Happy Feast Day, St. Ignatius

Today is the feast day of St. Ignatius of Loyola, so a blessed feast day to all of my Jesuit friends and their collaborators. It’s so great to have been a part of “the family” for so many years, since my Fordham undergraduate days, through graduate school and beyond into other relationships.

One of the things I’ve admired about the Jesuits is their commitment to working with lay folk like myself. In fact, the first Ignatian retreat I went on I was invited to by a lay person. My resident director at the time was a guy named Steve DiSalvo. To brag slightly, Steve is now Dr. Steven DiSalvo and has become President of Marian University after a stint as the executive director of the Safe at Home foundation (better known as former Yankee Manager Joe Torre’s foundation to educate people about domestic violence).

I remember walking into McGinley Center at Fordham (the cafeteria and other central offices were here and still are) and finding Steve at a table that said “Peer Retreat” on it. He called me over when he saw me and said “You should go on this!” I looked at the date and it was the weekend of my 20th birthday.

“Um, you’ve got no shot in hell of me going that’s my birthday weekend!”

A lesser person than Steve would have given up right there. But instead he persisted confidently:

“Dude, you can go out to get drunk at Clarke’s anytime. Why don’t you take this weekend and look at what the last 20 years have been like and then think about what you hope the next 20 years will become?”

I looked at him and said, “You know, Steve….OK. I’m in!”

In fact the two guys behind me signed up as well. I invited them to celebrate my birthday with me away.

That weekend changed my life. It really beckoned me to ministry. The following year, Fr. John Mullin, SJ, came to Fordham and brought the Emmaus retreat program with him and it was a huge success with my generation of college students. He taught me how to lead retreats and encouraged my ministry even as a volunteer. Years later in my Ignatian Examen I noted that all of the things in my life that I was proud of has stemmed from these retreat experiences at Fordham with Steve and later with Padre John, as we called him.

But these men simply were being sons of Ignatius. They were true contemplatives in action both lay and ordained and led many into a stronger relationship with Jesus and with themselves. My friends from those retreats were among the best friends I had in college and I’m still very connected with many of them today nearly 20 years later. I’ve also developed retreats and led versions of the spiritual exercises and engaged with the exercises myself more deeply throughout these many years.

To think that it all started with the vision of Ignatius who simply wanted to go where people were. He went to the cities and wanted to be a resource for the spiritual experience of all people. He had a special love for the poor and through his experience of being in the world he led all of his followers into being sensitive to the needs of others.

And we are all better for his vision.

Jesuits Like This Guy Are Awesome and Why I Am Catholic

This Jesuit, pointed out to me by my colleague Anna Marie, reminded me of the Jesuits I met at Fordham. Take a look:

In my Fordham days my teachers, Fr. Elbert Rushmore, SJ, Fr. Gerry McCool, SJ, Fr. W. Norris Clarke, SJ and Fr Don Moore, SJ along with Fr Frank Stroud, SJ and Fr. John Mullin, SJ in Campus Ministry all upheld the Jesuit maxim of being a man for others. They challenged my assumptions and had the patience and sensitivity to give me confidence in myself. The lay teachers and diocesan folks at Fordham also embodied a similar mindset.

Fr. Norris Clarke, SJ was a fine teacher of Philosophy. For his class on the human person I got to write an autobiographical paper comparing events in my life with St. Thomas’ thought. It helped me to integrate the person I was becoming with my Catholic self. Looking back on the paper (which I somehow still have) I could see myself being led away from radio and into ministry even then. I remember re-reading the paper when I was considering a career move. This part stuck out:

“I am more than simply a broadcaster or someone who works broadly within the field of broadcasting. I am a human person who is affected by the stories I cover, sports or otherwise and in my work I must remember the human persons who I will cover, talk about on the air and represent in some small way to a larger contingent. God has created me with that sensitivity and I cannot avoid it–for it is who I am. God’s gift to me is that sensitivity and I must embrace it on this great circle of being and return that gift to the Father with all that I am. For if I do not…I fail myself.”

Not bad for a 21 year old.

A few years ago, Fr. Joe Currie, SJ, then director of Campus Ministry at Fordham had me over to the Jesuit residence for lunch. I asked about Fr. Clarke and was told that he was still alive. At that mention, Fr. Clarke, shuffled into the room. He was nearly 93 years old and still was sharp. I was happy to be able to go over and share a word of thanks to him for being my teacher so many years ago.

