Saturday, August 29, 2009

Classes Offer Opportunity to Explore Ignatian Spirituality

By Marilyn Kirvin

Over the course of my adult life I have been moved and “formed” by the experiences of two different Catholic spiritual paths: as a student at a Franciscan college, a volunteer at a Franciscan friary, and a member of two Franciscan parishes; and then a student at a Jesuit theology school, a campus minister at a Jesuit university, director of two Jesuit spirituality ministries and member of a Jesuit parish.

I think of these spiritualities as, in a sense, two different keys in which the music of the Gospel can be played . . . each has its own particular emphasis, and yet at the center of each is Christ, calling people to radical trust, to give all, to embrace the Cross, to obedience to the call of God as it comes to each person. Both of these spiritualities are very accessible for lay men and women in the midst of their everyday lives, both speak to, and at times critique, our culture. And both spiritualities appeal to people from a variety of faith traditions who have found their messages to be widely applicable.

Francis of Assisi, in the 12th century, fell ill in battle and was taken home for a long recuperation, which led him to notice a restlessness in his heart that became the opening for God’s presence and call. Ignatius of Loyola, in the 16th century, was injured in battle and spent many months recuperating, during which his reading of spiritual texts led him to realize that his own deepest desires could only be met by God. Each of their journeys started with great enthusiasm, both made some false turns as they became more knowledgeable about the way the Spirit’s voice was guiding them, and each found their ways to lives of service, poverty, and obedience. There are many similarities in their storie . . . as well as differences that remind us that God comes to each of us as the people we are, with great respect for our individual personalities, cultures, strengths and weaknesses . . . calling us each to our own particular way of service in the world.

On September 15 the Franciscan Spiritual Center will begin a four-week series designed to introduce participants to Ignatian spirituality – the spirituality that says that God may be found in all things, all places, all relationships, if we learn how to see. Each session explores different Ignatian prayer forms, and gives participants an opportunity to share their faith journeys with others.

Then, on the five Monday evenings in November, we will also offer a series entitled, Prayerful Discernment for Life Choices, in which participants will gather with a small group to learn and practice a prayerful process of listening for God’s presence in making life decisions, large and small. Using the guidelines for discernment from the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola, this will be an experiential process, with time for quiet and prayer, to learn by bringing this method to our real questions and decisions.

The life stories of both Francis and Ignatius remind us that we have a God who desires to be part of our lives and our daily choices, and who speaks to each one of us in our prayer and service. They offer all of us the opportunity to come to know more deeply some of the many facets of our loving God.

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