, “I know everything about cabinetmaking and I can do it all.”

Likewise, it appears that “becoming” a spiritual director must be approached humbly, as an art more than a science, and a call to learn spiritual matters by experience as well as by knowledge.  Experience is crucial else one harm another by bumbling around dabbling in matters too great for oneself.  I feel the SPT 598 Spiritual Direction Practicum course conducted by Sr. Susan Arcaro and Sr. Barbara Young and in my case, supervision by Bob Fitzgerald, is a transition from head knowledge to experience as a journeyman would train an apprentice.  The spiritual maturity and kindness, calmness, and peacefulness of the three are a consolation in itself to acknowledge and emulate.  Thank you!

Speaking of the “head knowledge” of this course, our assigned books were Candlelight, by Susan S. Phillips,[1] and The Call to Discernment, by Dean Brackley.[2]  Also suggested reading was Silent Compassion, by Richard Rohr,[3] and Spiritual Direction, by Susan K. Ruffing, R.S.M..[4]  In addition, Looking into the Well, by Maureen Conroy,[5] was added as optional reference material.  I read all the books and benefited by each one, especially by The Call to Discernment.

I want to note the “experiencing” part of Spirituality in this essay.  I believe that Spirituality can only be known by experience.  Even if we are given a specific spiritual consolation, or a revelation directly by God Himself, it is an experience.  It is, by experience, that we have all been called to pass along our own calling by God to the rest of the world:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, etc.[6] 

Going entails passing along our experiences, our Faith story, the Gospel, and for those of us in this class, our experienced based Ignatian Spirituality learned not so much by knowledge, but by love.  This love, or affectionate awe, is derived by our desires to know Jesus more clearly, to follow Him more nearly, and to love Him more dearly.  In other words, just as a skilled carpenter, such as Jesus was, passes along this experiential knowledge and skill, art, and love, so do we, pass upon the specific graces with which God blesses each of us.

All the books we have read this semester reflect this experiential sharing by spiritual masters.  Likewise, the experiential knowledge, the examples of following, and loving Jesus are being passed along to us by our journeymen teachers, Sr. Barbara, Sr. Susan, and Bob Fitzgerald.  Thanks to all for this labor of love.  It is my desire to share this love with others as I have been so blessed to do with my directees.  Also, I want to share as an example of everyday life what a wonderful consolation it was to me to share with one of my physical sisters the Examen Prayer.  My sister expressed her burden to me of being somewhat addicted to list passed praying and going over the same list year after year habitually and not letting go.  I gave her two versions of the Examen Prayer and suggested she look up videos of the Examen Prayer on the internet and perhaps drop some of the list-based praying she said was burdensome to her.  She told me how helpful this was to her.  I share this because it is just one example of how our classwork this semester is bleeding off into my daily life and living with others. What a blessing it was to share spiritual matters with one I cradled in my arms when she was a baby.

I feel this Fall’s class is where the rubber meets the road regarding Ignatian Spirituality.  Now is the time to discern our specific calling to this skill and art of experiential Ignatian Spirituality.  May we discover how much we love others, how much we want to help others, as Ignatius did.  May we go into all the world as tools in His hands.  Now is the time for action.  The course name, Practicum, points to action and experience.  Our response to the call is action.

I would like to share some insights I experienced from reading the books for this past semester.  Candlelight draws on many years of the Spiritual Direction experiences of its author, Susan S. Phillips.  Dr. Phillips using actual cases of her directees (names changed) to illustrate for us how the art of Spiritual Direction is actually done.  One of the greatest consolations of her book to me was her 21st chapter, Planted by the Waters.  What resonated with me was that I should not try too hard on my own, but trust that God has called me to this work of spiritual direction and will of His desires supply nourishment to bear fruits of His grace, not only in me as I help others, but also provide His direct nourishment to the directees I am trying to help.  In this work of God’s grace as both the director and the directee sit in the candlelight of His Presence, this grace acting upon both.  I wrote an extra essay about Grace being a “middle voice” of Spirituality,[7] this is, that both Director and Directee are participants in the action that another, (God,) initiates.

