Sunday, April 24, 2005


Prayer is the most important aspect of my relationship with Christ.

In my prayer life, it sometimes helps to recall something St. Francis de Sales said:

"Each Christian needs half an hour of prayer each day, except when we are busy ... then we need an hour."

Friday, April 22, 2005

Jesuit feast day

Today is the feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Society of Jesus.

April 22 was the day St. Ignatius and his companions pronounced their first vows as Jesuits.

Jesuits honor Mary today because Ignatius placed himself and the Society under her protection at every step of his spiritual life.

As a young Spanish nobleman, he had been a worldly soldier, largely unconcerned with religion.

That changed in autumn 1521, when he was recovering from a wound at the battle of Pamplona.

Ignatius could find nothing to read at Loyola Castle but a book on the life of Christ and a book on the lives of the saints.

The adventurous lives of the saints so appealed to his competitive nature that he decided he too could be another St. Dominic or St. Francis of Assisi.

It was in this setting that Ignatius had a vision of Mary.

Although he did not leave behind many details of the vision, Ignatius tells us it happened on the night of his conversion.

In speaking about the event many years later, in 1555, he notes that he "clearly saw the likeness of our Lady with the holy Child Jesus, and because of this vision he enjoyed an excess of consolation for a remarkably long time. He felt so great a loathsomeness for all his past life, especially for the deeds of the flesh, that it seemed to him that all the images that had been previously imprinted on his mind were now erased."

Upon recovering from his wound, Ignatius laid his sword at the altar of Our Lady of Monserrat and started walking to Jerusalem. The rest is history.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Meditation on joy

For every sorrow, there is a joy

For every Judas, there is Peter

For every anxiety, a finding in the temple

In darkness, there is light

In silence, a song

In crucifixion, resurrection

Satan is defeated

Faith rebukes doubt and charity confounds pride

Hope lives in fear

God alone is in all things

(Prayer journal, 2/1/05)

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Jesuit prayer for Benedict XVI

[The Jesuits of Creighton University are offering this prayer for newly elected Pope Benedict XVI through their Online Ministry]

Let us pray.

Father, eternal shepherd, we thank you for your fidelity to your Church, your pilgrim People of God.

We hold up to you our new Pope, Benedict XVI. Through the work of your Holy Spirit, he has been chosen to shepherd your people, in your own heart, ensured by the promise of Jesus, that he would never leave us orphaned, and that the gates of hell would never prevail against us.

Guide Pope Benedict with the continuing presence of your Spirit in these days ahead. Let him be the "simple, humble worker in your vineyard."

Give him all the graces he will need to serve your people and unite us in our work of building your Kingdom on earth.

Be gracious to us, O Lord, in the days ahead. Heal our divisions and give us your own joy and peace. Grace us to place our trust in you and to serve one another in faith and in hope. With Pope Benedict as our pastor, may we follow the spirit of John Paul II in proclaiming your Word, in the defense of human dignity, and uniting our brothers and sisters of every faith tradition in the path of peace and justice in our world.

For those who have any fears, within the Catholic community or around the world, we ask the deepest blessing of your tender care and confident trust in you.

We ask this with faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and in union with your Holy Spirit, now and forever.


Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Habemus papam

It's an exciting day. We have our first new pope in 26 years, Benedict XVI, and tomorrow is my 25th birthday!

After hearing Ratzinger speak at John Paul's funeral, I'd say our new pontiff is a man of prayer and reasonably humble.

As Cardinal Theodore McCarrick said prior to the conclave, that's probably the best we can expect from a successor to John Paul II.

Here are some things about the papacy that give me hope for the future:

1. They say the job of pope changes the man, not vice versa. Nobody expected Pope John XXIII to launch the modernizing Second Vatican Council.

2. Ratzinger was not only an architect of Vatican II, but was also John Paul's point man for implementing its reforms.

3. Catholics believe the Holy Spirit guides our pope and church. All else is secondary.

I'll segue from that last point into a personal anecdote.

I was in Indianapolis last weekend for a Wabash College alumni reception.

As was daily the case during my life at all-male Wabash, the scene seemed lifted directly from the pages of an Evelyn Waugh novel.

Wabash is the type of liberal arts environment where the sheepskin degrees are in Latin and students deliver lectures on Dostoevsky while vomiting into trash cans. One is trained there to be ready for anything.

So while we were mingling and smoking cigars, it did not surprise me that people of all persuasions (personal and intellectual) wanted to talk religion with me.

Sometimes they were confrontational. One former classmate told me he was barely hanging on to Catholicism.

He had a litany of tensions and torments. His parents are no longer Catholic. He feels pressured for being the last one in his family to still attend Mass, and this only monthly. He feels tormented by a perceived call to be both married and a priest.

This guy wanted my feedback.

I said I thought all of the things he expressed were very important, but perhaps secondary to a more important issue: his relationship with Christ.

While it is good to be passionate about our tensions with the church, I think our opinions on such matters can serve to distract us from more important realities of Catholic life.

One can appreciate that some Catholics disagree with certain teachings and also appreciate that those teachings will probably not change.

The real question is how we live with those tensions within the Roman Catholic framework.

Do we ignore them, retreating into the comfort zone of our active imaginations and intimate social circles? Or do we sincerely seek a Christ-centered way of addressing them each day that allows us to live peacefully and generously?

