By Karen Sheehy
“Ask, and you will receive. Seek, and you shall find,” (Matthew 7:7).
“The last shall be first and the first shall be last,” (Matthew 20:16).
“Trust in God and you shall live,” (Sirach 15:15).
These lines from scripture seem to fly in the face of logic or wisdom of our current age. However, this Sunday’s readings teach us that, as Christians, we are called to seek “a wisdom not of this age, but of God.” A wisdom “mysterious and hidden, which God predetermined before the ages for our glory “(1Corinthians 2:7-8).
But how do we find such wisdom or hear the voice of God amidst life’s craziness? Please join me as I explore the Ignatian method of discernment and the spiritual wisdom which I gained during a five-day, personally directed, silent retreat at the Jesuit Spirituality Center in Grand Coteau, LA.
Two thousand years ago, Grand Coteau was situated on the west bank of the Mississippi River, near its entry point to the Gulf of Mexico. Today, however, this region is known for its magnificent old oak trees and historically significant Catholic structures, including the St. Charles College Jesuit Spirituality Center founded in 1837. This beautiful and historic center was the location for my five-day silent retreat on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits.
St. Ignatius, a 16th-century Spanish priest and theologian, wrote the Spiritual Exercises to increase awareness of God’s presence in everyday life. Grounded in the conviction that God is active in our world, St. Ignatius understood that man’s relationship with God was through Jesus Christ. As such, his Exercises consist of meditations and contemplations on various Scriptural passages which focus on four major themes: sin and the need for humanity’s salvation, Jesus’ life, Passion, and Resurrection. After meditating, contemplating, and praying upon each assignment, an individuals seek understanding of God’s wisdom and how each of their experiences or insights apply to God’s call.
So, there I was, surrounded by natural beauty, being enlightened by the Word of God, nourished by His Body and Blood, and guided by an Ignatian-trained spiritual director. Sounds wonderful, right? But wait, did I fail to mention the silence? Being an introvert, I expected the solitude and silence to be the least challenging aspect of my five-day journey. Boy, was I wrong! Although the three to four hours of quiet meditation, self-reflection, and daily participation in the Mass was heavenly bliss, the silence proved deafening. Ironically, five days of avoiding eye contact, walking quietly by others, and dining in silence became my true “Way of the Cross” during this spiritual journey.
Thankfully, my persistent and earnest prayers in the midst of my silent struggles simply magnified the mysterious and hidden wisdom of God, for the joy of the Resurrection always follows the Cross. Fed by the Word, Body, and Blood of Jesus Christ, I managed to hear His whispers in the stillness of my heart, mind, and soul. In response, I humbly asked, “Instruct me, O Lord! Give me discernment, that I may observe your law and keep it with all my heart” (Psalm 119:33-34). I pray that we may each strive to:
· quiet the noisiness of life
· find comfort in our silent struggles which help to illuminate God’s love, wisdom and guidance
· search for His voice in Sacred Scripture and silent prayer
· contemplate and meditate upon His personal instructions
· thankfully acknowledge His total gift of Self for our salvation
· desire to reflect His gift of unconditional love to others
· and finally, long for His coming during the celebration of the Mass and at the end of time
For, “as it is written, what eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him, this God has revealed to us through the Spirit” (1Corinthians 2:9-10).
Come, Holy Spirit, come, and fill us with the wisdom of God. Amen.
About the Author:
Karen Sheehy is a devout Catholic, wife and mother, motivational speaker, blogger and developer of spiritualsafariguide.com, your passport to a world of spiritual inspiration and understanding. To learn more about Karen Sheehy and her upcoming book entitled, The Healing Eyes of Mercy. A Journey Towards the Light of God’s Love, visit http://www.spiritualsafariguide.com
The Sacred Heart of Jesus in Grand Coteau. Photo courtesy of Karen Sheehy. All rights reserved.