A Jesuit Brother’s loving journey into Catholic Spirituality.(2)
Inspired by the spark of love.
In my last entry, I explored the effects that Tertianship had on my life. I was reminded just how important the role of love was in my journey as a Jesuit Brother. I walked away from the experience with a reappropriated sense of love. Love just felt different.
The moment of reappropriation began late in the Spiritual exercises. One night, I was invited to pray with the ‘Contemplation to attain love’ prayer. As I sat with God’s presence, all I wanted to do that night was listen to what the voice of God would inspire in me. It really is a spectacular prayer that can help us take a long loving look at the real at work in creation. It can also be a simple loving meditation.
In my case, I felt God’s words a bit differently that night. I heard God say, “Maybe now’s a good time for you to remember that love has a place in every aspect of your life: When you’re working, when you’re reading or writing, when you’re watching Netflix, even when you’re chopping vegetables. These are all moments of deeper communion with divine love. And if love is what guides each of these moments, imagine how much more engaging they will be.”
It was easy to deepen this divinely-inspired message during the rest of Tertianship. Each seminar we did gave me fuel to go deeper into this beautiful invitation to live a more Christ-centered love. Each conversation, each text I appropriated seemed to draw me into a more loving experience of Jesuit and Church wisdom and spirituality. By the end of my experience, I was excited to return home and share my passion around the Church with others.
However, when I returned to Canada, my heart was confronted with my sorrow around the Church. The news around residential schools played their part in planting the seed of doubt in me. I was reminded of a similar dynamic to the one Grace Collela explored in her entry ‘Where is God?’ I still wanted to believe the Church could impact the world in a positive way, but I was wondering if now was a good time to speak about the positive aspects of the Church with the world?’
While I was grieving over the sins of the Church, I got caught up in concerns that Catholic spirituality would not be relevant to our process of healing in this country. For a few days, I lost my sense of the gifts that the Church could bring to a grief-stricken world. In retrospect, I feel one of my questions could have been, ‘how we can help heal wounds that we caused?’
Thankfully, enough wise people in my life reminded me that we needed to be both angry, and madly in love with this Church at the same time. Carrying both pride and shame towards my Church is definitely a challenging dynamic to live from.
However, it’s also a healthy place to be in. In some way, being honest with my emotions towards the Church’s failings caused me to rely even more on Her wisdom and spirituality. During that mid Summer week, this wisdom came from Pope Francis.
In Chapter 6 of Laudato Si, after having spilled much ink assailing us with a lot of bleak statements about the ecological crisis and state of our planet, he reminds us exactly what the Church offers the world:
“The rich heritage of Christian spirituality, the fruit of twenty centuries of personal and communal experience, has a precious contribution to make to the renewal of humanity.(emphasis mine)..I would like to offer Christians a few suggestions for an ecological spirituality grounded in the convictions of our faith, since the teachings of the Gospel have direct consequences for our way of thinking, feeling and living. More than in ideas or concepts as such, I am interested in how such a spirituality can motivate us to a more passionate concern for the protection of our world.” (LS 216)
Some may argue that this paragraph does not provide specific insights on how to proceed. Nevertheless, it provided me with the spark I needed. Something about processing twenty centuries of wisdom and letting the Gospels influence my life even more really struck a chord with me. I’m at this point in my life where I feel that the more I engage with Church wisdom, the more grounded in God I can be.
Furthermore, as I continue to walk with that wisdom through my spiritual readings of Teresa of Avila, Pope Francis, Oscar Romero and others, the movement of grace from Tertianship is rekindled again and again. This grace does not offer me concrete steps on how to fix the world, but it plays an important role in my life: it imbues me with spiritual movement that grounds me in God’s love. That love in turn gives shape and purpose to the most mundane, and the most emotional moments of my life.
It’s a love that calls me to go forth. A love that doesn’t only rely on feeling good, but that slowly embraces the challenges associated with true love: In this case, the challenge of accepting a damaging past so as to move towards a loving future. Such a process may cause the walls of my comfort zone to be broken down as I deal with issues of justice, healing and reconciliation. This part is not easy, but if it means that the prophetic horizon taught to us by Christ can become more in focus in my life through it, then it’s worth it!
There remains for me some resistance to that call to ‘go out’ into the world. I’ll explore that dynamic a little more next time. In the meantime, I pray that others may be inspired to turn to the rich spiritual legacy of the Church to help them fall more deeply in love with Jesus and the world.