Grace: To let go of secondary things and focus on what is truly important during this Lenten season.
Text for Prayer: Matthew 7:7-8
Reflection: At the end of several meditations in the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius of Loyola recommends having a “triple colloquy” (see SpEx #62-63) to conclude the prayer period. Here he invites the retreatant to have a conversation in his imagination with Mary, begging her for the grace to be placed with her son beneath the cross, indifferent to one’s own comfort for the sake of following Christ. Ignatius asks the retreatant to speak to Mary in his or her own words and then conclude with a Hail Mary.
Rather than ending the prayer there, Ignatius then invites the retreatant to have two further conversations about the same topic. He asks the retreatant to repeat the same conversation with Jesus, begging more insistently for the same thing and ending with the Soul of Christ prayer. Finally, he instructs the retreatant to go to the Father Himself, begging with all of the passion one can muster and ending with an Our Father.
Why all the repetition?
In Matthew 7:7-8, Jesus tells us to “knock and the door shall be opened,” for the door will be opened to whoever knocks. The problem for many of us in Lent is not that we do not knock at the door, but that we knock without really wanting the door to open. We may know in theory what we need to reject and change in our lives, but we don’t always have the strength even to ask God to help us. Rather than knocking on God’s door with gusto, we too often tap quietly before hastily concluding he is not home.
St. Ignatius believed that by asking three times for the grace to give up what is secondary and embrace what is primary in life, we are more likely to be bold in asking God for what we need. By truly begging for God’s grace rather than asking politely, we obtain what we need in prayer. Repetitio mater studiorum. Ignatius doesn’t want us to ask for God’s love out of duty, but to ask with real feeling, which he believed we are more likely to do if we imagine ourselves in prayer before Mary and Jesus and finally the Father himself.
During this Lenten season, we might want to ask ourselves if we truly desire to give up what is holding us back from God’s love, or if we are simply asking without feeling for a gift we don’t really want.
Questions: What have I done for Christ? What am I doing for Christ? What will I do for Christ?