A couple of weeks ago I was invited to emcee an event next April: the dinner celebration of the tenth anniversary year of the Ignatian Spirituality Institute, the program in which I studied spiritual direction. I started wondering what I had been up to during the April in which I was making the Exercises, and dug back through my journals to see whether I could uncover something that might help me introduce the event. (I may have.)
Then, as long as I had my file boxes of prayer reflection journals out (twenty-some over the past eight years!), I wondered what the October entries would show. How life has changed . . . .
October 19, 2005
A few weeks into the Spiritual Exercises, which means that I have made a commitment to an hour or so of prayer time each day (I am nowhere close to meeting that commitment) and a weekly meeting with a spiritual director, who is very gentle and very funny, and takes my beginning efforts very seriously. Recently returned from visiting Josh at The University of Chicago. I am an elder in my home Presbyterian church and a teacher in an Orthdox Jewish school, and my life of prayer is in its infancy.
" 'Be still and know that I am God.'
Really, these are words that you could put into use anywhere, any day, in the middle of anything. Staring with the 'be still.' Meaning: Create an interior stillness. Lose all the internal chatter. That in itself would be a discipline.
Just right now: I can hear the tv in the living room, the dog walking around hopefully in the kitchen, the clatter of these [computer] keys. But I can try to create an inner stillness. A hollow place. Not an empty place, but a warm, hollow, inviting place for God to rest. How would I do that during the day?"
October 17, 2006
The Exercises are, officially, behind me, and have become the framework for my spiritual life. I am embarking upon the ordination journey, and have just been endorsed by the Session of my home church as an Inquirer in the official process. I'm visiting and applying to seminaries, and there's no reason to think that all will not go splendidly.
In my journal: A brief email exchange with my spiritual director on the continual dilemma in my life: Protestant/Catholic; Ignatius/Calvin (both studying in Paris in the 1530s, where I spent time in July imagining them both). He has some reading suggestions.
October 20, 2007
October 20, 2007
I am a brand-new new seminary student, reflecting on the Eucharist, which had been transformed for me the previous year from a boring ritual to a deeply significant sacrament, thanks to a Seder dinner at the home of one of my students, a meal shared in the context of Week 3 of the Exercises with its many imaginative prayers based on Jesus' final days.
"The seminary feels physically bereft to me. No labyrinth. No stained glass. No statues. No art. Puritan starkness in the extreme It has its own beauty but it seems, as a day-after-day-after-day experience, on the empty side. I begin to see how much I depend upon material, substantial reference points for faith."
Mid October, 2008
The entries are not dated, but they are stacked in order in a folder. Josh has been gone for seven weeks. My father thinks his cancer had recurred. (It had not.) Spiritual director emeritus does have cancer. ( From which he eventually recovered.) How much? I wondered, sitting in my living room late in the afternoon, hair dripping from the shower, looking in despair at the emails on my laptop.
"What does it mean that people keep speaking and writing to me in this way -- you teach us so much, you will have more wisdom and compassion for others? Does it mean that even in the midst of such a horrific loss, I am still called to serve? Even though I am now a person who can barely get out of bed in the morning? A person who could not be trusted with the life of her own child?"
October 19, 2009
I am back in seminary. I am taking Worship and Sacraments and Hebrew Exegesis and something else (I have no idea what that might have been). This is the fall that I spend almost entirely on Psalm 88, which probably helps to save my life.
In my journal: A long email received this day from SDE, which I carried around, crumpled up in my pocket, for months, because I needed to read and re-read what was, in effect, an extended meditation on the Suscipe, a prayer at the end of the Spiritual Exercises. He writes, among other things, about coming to an acceptance of the mystery of faith. I will get no answers, he tells me. It is oddly reassuring, to be offered companionship in the articulation of that hard reality.
Not a bad re-read this week, as I am contending with Job in the pulpit. Odd, to look back at these entries from this vantage point. What a terrible and strange and wonderful journey this has become.