He was ever the graceful recipient of my own gratitude and asked several questions about my life today and generally made me feel like I was the only person in the room that he wanted to bother with. He epitomized the word “peaceful” to me. An old man and a young man, sharing grace over a lunch line. Who could think of a better scene?

Nearly a month or so later, he was dead. I was so happy to have been able to share just a brief moment with this Jesuit giant.

I think the Jesuits I have been privileged enough to spend time with, young and old, have allowed me to grow introspectively–to see “God in all things” as Ignatius would say, and more importantly, to be able to then say “so what” about seeing God’s grandeur in life’s busyness. What does God’s love for us compel us to do? How are we to live? If we find God hidden in some corner of life, what does God hope for us to find in that encounter?

I wonder what my life would be like without the Jesuits and I fear that it might be sadder, less full, incomplete. God used them to help me find myself and in doing so, they helped me also find God. Through education. through retreat, through ministering to me and enabling me to minister to others, I came to see myself in the light of God’s hope for me to be all that I am–nothing more, but more importantly, nothing less.

And for that, I am truly filled with gratitude.

Fr. Jim Martin, S.J. Is Not Jesus And Neither Am I

Fr. Jim Martin, S.J. has a wonderful piece over at the Jesuit Post today on the 5 Best Pieces of Jesuit Wisdom He’s Ever Heard.

My favorite of the 5 pieces has been one that has been spoken to me by my famed Jesuit spiritual directors, Jim Mcdermott, SJ, Rocco Danzi, SJ, and Br. Chris Derby, SJ in some form. It sounds simple but for those of us who truly try to achieve much, and of whom much is asked, we may indeed suffer from a messiah complex. Fr. Jim reminds us that we are indeed not the messiah.

“You’re not Jesus.” After philosophy studies, I worked with the Jesuit Refugee Service in Nairobi, Kenya. It was fantastic work. (Needless to say, I had gotten over my worries about working in the developing world: I asked to go!) But gradually I started to fret about doing all that needed to be done. Our work was helping East African refugees start small businesses, which meant: meeting with them on a regular basis; checking on their businesses (tailoring shops, bakeries, restaurants, chicken farms); helping them navigate their way through government agencies; arranging for them to get medical help when they were sick; and just listening to them. How could I do it all?

After a few months, I confessed to my spiritual director, George Drury, a New England Jesuit stationed in Nairobi, how overwhelmed I felt. “Where did you get the idea that you had to do everything all at once?” he said.

What a dumb question, I thought. Well, I said, that’s what Jesus would do. He would visit them. He would check on their businesses. He would fix their problems. He would help to heal them. He would listen to them. And George said, “That’s true. But I’ve got news for you: you’re not Jesus! No one person can do everything. And even Jesus didn’t heal everyone in Palestine.” Accepting my limitations and my “poverty of spirit,” that is, my own limitations, helped me to do my best and leave the rest up to God.

Later on another spiritual director put it more succinctly: “There is Good news and there is the Better News. The Good News is that there is a Messiah. The Better News is that it’s not you!”

And it’s not me either. I’ve spent the last few days feeling blue that I had to cancel a retreat scheduled for this weekend because there just wasn’t enough interest. One of my colleagues reminded me that on our very secular campus providing a rich spiritual experience might just be a bit too advanced for our students–especially when we offer more than one in a given year. Perhaps smaller steps are called for? The term retreat often connotes “advanced” for many. Our student leaders don’t even think that it’s for them. One even said “I’d rather do habitat than sit around talking with others all weekend,” clearly not understanding the purpose of the retreat or even just being too afraid to be a bit vulnerable with others, preferring “doing over being” and never letting things get too deep with others and just keeping it superficial. It’s Christian Smith’s “Moral Therapeutic Deism”–essentially, a spiritual motto of “Just be nice because that’s all God requires” and not much else. It’s why alternative breaks get sold out quickly and the deeper more spiritual elements take a lot more effort.

Or not…

As a spiritual director I need to pay attention to the fact that these students need great care to open up to these deeper experiences. That I need to be patient with that.