Also, in Candlelight, Susan Phillips indicates respect for taking a Sabbath each week.  “There’s a feel of Sabbath to spiritual direction.  We enter into the rest that God blessed and called “holy,” a time of reflecting on the wholeness of creation and union with God.”[8]  For many years after leaving the Catholic Church at about 20 years of age, for matters of conscious, I observed the seventh day Sabbath (Saturday) of the Ten Commandments.  A little over 20 years ago I came to a better understanding of the New Covenant, and that our rest is actually in Jesus, who started His work in us, and I no longer observe the letter of the law, evening Friday to Saturday evening Sabbath rest strictly, but I respect those who attend to their spirituality in this manner.  It was a consolation to me to see how Dr. Phillips valued the Sabbath in relationship to spirituality and a reminder to me to respect all people’s beliefs.

The Call to Discernment was in my view the deepest and most profound of the books we were assigned this semester.[9]  Brackley takes a journey through the Exercises[10] as if one were experiencing the actual Exercises week by week.  I have taken the 19th Annotation of the Exercises and reading The Call to Discernment brought back my actual experiences of the Exercises to life once again.  When doing the Call of Christ, the King part of the Exercises, I received my first desires to promote Ignatian Spirituality, and specifically to write a book about my journey and to share the Exercises with others.  This book, Let God In: One Ignatian Journey is soon to be published and I am also in discernment regarding the promotion of this book which is a fruit of this calling. The 19th Annotation was an additional conversion experience for me.  It is just one of the factors which led me back to the Catholic Church of my youth.  The Call to Discernment speaks to the heart of my personal theology of non-violence and social justice and deepens my commitment and call to promote Ignatian Spirituality, not just for Catholics, but for others who may be Protestant, or of another Faith Tradition, or no tradition at all.

Next, I will mention Silent Compassion[11] and Spiritual Direction[12] in relationship to how these two books also led to responding to the call of God and my own personal discernment.  I already follow Richard Rohr’s daily meditations.  I use apophatic (wordless, thoughtless) contemplation in conjunction with kataphatic (with words and thought) meditation in my personal spiritual practices.  Ignatian Spirituality is largely kataphatic.  Silent Compassion was reinforcement for what I already do.  Spiritual Direction was valuable to me with its heavy emphasis on actual experience in spiritual direction and mutuality with God.  Experience is mentioned throughout the book.  Experience is what we are gaining this semester in the Practicum.  We are spiritual directors in training, gaining experience.  Ruffing is a master of her trade, passing along her knowledge and experience to others who include myself as an apprentice.

Looking Into the Well[13] was very helpful in understanding how to provide Verbatim’s and Process Notes.  The book is helpful not only to supervisors of Spiritual Directors, but to Spiritual Directors themselves as a continuing reference Source.  In process notes for my first directee session I wrote:

I thought I was going to have a real problem with the Verbatim, but now that I have done two pages requested, I could go on and on.  I was feeling apprehensive because I am so hard of hearing and have trouble listening.  I tried to “bone up” for a few days in advance, reading Looking Into the Well and making notes [from Candlelight] and typing them up, then a couple of days before the first session it came to me that I was trying too hard and I needed to let the Holy Spirt lead.  He/She did.  I am crying as I write this… There was so much more in this session I could have put in the Verbatim.

In closing, I want to speak of my class experiences of consolation this semester.  Our commonality of spirit in periods of prayer was very important to me.  Several of us shared different prayer presentations and Sr. Barbara and Sr. Susan offered succinct and helpful handouts relating to prayer.  Our prayer time was experiential in nature with each of us learning from each other’s efforts as if we were a team of prayer warriors.  Experience in prayer is crucial to all spirituality.  Bob Fitzgerald was very effective in advising exactly the right things and pointing out principles directly from the Exercises to clarify my concerns.  Thanks to all, including my classmates!  Finally, as a journeyman passes along his trade to future generations of apprentices, let it be so with Sr. Barbara and Sr. Susan, and Bob Fitzgerald, as those of us in our Fall 2018 class offer ourselves as tools in God’s hands and continue to discern just how, when, and where we will work to help all God’s people!

