Monday, March 19, 2012

Ignatian Spirtual Adventure - Reflection 7

Oh, yes, we are supposed to be praying our way through the life of Jesus for these couple of weeks.  But I find myself completely arrested by the life of Mary.

An intriguing confluence of events:

I had begun to wonder where it is that I find parallels between the Biblical narrative and my own.  In the past, I have turned to the Woman at the Well and to Mary Magdalene.  In fact, the story of the former was the theme narration for my ordination service, a sort of Ignatian repetition of a significant week of prayer for me during my experience of the Exercises six years ago.  But now, a dramatic six month period in my life just behind me, I am feeling less than satisfied with my sense of the confluence between those stories and my own.

An email flyer announced the release of a new series of presentations by a Jesuit friend-director-counselor-guide entitled, of all things, Every Life Has a Story.  Hmmm . . . .  (It looks excellent and no, you don't have to be Catholic.)

I had just turned to a small book, The Reed of God, that said Jesuit had recommended to me six years ago.  At the time, I wasn't much impressed, and we moved on.  What was I thinking ????  Oh, well.  Sometimes the gifts and resources that come your way are for the future.

Here's what I'm thinking now, sort of.  I like the Woman at the Well and Mary Magdalene because I see in my own life something of the transformation that occurred in theirs.  A before and an after.

But these days, I am slowly coming to terms with what seems to be another hallmark of my own story: constant tension between differing poles.  A call to live in ambiguity.  

To live at home and away from home.
Not to have a mother but to be a mother.
To be a mother but to lose a child.  
To be "thoroughly Protestant" (as Kathleen Norris describes herself) but deeply appreciative of Catholicism.
To be thoroughly Christian and yet expansively generous toward other faiths of the world.  
To be an outgoing congregational pastor and a quiet spiritual companion.
Added later:  How could I forget?  I pastor a church that is BOTH Presbyterian and Methodist!

There's a certain, generally-ignored corner of my psyche that longs to be either-or.  I don't tend to that corner, because I don't consider it to be of much value, but it's there.  Sometimes it catches my eye, looking for all the world like a safe and easy place.  But I know it's not.

I'm beginning to see Mary as someone who also walked in ambiguity.  We are accustomed to hearing her "Yes" as a confident, unequivocal assertion of vocation, and I'm not disputing that.  But her life was a good deal more complex as a consequence of her "Yes."

I'm beginning to see her story as the one I want to comprehend.

Image: Detail of Pieta, Jose' de Robera, 1637.


  1. Thank you for this, which I am forwarding to on of my spiritual directees, who is very interested in Mary.

  2. As a Protestant become Catholic I am often caught in a dual world and Reed of God was a book that helped me make sense of Mary and her importance to Catholics in particular that my little Protestant background just didn't understand. I am glad you have found it helpful as it is a book that I return to from time to time and find fresh perspectives in.

    This book and others helped Mary to became personal and her story began to matter to me immensely. She has given direction to my own mothering of my sons when I lacked clarity and comfort when watching them live their lives and come close to death was just hard.