Friday, April 15, 2005

Ignatian ideal

Here's the Ignatian spiritual ideal as conceptualized by Fr. Pedro Arrupe (1907-1991), a former General of the Jesuit order:

"There are two fundamental laws of all spiritual life which St. Ignatius makes his own, putting them at the center of the spiritual exercises: the law of charity, of a charity that knows no bounds, and the law of spiritual discernment, a product of prayer and intimacy with God, which helps us to discover where and in what manner, in the concrete circumstances of life, our charity should be manifested: by a love which attests its vigor in making it capable precisely of 'discerning.'"

("The Social Commitment of the Society of Jesus" from Pedro Arrupe: Essential Writings, Orbis 2004)

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Spiritual direction

After work tonight, I drove from Boca to West Palm for a monthly meeting with my spiritual director.

A "spiritual director" is a priest, monk, nun or someone likewise experienced who listens to another person talk informally about his prayer life. The purpose of the process, as I understand it, is to deepen one's spiritual life.

Catholics often meet with spiritual directors during weekend retreats, or when they are trying to figure out ("discern") God's calling in their lives.

Even a non-Catholic, if so inclined, could call up his local diocese and ask to meet with a spiritual director.

Since February 2004, I've had two "full-time" spiritual directors. When I enter the Society of Jesus this August, I'll begin meeting with my first Jesuit one. Regular spiritual direction will continue throughout my Jesuit formation.

As always, my director tonight challenged me to be more radically open to God's will and more deeply mindful of how God's spirit might be moving me in prayer.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Praying with the pope

The Jesuits have always had a special loyalty to the pope, who has returned the favor by entrusting his prayer intentions to the order since 1844.

As part of that ministry, "The Apostleship of Prayer," the Jesuits ask all Christians to pray with the pope for a different intention each month.

This month's intention is "Keep the Lord's Day Holy." The full ministry is available online:

In December, John Paul II met with Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, the General of the Jesuit Order, to unveil his monthly intentions for 2005.

Shortly after the pope's recent death, every Jesuit in the world received a letter from the Father General touching upon that meeting. Here is the major part of it:

When in the last days of 2004 the Holy Father received me for thirty minutes in his library, nothing indicated to me that the end of his intensely pastoral life was near. His voice was doubtless guttural, but nevertheless understandable.
As in past years, he wanted to personally entrust to me the intentions of the Apostleship of Prayer for the new year. Expressing his gratitude to the Society for this service that benefits at least fifty million faithful, the Holy Father reiterated his marvel at seeing a religious family that assumes an apostolic activity so important for the Church, called to promote the prayer of the faithful for the intentions of the universal Pastor. It is a characteristic mission of those who believe in their vocation of being contemplatives in apostolic action.
As the Holy Father himself asked, I renewed the promise of prayerful accompaniment in his sufferings and his offering of courage and love until the end of his life, for the Church. Let us thank the Lord for the gift of his 'Vicar on earth' for the Church, for the Society, and for the world in a time as important, anguished and complex as this period of its history.
Fraternally yours in the Lord,
Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, SJ
Superior General

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Nunc Dimittis

There has been much dispute over the legacy of Pope John Paul II, whom some American observers suggest was "too liberal" or "too conservative."

Catholic leaders say "JPII" (as his young followers called him) was neither of these things, but "faithful to the gospel."

By the word "gospel," they mean God's public revelation of truth as Rome has shaped and disseminated it over the past 2,000 years.

Some in the non-Catholic world seem confused, repulsed, or downright fatigued by the worldwide attention heaped on the late pontiff last week.

It seems to me John Paul II does not have to answer at this point to Christopher Hitchens, Bill O'Reilly, George Weigel, John Allen or any of us. He's gone to meet God's mercy.

As for the attention the pope received last week, I think the explanation should be obvious even to his detractors: He touched billions of lives personally and politically.

For Catholic and even non-Catholic religious believers, it felt like the pope was a member of our families. He was a brother, a father, a grandfather.

For world leaders, the pope was a shrewd political player on the world stage. He exploited mass communications in a way no previous pope could have imagined, and this at least merited a nod of respect.

For John Paul II, the pope was "the servant of the servants of God," completely in the hands of divine providence just like any other soul.

In his last will and testament, the pope left the world to God, as if all creation was both his possession and possessor.

And he repeated the Biblical words of Simeon as the third millenium dawned. "Nunc dimittis." In other words: "I have seen Christ and now I can die."

The Christian gospel says God promised Simeon, a devout prophet in the Jewish temple, that he would see the Messiah before he died.

So when Joseph and Mary brought the child Jesus to the temple for a customary blessing, the elderly Simeon took the child into his arms and said, "Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation."

Thursday, April 07, 2005


As I enter the Jesuits, a Roman Catholic religious order, I've been asked to create a website so people close to me can follow my spiritual journey.

This site is an answer to that request. I'm hoping to post occasional reflections from my prayer life here.

When appropriate, the reflections will be lifted from my prayer journal, the notebook where I jot down feelings and thoughts drawn from what I believe to be my experience of Jesus Christ in prayer.

My reflections are not necessarily representative of Christian life or Catholic religious life.

In other words, readers should not take my writings too seriously, and should feel free to discard them.

I believe it's an objective reality that God speaks to us as individuals, but I believe he does so in vastly different ways. There is no cookie-cutter spiritual blueprint that works equally for everyone.

All reflections posted here will be those that I find helpful or important in my spiritual life. But not all will be edifying to particular people.

So as you read this website, please disregard the useless, heartless and ignorant. Feel free to comment and question. And please pray for me.
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