John Cooper

Tuscaloosa, AL

[1] Candlelight: illuminating spiritual direction, by Susan S. Phillips, Morehouse Publishing, 2008, ISBN: 978-0-8I92-2297-8 (pbk.)

[2] The call to discernment in troubled times : new perspectives on the transformative wisdom of Ignatius, of Loyola, by Dean Brackley, The Crossroads Publishing Company, 2004, ISBN: 0-8245-2268-0 (alk. Paper)

[3] Silent Compassion : finding God in contemplation, by Richard Rohr, Franciscan Media, 2014, ISBN: 978-61636-757-2 (alk. Paper)

[4] Spiritual Direction: beyond the beginnings, by Janet K. Ruffing, Paulist Press, 2000, ISBN: 0-8091-3958-8 (alk. Paper)

[5] Looking into the Well: Supervision of Spiritual Directors, by Maureen Conroy, Loyola University Press, 1995, ISBN:0-8294-0827-4

[6] The Go-Anywhere Thinline Bible Catholic Edition, NRSV, by HarperCollins Publishers, 2010, p. 945, Mat. 28:19

[7] https://jcooperforpeace.org/?s=middle+voice

[8] Ibid, p. 189.

[9] Ibid.

[10] The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, Ignatius of Loyola

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

Fork-in-the-Road

Fork-in-the Road

Ignatius’ spiritual growth relates in some ways to my own conversion experiences.  Let us reflect upon the book cover of A Pilgrim’s Journey – The Autobiography of Ignatius of Loyola, by Joseph N. Tylenda, S.J., Ignatius Press. 2001, ISBN: 978-0-89870-810-3…

Pilgrim's Journey

The cover shows Ignatius before a choice in his life as he rode his mule to Montserrat.  He faces a fork in the road and must make a decision.  The Autobiography tells of his argument with a Moor (Muslim) about Our Lady’s (Mother Mary’s) virginity.  The Moor realized Ignatius was getting upset and sped off ahead of Ignatius.  Ignatius knew where the Moor said he was going and he wanted to kill the Moor with his dagger in order to restore the Mother Mary’s honor.  Ignatius could not decide to do this “noble” thing or not and at the fork in the road let go of the reigns on the mule letting the mule decide. (Autobiography, pp. 56-58).

We all face choices in our lives which can radically alter the future.  I faced a decision in my life in about 1970 in the process of my first conversion experience.  God was working in my inner being to lead me to a non-violent lifestyle.  This was during the Vietnam War.  I chose to become a conscientious objector to war and was faced with a decision – jail, serving as an unarmed medic, or alternative service.  I ended up doing alternative service beginning at Spain Rehabilitation Center in Birmingham, AL. That decision has radically affected my life in many ways.  The difference it made to my future was something for which I am thankful.

We can be thankful for Ignatius’ choice to not run a dagger through the Moor (Muslim) -or maybe the Moor would have run a dagger through Ignatius and killed Ignatius.  Just think as we reflect upon the book cover and the story of Ignatius and the Moor how the future would have been radically altered if Ignatius had killed the Moor or the Moor had killed Ignatius.  Would there be a Society of Jesus? Would there be any Spiritual Exercises which have changed the lives of many for the better?  Would there be Jesuit colleges, etc.?  We can be thankful for the choice made on Ignatius’ journey even if his method of making choices was not the best at this point of his life.

John Cooper

 

I Can’t Breathe!

I Can’t Breathe!

            I can only imagine how a drowning person may feel.  My Uncle, Bill McCulley, taught me to swim on his farm in Illinois, in a pond on the Wilt Place.  He was a Navy veteran, and an excellent swimmer, and I trusted him to save me if anything happened to me.  The fish and snakes brushing up against my legs did not seem to matter.  One of Bill’s attributes, besides being very strong, was his ability to go under water, without breathing, of course, for a long, long time.  I know he loved me enough to save me if I went under water.  Jesus died because he could not breathe under water.  I can only imagine the suffering he felt.  I know Jesus loves me, and will save me, just like my Uncle, Bill would have.  We will get back to Jesus, and breathing under water later.