Our students often don’t have the experiences that we have and nor do many even trust us enough to give them more than a free dinner. We are not even close to being trusted sources for many of the students. And I don’t know about you but I’m not going to go away with a bunch of people that I don’t trust. So why should they? More time, more time, much more time is needed to be spent with these students in settings that allow us to talk with them and to deepen their experience of college. Then and only then, will they be able to trust us enough to head away for a day or so on a deepening experience.

I often think that I have to do it all. And the truth is that I can’t. Doesn’t that just suck? God has to work on these people, to open them to the experience of His love and to use us in Campus Ministry where we can be most effective. But people’s conversion to being open depends on them and their openness to what Jesus offers them. I can’t change that and it happens on God’s time, not mine.

I’ve been thinking about the students that I have taken on retreat and sure enough, they’ve been the students who have gotten to trust me through break trips, casual conversation, experiences in classes, or even Sunday mass (imagine that!).

So today I will shake the dust from my feet and head out to gather the medical students for a lunchtime lecture. The few students who were interested in our retreat will get a doodle for a day of reflection down the road. And we’ll start trying to build up the trust factor a bit more. Perhaps by semester’s end next year, we’ll be able to pull off a retreat.

Until then, I’ll let Jesus continue to work on both them and me.

Jesuit Martyrs in El Salvador…We Remember

When I was in College, Jesuits were martyred in El Salvador. A large number of Jesuit Presidents of colleges and universities travelled down in a show of solidarity to El Salvador. When they returned, they were quite different men.

Fr. Joseph O’Hare, S.J. told me later that year that the Jesuits would never leave El Salvador. That they’d “have guys lined up around the block” to go serve there. And that the Jesuits would never be the same after this horror. I think that was spot on. Dean Brackley, recently deceased, recounted the event on the 20th anniversary of their deaths.

In the early hours of 16 November 1989, US-trained commandos of the Salvadoran armed forces entered the campus of the Jesuits’ university, the Universidad Centroamericana (UCA), and brutally murdered the six Jesuits, together with two women who were sleeping in a parlour attached to their residence. The Jesuits were: the university rector Ignacio Ellacuría, 59, an internationally known philosopher; Segundo Montes, 56, head of the Sociology Department and the UCA’s human rights institute; Ignacio Martín-Baró, 44, the pioneering social psychologist who headed the Psychology Department and the polling institute; theology professors Juan Ramón Moreno, 56, and Armando López, 53; and Joaquín López y López, 71, founding head of the Fe y Alegría network of schools for the poor. Joaquín was the only native Salvadoran, the others having arrived long before from Spain as young seminarians. Julia Elba Ramos, the wife of a caretaker at the UCA, and their daughter Celina, 16, were eliminated to ensure that there would be no witnesses. Ironically, the women had sought refuge from the noise of gunfire near their cottage on the edge of the campus. Julia Elba cooked for the Jesuit seminarians living near the UCA.

This was one crime in a long series that included the martyrdom of Rutilio Grande SJ in 1977, and those of Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero and the four US missionaries: Jean Donovan, Ursuline sister Dorothy Kazel and Maryknoll sisters Ita Ford and Maura Clarke, in 1980. They all mixed their blood with that of tens of thousands of lesser-known civilian victims of El Salvador’s civil war of 1981 to 1992, which moved the world with its extremes of cruelty and of heroic generosity.

Today let us recall these men and women…people who I consider saints…people who died for their faith and their belief that God shows a preferential option for the poor. May their lives continue to rise up in the Salvadorian people and remind us to be a voice for the voiceless.

Through the intercession of St. Ignatius of Loyola may God grant them pardon and peace and be a comfort to their families.

And let us pray that peace will prevail in El Salvador and in places that are torn by war and oppression.

Examen Me

I’m not sure if any of you are familiar with this site based on the Ignatian Examen, but I’ve been using it daily for the past few days and have found it to be a real help in doing my daily Examen.

The site is Examen.me and it basically lets you journal your Examen—and you can even save what you write for review later if you want. I plan to look back over a week’s worth at week’s end and do a week-long examen using this to guide me. It’s free but you have to register for an account.

Give it a go. There’s even some offshoots of a traditional examen that uses the psalms and the gospel reading of the day to help your focus.

