Lectio Divina: Psalm 116

Second Sunday of Lent, Cycle B

Here, as stated before, it is my intention to draw from the forthcoming Sunday liturgy and to offer a guided prayer on one of the pieces of scripture in the same way that we have been doing in Exploring Personal Prayer. I do not intend to offer any reflections on the scripture. My suggestion is that you follow the Ignatian structure: preparation for prayer by reading the scripture, going to your prayer place and doing the prayer itself, and then moving away to another place and doing a review of the prayer. Keeping some sort of prayer journal is good practice. Note any moments of consolation in the prayer, where you felt drawn more deeply into God, and moments of desolation, where prayer was disturbed, where you were distracted and pulled further away from God: feelings of attraction and repulsion should be noted. These points may provide areas for repetition of the prayer. Also, if you have a spiritual director or prayer partner, someone who can listen with an ear to where God is in this, it may be worth sharing your prayer with them. I am following the processes outline in the prayer cards above. You may print these onto A6 or A4 card to have in your prayer space to help you become accustomed to this way of praying, remembering it is more of a flow than a rigid structure.  

Psalm 116:10,15,16-17,18-19

10 I kept my faith, even when I said,
    ‘I am greatly afflicted’;

15 Precious in the sight of the Lord
    is the death of his faithful ones.

16 O Lord, I am your servant;
    I am your servant, the child of your serving-maid.
    You have loosed my bonds.
17 I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice
    and call on the name of the Lord.

18 I will pay my vows to the Lord
    in the presence of all his people,
19 in the courts of the house of the Lord,
    in your midst, O Jerusalem.
Praise the Lord!

Lectio Divina guided prayer : Psalm 116

NB: Apologies for the sound quality this week – I had a few microphone issues. Should be better next week.

Background music is the album: Keith Halligan – Lifestyle Meditation, Global Journey  

Admitted to God…Step 5 and the Spiritual Exercises

Admitted to God 1…reading of this post.

Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being, the exact nature of our wrongs.

Step 5: Alcoholics Anonymous

As if Step 4 was not hard enough, Step 5 is also difficult and sore, and at the same time, pours a soothing balm into our self inflicted wounds. Our wrongs, by their very essence, are those things that we identified as being faults and failings: places where we did not live up to being the person we were created to be; the dark corners where we hide away those things about ourselves that we are embarrassed and ashamed of; we are now being asked to bring out onto the light of day, not just to show them to God, not just to look at ourselves, but to show them to someone else. To be appropriately and openly honest about the bad and the ugly within us. Daunting work.

It is worth remembering, that we have not come to this point in isolation – we have already been journeying in the steps and are walking here with God. At this point, we have submitted to our Higher Power in Step 3, and have committed to this work: we trust Him enough. To try to this step without having made the journey to it would be like doing the first week of The Spiritual Exercises, without firstly having prayed with the Principle and Foundation – not to be recommended. I did try that once a long time ago. I really wanted to do The Spiritual Exercises, but my children were too young for me to go away for thirty days to do them. I had not heard of the nineteenth annotation, where you could do them in every day life, at that time. Not that that would have made a difference. I think I had too much on my plate to be able to devote myslef completely to them at that point in my life. I know that now, but then – I naively thought I could pray my way through each of these meditations. So, I started with the first contemplation of the first week – that seemed logical enough. That meditation is about the fall of the angels and it left me in a very dark place, full of fear and anxiety, like having had a nightmare, and God was not there! When I talked to my spiritual director about it, he was firm in his suggestion of me putting those books away, that the Exercises were a guidebook for directors who were accompanying people as they made them, they were not intended to be done alone.

Part of a wall n the Plantatin Garden in Norwich.
Admitted to God 2…reading of this post.

The same is true for a Twelve Step program. While we do the work ourselves, we are not alone in it, and we cannot do it alone. There is too much room for dishonestly, denial and delusion when we go it alone: we are too close to our faults and cannot see the wood for the trees. When we share our turmoil and the traps and turns with an experienced and caring other, when we bring God into that conversation and allow Him to shine His light on us, these malicious whisperings lose their power to hurt us.

St. Ignatious describes the different ways the enemy works in us in vivid analogy. The particular one I am thinking of here is as a “false lover”:

He seeks to remain hidden and does not want to be discovered. If such a lover speaks with evil intention to the daughter of a good father, or to the wife of a good husband, and seeks to seduce them, he wants his words and solicitations kept secret…In the same way, when the enemy of our human nature tempts a just soul with his wiles and seductions, he earnestly desires that they be received secretly and kept secret.

The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius trans Louis J. Puhl S.J.
Wrought iron spiral candle holder
Admitted to God 3…reading of this post.

And Ignatius does not just describe the problem, he offers us the solution:

He is greatly displeased if his evil suggestions and depraved intentions are revealed by the daughter to her father, or by the wife to her husband. Then he readily sees he will not succeed in what he has begun…

The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius trans Louis J. Puhl S.J.

But if one manifests them to a confessor, or to some other spiritual person who understands his deceits and malicious designs, the evil one is very much vexed. For he knows that he cannot succeed in his evil undertaking, once his evident deceits have been revealed.

The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius trans Louis J. Puhl S.J.

It is uncomfortable, but ultimately life giving, because it helps to free us from those traps which ensare us, often repeatedly, when we act on our compulsions and our signature sin, in spite of ourselves.