I am writing this reflection about Breathing under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps, by Richard Rohr, a well know Franciscan teacher and priest.  We are discussing addiction and will also draw upon Addiction and Grace, by Dr. Gerald May as appropriate.  I am specifically selecting one concept, extant in both books, concerning our addiction to war.  Refusal to submit to Satan’s political ploy, to fall down and worship Satan, cost Jesus His life, as we will see as we go along.  Because of our addictions to “oil, war, and empire; the church’s addiction to its own absolute exceptionalism;” (Breathing Underwater, p. xxii), among other addictions, Jesus had to die.  Because He died trying to breathe under water, Jesus is able to save us from our own addictions, all of them.

When we cannot breathe, and are under water for a long time, we must eventually surrender, or give up our life.  As Ignatian students we are aware we should give up everything to live only in God’s love and grace. Step three of the twelve steps in Breathing Underwater is about our decision to give up to turn our will and lives over to the care of God as we understand God (p.17).  We have not been taught this surrender by our nationalistic political systems, nor have our institutional religious systems as a whole taught us this surrender, but Jesus teaches us (Matt. 5: 39) (p. 19).  Bye, bye ego.  Addiction to the ego and to power must go (p. 21).  The devil wants to make us a great “deal”.  The art of Satan’s deal is to give us instantly the power without pain and without self-surrender (p. 21).  This was Satan’s third temptation which most institutional religions have accepted even to this day.  It is a myth, a myth of redemptive violence that we can personally save ourselves by violent means.  For thousands of years this myth has never worked.  Rohr calls it the “myth of heroic sacrifice” (p. 21).  It is the American “way”, and the way of most every nation.  We have learned well and are addicted to this myth of self and violence and our society, our nation, (p. 22) and in too many ways our churches are co-dependents to help us believe in this myth and be self-glorified as martyrs of the church (p.23).  True believers, we are giving up our body to supposed chastity, poverty, and obedience to look good, to fool many people, and to puff up the self (p.24).

To give up this puffed up, narcissistic self, as individuals, politicians, nations, and institutions including business and religious institutions is to realize we are sinners, yet loved sinners surrendered to the lover (God the Higher Power) who loves us (p. 24, 27).  As the Holy Spirit helps us, we are infected by the Spirit of Jesus (p.25).  Rohr says the Holy Spirit “sneaks in through the ducts and the air vents (p. 25).  In some ways we would rather just have someone tell us what to do, to manage our sins for us in the confessional booth or church sermons than surrender our will and accept God’s radical grace freely.  This grace is given to us by a higher power we understand to be God, as much as we understand Him, who loves us without expecting to be paid back.  He loves us because He is love (p. 27).  Only grace given in love can cure addictions.

Both Rohr and May speak of nonviolence and trust in a higher power for our salvation.  Jesus spoke Truth to Power when He refused Satan’s third temptation to fall down and worship Satan and did not accept the “deal” to be given earthly kingdoms before it was time.  As a result, Jesus had to suffer and die to save us, who are addicted, and complicit with this warmongering society.

Referencing May’s book, Dr. May echoes rule 98 of Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises when he states “detachment does just the opposite.  It seems liberation of desire, an enhancement of passion, the freedom to love with all one’s being, and the willingness to bear the pain such love can bring.” (Addiction and Grace, p.15).  This can be freedom from political slavery too, and freedom to love even our enemy, one of Jesus’ primary commandments (Matt. 5: 43, 44).  The Spiritual Exercises, rule 98, promotes the willingness to bear all wrongs.  It is this suffering love that brings detachment and personal freedom as it is greased by the wheels of grace.

See:

(098)

Eternal Lord of All Things

Eternal Lord of all things, in the presence of Thy infinite goodness, and of Thy glorious mother, and of all the saints of Thy heavenly court, this is the offering of myself which I make with Thy favor and help. I protest that it is my earnest desire and my deliberate choice, provided only it is for Thy greater service and praise, to imitate Thee in bearing all wrongs and all abuse and all poverty, both actual and spiritual, should Thy most holy majesty deign to choose and admit me to such a state and way of life (http://spex.ignatianspirituality.com/SpiritualExercises/Puhl#marker-p101)

True freedom is the freedom to love one another, including our enemy.  If we maintain our addictions to war and killing this is what May describes as a security addiction (p.31).  May states, “we can and should trust in God for our ultimate security” and he speaks of relaxing our grip about lessor sources of security.