The Examen is Ignatius’ way of teaching us to look at the rhythms of our lives through a review of the day. We can see where we had energy and where we were lacking in energy. Over times we even notice the patterns of our lives for good or for bad. A personal example: I noticed once that whenever I hung out with a particular group of people I’d get sucked into their drama and begin to gossip with them. I didn’t stop hanging around them, but I forced myself to not fall into the gossip trap and even tried to change the subject when it would head down that road. I wasn’t always successful–sin can master us sometimes–but I got better over time and we even found new ways to spend out time as a group because of it. I also found a pattern of loving writing and providing direction for students and other young adults. It is where I feel the most awesome, vibrant presence of God…in those moments of quiet and in those moments where I can most listen carefully for where God is lurking and guide others into a better relationship.

That’s what the Examen does for me. It points me in the path of where I can see God working in my life and leading me to joy.

I hope you join me on your own journey.

And when you do, I hope it is there that you will fall in love:

As Fr. Pedro Arrupe once prayed:

“Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in a love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the mornings, what you will do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”

Let us pray today that we will be able to fall in love with God and be led into the heart of where we are most called to be the best version of ourselves.

Blow Amongst Us Spirit of God

Br. Chris Derby, S.J. kneels before the Body of Christ as he recites his final vows to the Society of Jesus.
It’s a weekend of Holy Spirit festivities this weekend. Today I spent the morning at the Mass of the Holy Spirit at Canisius High School where we witnessed the final vows of Br. Chris Derby, SJ as a member of the Society of Jesus. I got to catch up with Fr. Tom Benz, SJ who was a scholastic when I was an undergraduate student at Fordham and often invited me over to their home for dinner. The famed Fr. Jim Martin, SJ also was there and we had a great time listening to him regale us with stories at lunch. We should note that Br. Chris is a Jesuit Brother, not a priest. I asked him once when I first met him why he chose to be a Brother and not a priest. His response amazed me. He said:

“Well, a priest leads a community both at mass and in other ways. I don’t see myself in that role, in the lead. I see myself walking alongside people, journeying with them.”

Br. Chris serves as my spiritual director here in Buffalo and he is true to that call. He walks with me as a companion and confidant and I’m always gifted by his wisdom and his insight. It’s a new relationship for us, so we are taking this where the spirit guides us and so far it’s been an opportunity for me to see how great God truly is and how often I’m touched by his presence through others. The Holy Spirit blows where it will and quite often I feel that hurricane and breath in my life and Chris often points that out to me when I’m missing it.

Mass was lovely and included this hymn to the Holy Spirit, At the Table of the World which is one of my favorites performed here on you tube which doesn’t let me embed.

The rest of our weekend includes some leadership training for our student leaders where we’ll discern where the holy spirit is calling them to serve in our midst and in the lives of their friends and colleagues. It’s an exciting time. We head to a camp tomorrow to do a low-ropes and obstacle course (I’ve been getting in shape) and to listen for God’s call for the remainder of our school year. Keep them and my colleagues Julianne, Ed and Katie in your prayers this weekend if you would.

Sunday we have our Mass of the Holy Spirit and award our Newman Award to UB’s Head Basketball Coach, the esteemed Reggie Witherspoon. Our new UB President, Satish Tripathy will be joining us as well for the morning mass and we’re touched by his acceptance of the invitation. We’ll have our choirs and Fr. Jack Ledwon will be preaching on the Holy Spirit in our lives. The spirit is indeed alive at UB. My colleague Ed Koch and I met with Vice-President of Student Life Dennis Black and Barb Ricotta the other day and we talked about how we can bring that spirit more openly to the campus–not just as Catholic Campus Ministers but as UB Campus Ministers—in a spirit of collaboration and interfaith dialogue with all of the Campus Ministers at the University. They had lots of good ideas and generated much excitement for the future of Campus Ministry.

Our mass will be a celebration of that spirit past and present. If you’re around, join us. It’s a lovely day filled with much joy and spirit.

For us, let us discern where the Holy Spirit is calling us to be in this moment. TO whom should we go? To Christ, and only Christ. Where do we see him? In all those we are called to serve: Students, faculty, staff, our families and friends. To those in tragedy and those who are elated.

The spirit is blowing wildly. We can’t pin it down. The best we can do is let us take us on the ride of our lives, where God pushes us to be the best version of ourselves.

