I have been trying to pass on my love for Jesuit spirituality to my friends, who gather at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church on Monday evenings. Some have reported how doing an examen has changed the way they view their day, as they are in the midst of their day.
The week I took on consolation and desolation showed how the words of Saint Ignatius can cause both to happen within an hour. This past week I spoke briefly about Imaginative prayer, then guided them through an example.
The example came from a pile I had been given last August when I spent 8 days in silence at the Jesuit Center in Wernersville, PA. I did look at the pile briefly, but the final choice was made quickly as I sat with the group. We imagined Jesus hearing the news that John the Baptist had been killed, then heading off in a boat to find peace from the masses, only to find thousands searching for healing.
In the midst of the discussion, I asked if anyone had imagined a conversation in that boat. Most couldn't, instead they imagined the silence of Shiva. No one speaking to Jesus, who was mourning the death of his relative. I on the other hand imagined the fear after a murder... and a disciple blurted out... "Holy crap, what are we going to do?"
Jesus kept saying, "We are going to be silent." But as typical disciples, I and the rest of the boat folk, kept ignoring the words of wisdom. Eventually someone brought up concern for Elizabeth...
and all of a sudden I was with my three friends who lost sons in their 20's in the recent past. As I prepared to enter that silent retreat last August, one of those friends asked me to pray for her as she would be experiencing the anniversary date while I was in silence. And pray I did, but the few times I prayed on Matthew 14: 13-21, I never thought of John's mom. It turns out that none in that room on Monday had thought of her in all the years we had heard the story of John being killed.
This is why Ignatius and others have encouraged using our imagination. The story becomes alive with us. The story touches our heart. This is why Ignatius encouraged repetition, because we can always go deeper.