It is Jesus, who is our ultimate source of security.  Rohr states “only people who have suffered in some way can save another” (p. 123).  Jesus died and suffered on the Cross.  He did not die of blood loss.  In excruciating pain, His feet nailed to the cross, and His hands too, Jesus couldn’t breathe unless He pushed up on His pierced feet, and said, “I thirst.”  He was given the fourth cup via the hyssop branch which should have been given at the Passover meal, and He surrendered just for you, and just for me, to save us from our addictions to sin.  His lungs had filed up with water and blood.  He could not breathe.  He had to die; He could not breathe, but now He saves us, we who think we can breathe, but are underwater with all our addictions.

John Cooper

 

 

Alabama Dreamin

Alabama Dreamin

Somewhere in the news a week or so ago I glimpsed at a report that some DACA Dreamers[1] had come to the U.S. Congress and attempted to wash the feet of congressmen outside the congressional offices.

A week or so went by and a quiet urging came to my mind that this is a wonderful idea for the whole State of Alabama, a State that is viewed by some as solid red, and less than progressive in social causes.  What can be done?  I brought the idea to my church, the Roman Catholic Church in Tuscaloosa, and copied several people who work with the Hispanic communities and other immigrants on the idea of having a footwashing event for and by the Dreamers in our midst.  I emailed to a contact in the Mobile Archdiocese and a contact in the Birmingham Archdiocese who work with the Dreamers and copied the Fellowship of Reconciliation[2] which I am a member of and which has been involved in non-violent social causes such as the Civil Rights Movement for decades.

I am merely offering my voice and the idea that came to me for a non-violent footwashing event or events organized and conducted by what we in the United States call Dreamers.  As a little background, we who are Christians will soon be celebrating Easter and just before Easter, before the Passover, some unusual to some events are recorded to have taken place, like Footwashing.[3] Footwashing has an ancient tradition and is viewed by some as a Sacrament.  A type of this tradition is observed by Roman Catholics on Holy Thursday.[4]

Mary Magdalene is said to have said to have done it with tears of love and remorse.  Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus is said to have done it too.[5]  Both women did it to Jesus and wiped His feet with their hair.  Jesus washed His disciples’ feet too.[6]  Jesus tells his disciples, if we consider ourselves to be disciples, to do it to, to one another.  Is this real?  Is it figurative? Is it both?  Footwashing does not have to be done in church, it can be done anywhere.  It can be done in our imagination too, which may be about as far as this idea goes at this time.

My vision, my dream for Alabama and I wish I could dream the whole world, is that we would want to wash each other’s feet all around the world, in North and South Korea, in Syria, In Yemen, Iran, and Qatar, Ethiopia, and everywhere.  I know this is all and grad idea that we should love one another and love our enemies, just like that, but forgive me, please, I am just Dreaming.

Let’s start little – just where we are…  All it takes is two pans, two towels, two gallons of water, a little Spirit, a little Love, to get the job done.  If a person cannot afford that, and some can’t in the world, take some tears with you and your hair, or your shirt off your back to dry another’s feet and just do it.  Do it to people you love and people you don’t love.  You ain’t gonna wash no feet if you got no Love. [Sic]

As for Alabama, I dream that this idea, this dream, would be seed for greater action beyond out State, and beyond politics and helpful to all immigrants.  I dream the Dreamers would take up this cause and offer to wash the feet of those in power, speaking to the powers,[7] and symbolically telling those powers, be they congress people, police, religious powers, educational powers, all powers, that we are here to serve you, that we love the United States, and all nations for that matter.  Let us serve you, pay our taxes, contribute to our society, support our families off the welfare system.  We want to work.  We want to love one another.  We believe America will be great again when America can love again.

