Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Imaginative prayer and how I stumbled into a deeper place

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.



  1. For me, what you speak of here IS "the Gospel", Wayne. We tend to get lost in a doctrinal cutting and pasting together of what we believe, but this is exactly "Christ IN me", in you, in the next step, in the moment as we decrease and listen.....

  2. Amen. This is so good.

    This past Advent, Elizabeth stuck out to me. I carried her story in my heart for weeks. Thank you for giving me this new dimension.

  3. Jim and Mrs M... thanks for the comments. The past month of Mondays have been a blessing.

  4. This is very powerful and it made me think in new ways! Thank you!

  5. i've been "stuck" pondering elizabeth's grief over her son's murder: the mother that i am can't fathom it. how must it have effected her faith, her belief, her trust in God? after the crucifixion, would she and Mary have sought comfort in each other's horrific loss? and on Easter, when mary's son is returned to her (and us), how must elizabeth have felt?

    imaginative prayer, indeed.

  6. Your post has touched me at a critical time, Wayne. I realize that I need to call a mom who lost her son in his 20s six years ago today. I've been putting it off all day. Thank you. I'm glad you left a comment on my site. I thought you had just stopped blogging. I'll put your new site on my blogroll.

  7. Law&Gospel... thanks for the visit

    Red and Walk2Write... I am awed at the evening and how blogging about it it has touched your lives. Peace my friends.

  8. All those stories that intersect the Gospel - all our stories...

    I've been contemplating Joseph of late and ignorning John Chrysostom's advice: "Do not speculate beyond the text.  Do not require of it more than it simply says."

  9. Michelle---at this point, I don't think I could stop my mind from speculating ;')

  10. Me either! We've both been "ruined for God" by Ignatius....

  11. A wonderful post. Scripture was meant to live in the "now" not to petrify into "then."

  12. Michelle... I've been ruined in more ways than that

    Beryl... thanks


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