Archive for April, 2018

Ignatian Discernment (and more!)

Posted: April 18, 2018 by leighannegreenwood in Uncategorized

We have very nearly come to the end of our series on Ignatian Spirituality. We will have another chance to engage with some Ignatian styles of prayer this Sunday, but a week last Sunday we finished James Martin’s book The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything by looking at a couple of different ideas related to the core ideas of finding God in all things and being a contemplative in action.

These Ignatian principles suggest a holistic approach to life, in which we stop seeing the world as sharply divided into the sacred and the secular. That doesn’t mean that we won’t have times that feel holier than others, and it doesn’t deny the existence of thin places where we feel particularly spiritual. It means that we are open to God in all times and at all places. Neither does it mean that we must all perfect the practice of praying in every moment, or that there is no value in setting ourselves aside from work and distractions. It means that we create rhythms of stopping and returning that weave prayer and contemplation into our everyday.

 

We started with vocation, because this is something that encompasses all we are and do. We often speak of vocation in quite a narrow way, but it simply means the thing we are called to, and the truth is that we all have one of those. We are all called to serve God and one another in the best way we can, whether that is through work or hospitality or parenting or activism or anything else, and one of the things I have always loved about revive is the way we recognise and honour one another’s callings through sentness. 

We spent some time engaging with a short reflection on vocation, in which I asked you to think about what brings you pleasure, what your skills are, what God has prompted you to, and where those three things overlap. I will say again that I think that idea of overlap is really important. Our vocation may challenge us at times, but it will always contains moments of joy, it will always draw on the gifts we have been given, and it will always come from God. If you want to spend more time thinking about your own vocation, I got the idea for the meditation from an old blogpost here.

 

The idea of vocation also brought us to the idea of discernment, of how best to make good and godly decisions. This is somthing which is really important to Ignatian spirituality, and forms a large part of the experience of the Spiritual Exercises, but I didn’t say a huge amount about it as it is something which needs to be practiced rather than simply taught.

Ignatius talked about three types of decision making. A decision in the first time is when we have an immediate sense of certainty about what we should do. A decision in the second time is when we meditate on our choices and follow the one which brings greater spiritual consolation. And a decision in the third time is when we ask God to be in our thoughts and then weigh up our options to find the most rational choice. 

I think this approach is helpful because it reminds us that we won’t always have a lightning bolt moment, especially if we are trusted to choose from among our best options rather than being limited to a single good choice. It’s okay to use all our rational and emotional capabalities, and they are not contrary to listening to God because God can speak through them.

It’s worth saying here that Ignatius believed the process of decision making must begin with indifference, which he described as the freedom to approach each decision with a genuine openness. He also recognised that all outcomes have their drawbacks, and so making a decision means saying a wholehearted yes to the positives and the negatives. That may not feel particularly encouraging, but I think there is a relief in accepting that no decision will ever be perfect, because life isn’t perfect.

 

 

We very briefly touched on Martin’s ideas about a spirituality of work (or home or school or you fill in the blank). He talks about the importance of consistently finding time for God, finding time for silence and solitude, and living ethically.  We will all have our own ways of practising these things, but we have much to gain from sharing our experiences with one another, and so I hope to find a way of gathering our wisdom and ideas. Watch this space…

 

We ended the session with two final thoughts from the closing chapters of Martin’s book. The first was that God loves you but God also likes you. It may not seem a significant difference to some of you, but to me it says that God doesn’t just love me because he cannot do otherwise, he also likes me because he sees the good in me even when I don’t.

The second related to the final scene from Paris Je T’aime, which I have posted a link to below. It does not speak of spirituality or prayer, but it does expresses the sense of connection and aliveness which comes from finding God in all things. I really encourage you to take a few minutes to watch and enjoy it, and then think about a time when you have felt similarly, or ask how you may become more open to such moments.

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The Gospel According to Us

Posted: April 18, 2018 by leighannegreenwood in Uncategorized

On Sunday evening, we spent time sharing the ways in which the gospel has been good news for us. It’s not my place to share the stories that were told, but it was great to hear of encouragement and presence and fulfillment, of God helping us make sense of the world and assuring us that we are enough.

This time of sharing happened on what would normally be a sentness night. This was not just a filler because we didn’t have anyone to send, but something I have been wanting us to do for some time, because these stories are part of what we are sent into the world with. They are the good news we are called to share as much as the stories of Jesus are, because they turn history into testimony, and invite others to discover or recover their own good news stories.

So I encourage you to take time to think about how the good news of Christ has been good news for you, first to remember and celebrate all the blessings of a life of faith, and then to start thinking about how you might bless others with your story as part of your sending.

 

We also talked a little about how difficult it is to be good news in a world full of bad news, how hard it is to stay generous and loving and hopeful when people and events threaten to makes us angry and bitter and hateful.

I don’t have any ready answers to that, because it is something I really struggle with, but the more I read about nonviolent and creative resistance, the more convicted I am that this was the core of Jesus’ message and the heart of what it means to be people of good news. I’ll be exploring these ideas more in the near future, as this is the direction my dissertation has unexpectedly but blessedly led me in. I encourage you to explore them too, and perhaps we’ll talk later…

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Art of Lent – Love

Posted: April 1, 2018 by leighannegreenwood in Uncategorized

This Lent I am using Sister Wendy Beckett’s ‘The Art of Lent’ as my daily devotional. Each day offers a work of art and a short thought. Each Sunday I will share what has struck me most during the week.

 

Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia!

It should be easy to talk about Easter. It is the heart of our faith after all. And yet it is still a profound mystery. One that I feel both compelled and unable to express.

I wrote last year that I found Easter difficult because I never feel like I am doing it properly. That I do not truly feel the despair of Friday or the confusion of Saturday or the joy of Sunday because I know the whole story from the start.

At the time I felt guilty about that, but after a week sat with the Ecocycle Laybrinth, I have made my peace with it. The cycle of life and death and resurrection that we see in the Easter story is unique, but it is also everyday. We go through that same cycle many times in our lives, often with numerous cycles in different places at the same time.

We live in Friday and Saturday and Sunday all at the same time, so no wonder it is confusing and perhaps even foolish to try to separate them out. It is good to have particular days of rememberance, but it is also okay to dwell in the whole story, to know that Christ is in the suffering and the waiting and the rejoicing, not by turn but always.

None of that is anything to do with this week’s art. In fact it is probably a distraction away from the fact that I don’t have much to say about this week’s art. The painting that struck me most was Craigie Aitchison’s ‘Crucifixion’, but I’m not sure I can or even want to say why.

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On second thoughts, perhaps what I said before does have something to do with it. The suffering of the cross is not denied, but it is also transcended by the light and the dove and the rainbow, and it may well be disturbed by whatever is growing beneath it. It is a confused and confusing image, and there is something reassuring about that.

This Easter I want to acknowledge the pain of Good Friday and the despair of Holy Saturday and the joy of Resurrection Sunday. Because Christ is in each of them with us, with solidarity and hope and celebration, but most of all with love.

Christ is with us. He is with us indeed. Alleluia!