Maybe, I am just Dreamin…

 

John Cooper

Tuscaloosa, AL

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DREAM_Act

[2] https://forusa.org/

[3] https://www.zionlutherannj.net/footwashing-in-the-old-and-new-testament-the-graeco-roman-world-the-early-church-and-the-liturgy-2/

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maundy_Thursday

[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anointing_of_Jesus

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foot_washing

[7] http://www.quaker.org/sttp.html

What’s Love Got to do With It?

What’s Love Got to do With It?

Reflections on Care of Mind/Care of Spirit, by Gerald G. May, M.D.

Dr. May originally wrote Care of Mind/Care of Spirit as a teaching text to enable Spiritual Directors to appreciate the psychological-spiritual aspects of persons (p. xiv).  I found and underlying theme behind the psychology of the mind and the spirituality of the spirit to be the concept of divine love.  May states that human spirituality is the active process of love in one’s life (p. xvi) and that the integration of psychology and spiritual insight automatically occurs for spiritual guides when the spiritual guide remains open to the Source of Love, (p. xviii).

I noticed the concept of Divine Love as crucial to the foundational premises of this book.  For those called to be Spiritual Directors, we should each be given the gifts to practice the art of spiritual guidance, and freely given the love for others to help care for others’ minds and spirits.  This sharing of love, sharing of eternal mystery, is the root of the art.

Ignatius asks us to give up everything to live only in the love and grace of God.  This is self-giving surrender (p. 17).  It is surrending love.  Our minds and spirits become whole as we surrender to the incarnated desires God has placed in our spirits, – desires of spiritual longing and union to attain, realize, and express divine unconditional love (p. 24).  We are drawn by a force deep within to release our attachments, our very selves, in response to God’s beaconing love which asks for our very hearts (p. 24).  For some, the fulfillments of this surrender to inborn love comes when young, for many it comes at a point of crises, for all I believe it comes as we grow old or are about to die, but we cannot just make it happen.  It is a gift.

This underlying love of God and inborn desire to love God is not just for us.  Although we are individually mind and spirit cared for by God’s love, we are not alone in this universe.  We are not loved alone, we are loved and to love in communion with others, and with animals and other physical and spiritual beings like angels and those who have died and whose spirits reside in God, who is love (see p.54).

Interestingly, I write this on Ash Wednesday, 2018.  Before our services I was praying for spiritual poverty to receive the grace of humility.  Fr. Tom Ackerman’s homily happened to be on what we should give up for Lent.  In short, he asked us to give up ourselves for Lent.  What a wonderful idea!  I quote from Dr. May:

Unconsciously that self-image is engaged in a life-or-death battle, and although all conscious intents may be in the direction of spiritual surrender and dying-to-self, a host of unconscious defenses will be brought to bear in order to preserve, bolster, and reassert that image of self, etc… (p. 59).

It is our crucial role as spiritual directors to attend to God’s power, love, and grace in facilitating this surrender of giving up ourselves too, to live only in God’s love and grace.  Therefore, transcending the self-love we all have is giving up ourselves for Lent, as Fr. Ackerman recommended.

This is a loving surrender, somewhat like Jesus’ self-surrender on the cross to show us how much He loves us.  So too, should we surrender ourselves on the crosses we bear in this life for Jesus.  We offer ourselves to the unknowable mystery of God, giving up everything, surrendering our all (p 65).

As we give up ourselves in love to the divine Mystery, the divine Majesty, our attachments often seem to fall away like scales off our eyes.  We lovingly die to the self and surrender to love, sharing God’s love in our lives and the passions we once held dear, like making money, being well thought of, golf, or football, politics, lose importance as we long to rest in a loving God.  It is like dying (p.77).

In some ways we can be sad, losing ourselves, just like that.  It is a grief similar to dying, really (p.98).  We can mourn for our loss.  Love hurts in many ways as we transition our lives for God’s purposes for us, as we give up all.  The not knowing what to do, exactly, the dark nights groping for Divine love, the unknowing of it all, the loves lost, the loves gained, all meld together for the care of our mind and the care of our spirit.  That is what love has to do with it, everything…

John Cooper

Tuscaloosa, AL