What the Jesuits Have Meant to Me

As many know I attended Fordham for both undergraduate and grad school. I was always very impressed by the Jesuits and they helped me form an adult faith that I treasure today. Today is the feast day of St. Ignatius Loyola and so, I thought I’d tell a few quick Jesuit stories of how they saved, changed and continue to renew my faith over these past 25 years.

I’m 18 years old about to head to college. I go to my parent’s church and meet with a few of the priests there. I tell them I’m going to Fordham and they roundly object. They suggest transferring to St. John’s or to some other non-Jesuit school. Later the same day, a homeless man comes to the church steps while I’m sweeping rice off of the steps after a wedding. One of the associate pastors comes out and shoos him away. I’m embarrassed by this, but thought that he might have had a history with the priest. But as we enter the church, the priest tells me the following words:

“I can’t stand these blacks always looking for something. Now I’m no racist, I just don’t like blacks.”

I think at that moment, I decided that Catholicism was no longer going to be for me. I would head to Fordham, (especially since this horrible man thought that was such a bad idea) but I pretty much thought it was impossible for me to live the gospel if these priests couldn’t even get it right.

Then my freshman year at Fordham, I was asked by not only one but a number of priests to help out at POTS (Part of the Solution) soup kitchen. I saw their dedication to the poor, to those who had nobody. It renewed my faith and made me begin to admire many of these Jesuits who truly lived the gospel message.

Fast forward a year later and the Jesuits were murdered in El Salvador. I remember Fr. Jim Keenan, SJ who lived in the dorms with us, speaking candidly about it. By now, I had become an acolyte at the 10PM mass and often would see the University President, Fr. Joseph A. O’Hare, SJ there. He would be a frequent presider at our late night mass and he had gotten back from El Salvador and was visibly shaken.

“It was horrible” he told me when I asked about his trip there. “We know who did this, but there’s not much we can do about it.”

I remember asking him one further question, “So are the Jesuits just leaving El Salvador now?”

His response was so inspiring. “Not a chance. We’ll have guys lined up around the block volunteering to go. We can’t afford to leave there now. We HAVE to stay there and show them that evil will never have the final word.”

I remember being a lot more engaged with mass that night. I don’t remember much more than that, but I do remember how dedicated they were to the people of El Salvador. I started reading about Ignatius more that year and took a few theology and philosophy courses with some great Jesuits. Bill Dych, SJ introduced me to Karl Rahner and Eschatology. Gerry McCool, SJ taught me Plato and Aristotle with great enthusiasm. Norris Clark, SJ taught a wonderful class on the human person. I remember writing an autobiographical style paper for the final stating how I was much more than my broadcasting skills and that my work with campus ministry taught me much about that. It was clearly the beginning of God’s prodding me towards ministry (it only took me 12 more years to respond to that call!).

But mostly, it was the retreats that I attended with John Mullin, SJ that made the biggest difference. Padre, as we called him, was very tender in his care of the students. He mentored me well and often allowed me to think of myself as someone who could really serve God simply by being present to another. He introduced me to one of Anthony DeMello’s guided meditations that led me to really consider whether I was following my true calling. I continue to do it today now and again. We had a wonderful retreat team experience my senior year. And many of those folks I still consider treasured friends today.

Jesuits have been my spiritual directors for years. Jim McDermott, SJ was serving as an editor at America and he gave me lots to think about. Rocco Danzi, SJ later would get me to discern what I really wanted in ministry and where I might have wanted to do that. Today Br. Chris Derby, SJ keeps me honest to that calling here in Buffalo and the Jesuit community at St. Michael’s led me through the 19th Annotation last year, deepening my experiences of the exercises.

I’ve continued doing Ignatian based retreats since those college days and Charis Ministries in Chicago has been a great partnership for me. We worked with them at Busted Halo and have now brought them to Buffalo where the students and young adults have responded well to the initiative.

So today, Jesuit friends and collaborators, I know that I have a lot to thank the Jesuits for. And so do many more. For Jim Martin’s, great books and Rick Curry’s dedication to the handicapped. For those who gave their lives for justice in Central America and Africa. For Jesuits like Tom Reese, SJ who always makes people think and Mark Mossa, SJ and Mark Massa, SJ two great scholars who enjoy a great meal and a great debate and often are confused for each other. For Campus Ministers, like John Bucki, SJ here in Buffalo and especially those who run retreat houses and retreat ministries. Thank you for all you do.

