The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius Loyola are best suited for prayer during a silent retreat. However, Ignatius knew that they could also be effective when employed in a less isolated environment. It is the hope of the authors of this blog that you, the reader, find the meditations that we offer here useful in your own search to encounter Christ in prayer in your daily life. The meditations are intended to be prayed in order, from as close to the beginning as possible, perhaps over the course of a dedicated time such as the season of Lent. (more…)
Grace: To see the disorder that sin causes in my heart and recognize the effects of tepidity in my life.
Text for Prayer: Matthew 28:16-20
Reflection: Our vocation as Christians is to draw close to the Heart of Jesus and in that encounter to be transformed in such a way that our hearts become like the Heart of Christ. When we draw near to the Crucified and Risen Lord, we increase in hope, faith, and love. In that encounter, our hearts become like a fire in us. This fire within us is a source of mercy for others, for it can lead them to a personal encounter with the Lord. This fire within is the thrust and dynamism of all evangelization—animated by our encounter with Jesus and strengthened in our faith, we tell others how the Word of God has taken flesh in our lives hoping this Good News inspires others to draw closer to Jesus.
Our hearts were created to live this dynamism, to seek and find God in all things, to share our sightings of God with those who already have been baptized, and to reach out to those who have drifted away from the Church. Sin and self-centeredness make us numb and extinguish the fire within us. Sin makes us lose sight of our vocation to seek and find God in all things. When we forsake our human vocation, our hearts become tepid and dull, for they were created to rest in God alone. The tepidity or dullness our hearts experience when we feel separated from God are contrary to the dynamism we experience when we praise, revere, and serve God. Tepid hearts lose their desire for communion with God and give in to spiritual sloth.
Grace: To worship God with my entire heart during this Lenten season, resisting the temptation to be halfhearted in my participation at Sunday liturgy.
Text for Prayer: Revelation 4:8-11
Reflection: Past writers on this blog have described spiritual tepidity as a type of sluggishness, particularly in prayer, that is caused in our souls by an excessive attachment to things other than God. But tepidity in our personal spiritual practices is undoubtedly less scandalous to non-Christians than tepidity in our public worship. For Catholics, one salutary goal during this Lenten season could be to “give up” liturgical tepidity, which manifests itself in many different ways.
In Revelation 4, the Bible offers a vision of heavenly worship that is as striking as lightning and more transcendental than any drug trip. But in Lent, our American parishes may frequently offer a vision of worship that feels more like a living room social, and hardly distinguishable to the casual observer from the liturgical seasons that precede and follow it. Here is matter for self-reflection on the tepidity that we bring, both personally and socially, to our public worship.
Grace: That my heart be on fire with the same zeal as Jesus’ Sacred Heart.
Reading: Revelation 3:14-22
Reflection: Did you see any of the commercials during the Superbowl this year? There’s this one in which Sir Elton John sits on a throne, dressed in some kind of ridiculous royal garb, begrudgingly judging whether or not the entertainer that sings to him (Melanie Amaro) is deserving of a Pepsi. While Amaro belts out a stellar rendition of Aretha Franklin’s “Respect,” Sir Elton stairs on unimpressed as if to say “thou art boring me.”
The Commercial might be ridiculous, but it also exemplifies the seductive absurdity of tepidity within the spiritual life.
Grace: For light to see the disorder of tepidity in my life and to be disgusted by it, to seek forgiveness for it, and the grace to amend it.
Text for Prayer: 1 John 2:1-11
Reflection: It is part of our human nature to get into habits. What exactly is a habit? A habit is an established disposition to act in a certain way by repeated choices of the will; it is a direction we freely choose by repetition. This makes habits both real work to establish and (the bad ones) difficult to break.
Our contemporary society has not lost touch with the idea of habit. Unfortunately, the negative habits we often hear about today do not touch on the most important realities. While not bad in themselves, these messages often focus on, for example, diet, exercise, or business success. True, it takes good habits to act well in these areas of life; but if it is true for them, how much more true it is for the spiritual life! I once heard someone comment, “I know people who will work harder to loose weight than to get out of their sins!” Even though this comment summarizes the culture by which we are surrounded and by which we are all affected, we can still choose to stir our generosity and reflect on habits in our spiritual life.
Grace: for light to see the disorder of tepidity in my life and to be disgusted by it, to seek forgiveness for it, and the grace to amend it.
Text for Prayer: Matthew 25: 14-46
Reflection: Tepidity is a state of the soul brought on by repeatedly missed opportunities to offer oneself in the service of God our King. Tepidity doesn’t stand out as any one particular instance of sin, rather it creeps up on a person due to carelessness and complacency with small offenses of unholy laziness. The tepid person is sluggish in all that he does, but chiefly in regards to the spiritual life. He shortens his prayers, says them hastily, indulges in distractions and finally gives in to the temptation to be careless in prayer altogether. The tepid person finds himself sluggish in other duties as well, failing to make the connection between his own duties and God’s will. Self indulgence begins to mark the tepid person’s life, losing the habit of self control, mortification, and self-sacrifice for the good of others. While the tepid person may avoid the most obvious sins, we can be sure of the following: If God does not entirely fill our hearts, we will seek to fill it with worldly pleasures. We must see tepidity for the cruel tyrant that it is. We must learn to hate this sin in us that constantly chips away at the spiritual progress that we have made with the help of God in the past. We must remember that our Lord threatens severe punishment for such insincerity in our lives!
Pray: O my Lord, first I ask for an interior knowledge and hatred of the sins I have committed against Your Divine Majesty. Second, help me to feel the disorder in my life, namely the root causes of my ordinary sins and failures – the lack of right and pure intention, the lack of order, of forethought and self-control, the sloth and overly complacent disposition. Help me to abhor this disorder and to amend my life and live it ever more according to Your will. Third, help me to see and reject the ways and principles of this world, particularly this world’s love of earthly leisure, shortcuts and personal “freedom and independence” that lead me to love myself more than I love You.