For the past several weeks, I've been a member of a committee working on a promotional video for the program in which I trained as a spiritual director. Spearheaded by a young MBA/Marketing student who is also training to be a director, the video will explore the program via interviews with a group of graduates. The committee has kindly held its meetings in my living room, since getting out is such an undertaking for me.
My own interview for the video is next Friday, and I've had a lot of fun reflecting on the questions we've developed, starting with:
What drew you to the Ignatian Spirituality Institute?
The short answer is that my spiritual director suggested it.
The longer version: I had made the Spiritual Exercises two years earlier. At the time, I was doing graduate work in the Humanities at John Carroll University, and I had taken two courses in literature and spirituality as a way of meeting my professional requirements for literature courses (I was teaching high school at the time) and my personal desire to further my religious education. The courses did not cover Ignatian spirituality per se, but my professor was a Jesuit priest, a brilliant man and a gifted educator, and it was clear to me that there was something about Ignatian spirituality that I wanted to pursue. My professor radiated a joy in his life with God that I had seldom witnessed in anyone else, and whatever that was about ~ I wanted it.
The same professor offered a course on Ignatian spirituality during that time period, but I couldn't fit it into my schedule. One night, my own class on Islam ended early, and I wandered down the hall and sat in on the second half of his class. I don't remember the topic under discussion, but I do recall sinking into my seat ~ as much as one can sink into a molded plastic classroom chair ~ with a grateful sense that I had found my home.
When the course rolled around again a couple of years later, I signed up for it, and about three weeks later asked my professor if he would help me make the Exercises. I remember the conversation very clearly; it took place in his office late at night, after class, and I was sure that he would refuse and pass me on to someone else. I didn't know him well at all, but I was aware that he was often away traveling, and doubted that he had the time to give me the Exercises. Imagine my surprise when he said "Sure" and pulled out his calendar so that we could set a time! Suddenly I was launched into . . . I had no idea what.
As that incredible year rolled to an end, my director asked whether I had considered the ISI. I had, in a vague sort of way, because I had fallen in love with Ignatian spirituality, and credited it with changing my entire life orientation. But the Exercises, even accommodated to my Protestant sensibilities, seemed distinctly Catholic to me, and I doubted that they would be something I could put to use in any way. Besides, I had already made the decision, part and parcel of my experience of the Exercises, to go to seminary. How much could a person manage? (Much more, as things were to turn out.)
Next thing I knew, I was applying to the ISI. Once again, prior commitments got in the way, and I had to wait until the next year to enroll, the year in which I started seminary in Pittsburgh.
A little preposterous, to be sure.
Thank God for Holy Spirit impracticality.