Most especially, thank you for your great spirit of collaboration with the laity. For bringing Lauren Gaffey, Becky Eldridge and Pam Coster at Charis Ministries and Jenene Francis with the Midwestern Province into my life as friends and colleagues. I could not be more grateful for these women, women who do much to spread the message of Ignatius and of Jesus Christ.

Gratitude is one of Ignatius’ central tenets. He even starts his great prayer the Examen with it. So today friends, thank a Jesuit on their great feast day and bring with that gratitude a dedication to seeking God in all things as Ignatius would say.

May our great saint, Ignatius of Loyola and all the Jesuits continue to pray for us. Amen.

Popular Jesuit Liturgist Removed from Ministry

Because I am king of fairness…

J-Glen Murray, S.J. a priest who I have spent many conferences listening to and admiring his great enthusiasm for liturgy has been removed from ministry for an allegation that happened more than 20 years ago.

Deacon Greg pointed me here but he quoteth the Sacramento Bee:

The Maryland Province of the Jesuits said Tuesday that it removed the Rev. James Glenn Murray from church work after an investigator hired by the Roman Catholic order found evidence supporting the allegation. Murray is living in a monitored Jesuit residence.

The Jesuits sent notice of their action to dioceses and high schools where Murray has served since his 1979 ordination.

Murray is a liturgy specialist who helped draft a 1990s document for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on African-American worship in the Roman Catholic Church.

Fr. Murray is someone who I often agreed with and charitably disagreed with at times on liturgy. I like to read along with lectors and he was vehemently against it. We duked it out at Notre Dame last year at a conference:

Murray: Lectors should be so well trained that they should proclaim as if they are on fire for the word of God. We should be happy to watch them burn.

Hayes: That’s a great image Father! But frankly there are more than a few lectors that I’d like to set on fire.

That got a huge laugh, even from Fr. Murray. I was proud that I made the great liturgist laugh, one of my finest moments. It saddens me that this happened, even if it was over 20 years ago. I hope further details of the case come forth and perhaps he can return, although I’m sure that’s not likely.

I think that there are many priests out there who may have done something inappropriate in their ministry some time ago. Perhaps their victims are owed a bit of justice, after all, they are innocent and were robbed of something that cannot be repaired any longer. The fallout from these incidents for these victims may indeed still be scarring. In Fr. Murray’s case we only know of this one. And that’s one too many.

For now, let us pray for priests who have abused others, sexually and otherwise. Let us pray that they can get the help they need. And pray for the victims that they too, might be able to heal from the deep wounds that men in positions of power have inflicted.

Most of all, I remain saddened. And hope Fr Murray can come to terms with what he did that long ago and that his accuser can also rest easy.

Adopted by God

Today’s quote gave me pause. It amazes me how I somehow run right to the negative. This is from Romans…take a second to reflect with me on this:

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.
For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, “Abba, Father!”
The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,
and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.
And the one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because it intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will.

The word adoption is a loaded word for me. I tried to adopt a little girl once and it just didn’t work out. I was angry and upset at a great many things but mostly, I felt robbed from the opportunity of being a parent. So whenever I hear the word “adopted” I cringe a bit.

But have I not been adopted myself?

God adopted me through Christ. The beauty of incarnation as one of us brings us all to become sons and daughters of God. God cares about creation so much that he instills His spirit into us. Jesus gives us flesh and blood by turning it over to us to do with it as we will. We crucified it once and do so again with each sinful action, but we also adore Jesus’ body and blood in the Eucharist now as well. The body once broken by us is again broken but gloriously now and it feeds us real food–God literally inside of us. Mysticism and matter rolled into one.

God chooses to give me Himself. Adopts me as His own.

Would it be that I could give myself to another as an adopter. But alas, it was not to be. But in order to adopt one needs to realize their own adoption. To love more perfectly, one needs to realize that they are loved first by God.

Do I really believe that?

Could God really be all I need? Or do I have those disordered attachments that St. Ignatius talks about?

What is it that keeps me from Jesus? From the cross? From belief?

Some days I’m snotty and selfish. Others I’m lazy. Others resentful.

The truth is that we all need to feel adopted. We need to feel like something inside us has just died, so that we might live more freely, more openly for God without the need for reciprocation on either end. God doesn’t owe us anything.

And in a similar way, we don’t owe God either. Jesus has ransomed us from death and adopted us as His own forever.

And therein lies one of the central tenets of our faith–that God never abandons us. Even after death, God reaches beyond the darkness of death and tries to pull us His way into His own wonderful new light.

Tomorrow is our Gala Dinner for our parish’s 160 years. Many have been adopted into this communion of saints. Do we have enough gratitue for those who have adopted us?

I Believe Lord, Help My Unbelief

A parish I used to visit on occasion used to do a version of the creed that I loved. The presider would say the words of the creed and the congregation would respond: “I believe, Lord, help my unbelief.”

To be honest, for a person in ministry, I can’t think of a better prayer and so I’ve stayed with that prayer that came up in my time of prayer during my 19th annotation retreat. I’ll probably sit with it as a mantra for the next few days, in fact.

Do I really believe that God is all I need? Do I really buy everything that we say in the creed? Do I believe that faith alone has the power to move mountains?

Hard things to take all in one sitting to be sure. But this mantra allows me to really engage with Jesus in prayer. It is a bit like the serenity prayer that Phil Fox Rose wrote about on Busted Halonot that long ago. I need to have the faith to believe in God, despite my unbelief. I need to surrender to that unbelief and to give that to God to help with overcoming my doubts and eliminating my fears.

It is difficult to believe that God could be all that I need. I often crave things that I know aren’t good for me. I head straight for things that I know place me outside of that relationship that God calls me into.

In Mark’s Gospel, these simple words are found on the lips of a man whose son is convulsing with a demon. Jesus’ followers were unable to drive the demon out and so they call Jesus onto the scene. Jesus rolls his eyes at the lack of faith that the crowd here has, including the boy’s father who even has a whisper of doubt that anyone, Jesus included could help his son. It seems hopeless, even for Jesus.

And so the man tells Jesus that he indeed believes that Jesus can help his son and he asks Jesus to help his unbelief.

The disciples wonder why they couldn’t drive out the demon and Jesus offers another simple answer to their question:

He said to them, “This kind can only come out through prayer.”

My friend Margaret once said, “Did you ever have a relationship where you met with a friend once a week and all you did was talk about the same things and did the same exact activities in the same place? If so, ask yourself if your relationship with God is like that too.”

I think I have that tendency. The tendency to stop talking daily to God and to put off prayer in favor of other things that I’d rather do–or other things that are just time wasters. And when I don’t keep developing this relationship with God then I am doomed to face my fears alone–not because God abandons me, but because I often abandon God and turn to other people, places, things, activities that I choose over and against prayer.

I am officially on retreat now for the next few months. I am doing the Ignatian Exercises in the format called the “19th Annontation.” For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, St Ignatius of Loyola (the founder of the Society of Jesus, or the Jesuits as they are better known) developed a series of “spiritual exercises” that were to be done over a 30 day period. It’s essentially done as “a long retreat.” But he also made annotations in his book of exercises that state that people who don’t have time to be secluded for 30 straight days should be allowed to do the exercises over a longer period of time. So that is what I am doing now. I have to pray an hour a day, with scripture and in quiet. Not an easy task for me and I am getting used to making the time for this. I’m also supposed to journal a bit about my feelings during my prayer time. So I’ll try to share some of that with you as the time goes on.

Today I would say that I feel humbled by the words of the demonic’s father. He awakens me to the fact that while I believe, I do need help as well. There are plenty of things that trip me up, plenty of things that lock me into fear and hopelessness. Sometimes I get discouraged when things don’t go well and I need the opportunity to take the long view and relax and know that in the end, God is really all I need and that God will see me through regardless.

But God won’t help me if I don’t let God help me. I need to continue to listen to God’s whisper in prayer and to sit quietly for at least some time during the day and let that relationship develop into something that feeds me beyond my hunger.

My prayer today is that I can see Jesus more clearly in my troubled times and can continue to walk with Jesus daily, even when I am untroubled. Pray that I may be able to listen and be patient for God’s voice to lead me out of my unbelief and arrogance.

And I will do the same for you.

For we all believe in something. But we also need God for those times of unbelief.

We believe Lord, help our unbelief.