Ignatius mentions two people we can talk to about our faults: a confessor and another spiritual person who understands. I would equate a spiritual director as the second person here , and the first, in the Roman Catholic tradtion, to which I belong, as the priest who hears our confession. In my experience, these two conversations are very different. In Breathing Under Water, Richard Rohr writes on Step 5:

What humanity needs is an honest exposure of the truth and true accountability and responsibility for what has happened.

Breathing under Water. Spirituality and the Twelve Steps. Richard Rohr.

I would say that the most honest confessions I have ever made in my life – forget the five minute shopping list – are when I have been on an individually guided retreat and have already spent six days in silence, speaking only to a spiritual director, and the confession is made in a face to face conversation, no hiding behind the grid of the confessional box. At the end of the honest exposure, the accountability and responsibility, there is forgiveness. I am also able to forgive myself.

Rohr contrasts two models: the juridical model

sin–> punishment –> repentence –> transformation

and the restorative model:

sin –> unconditional love –> transformation–> repentence

He says:

God shocks and stuns us into love. God does not love us if we change, God loves us so that we can change.

Breathing under Water. Spirituality and the Twelve Steps. Richard Rohr.

It is the movement I was describing in the earlier post: How does He look at Me?

Graffiti on a door in Norwich
Admitted to God 4…reading of this post.

In my second year of training to be a Spiritual Director, I was drawn to write my paper on the Exercises on penance, and my understanding of it is in this light. It is about reparation, not punishment, it is about making it right when I have messed up, and I do and will mess up. I am a sinner after all.

Rohr sums it up:

Step 5 is far from any notion of retributive justice, which the sacrament of “penance” too often became, and returned it to the much more biblical notion of restorative justice – to restore relationships themselves, to restore integrity with myself, and to restore a sense of communion with God.

Breathing under Water. Spirituality and the Twelve Steps. Richard Rohr.

It feels very appropriate to be writing about step 5 at this point, given the retreat day on Positive Penance which I ran last weekend. The movement was very much to encourage a more personal, restorative approach to doing penance in Lent, rather than just picking up from the usual three, without necessary pondering their relevance to my own relationship with God. The point is to notice where am I not fully being in my relationship with God, and then seeking to act against the desolation and so express my sincere desire for reparation. I am currently acting against my tempation to workaholism, which had indeed led me and my soul to be:

…wholly slothful, tepid and sad…

The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius trans Louis J. Puhl S.J.

I am acting against the symptoms and the root cause this Lent; all those areas where I make the easy, lazy choice. And I set the timer when I am working. I am allowed one ten minute snooze on the alarm to finish off, in an effort to prevent me from carrying on until it is too late to cook, exercise or even go to bed in a timely fashion, because my head is still spinning round. Since that snooze on the alarm is now beeping at me, I know it is time to switch off the computer.

Diary of a Sunflower: 3 July, year 4

The diary entries are extracts from my spiritual journey, going back about twenty years.

No, I tell you this because I was told to tell it – by what you might call ‘ a higher authority’ – and truth is, the thought of how to tell it has taxed me for so many years.

Miss Garnet’s Angel, Sally Vickers

Hey! It’s like being married to an alcoholic! Except I’m not. What have I done wrong? I didn’t give him a big pat on the back because he’s given it up again, as of today. Does he really expect me to believe him? When will I have had enough? 

One of the students in school died last week of a brain haemorrhage. Quite suddenly. 

I feel like I did when I was a teenager at home. God, how much longer will I put up with this? I am not happy. But I am not trapped. It’s important to remember that. 

Praying with Images: 1st Sunday of Lent

First Sunday of Lent, Cycle B

Here, as stated before, it is my intention to draw from the forthcoming Sunday liturgy and to offer a guided prayer on one of the pieces of scripture in the same way that we have been doing in Exploring Personal Prayer. I do not intend to offer any reflections on the scripture. My suggestion is that you follow the Ignatian structure: preparation for prayer by reading the scripture, going to your prayer place and doing the prayer itself, and then moving away to another place and doing a review of the prayer. Keeping some sort of prayer journal is good practice. Note any moments of consolation in the prayer, where you felt drawn more deeply into God, and moments of desolation, where prayer was disturbed, where you were distracted and pulled further away from God: feelings of attraction and repulsion should be noted. These points may provide areas for repetition of the prayer. Also, if you have a spiritual director or prayer partner, someone who can listen with an ear to where God is in this, it may be worth sharing your prayer with them. I am following the processes outline in the prayer cards above. You may print these onto A6 or A4 card to have in your prayer space to help you become accustomed to this way of praying, remembering it is more of a flow than a rigid structure.  

Christ of Maryknoll

Mark 1:12-15

The Temptation of Jesus

12 And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

The Beginning of the Galilean Ministry

14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news[a] of God,[b] 15 and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near;[c] repent, and believe in the good news.’[d]

Praying with Images: guided prayer.

Background music is the album: Keith Halligan – Lifestyle Meditation, Global Journey  

40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich: Day 40

All will be well, and all will be well, and all mannner of thing will be well…[For] I may make all things well, and I can make all things well, and I shall make all things well, and I will make all things well…And [in the bliss of heaven] it will truly be made known to us what He means in the sweet words when He says: All will be well, and you will see it yourself, that every kind of thing will be well. And then will the bliss of our motherhood in Christ be to begin anew in the joys of our Father, God, which new beginning will last, newly beginning without end…God wants us…always to be strong in faithful trust, in well-being and in woe, for He loves us and delights in us, and so He wishes us to love Him amd delight in Him and trust greatly in Him, and all will be well.

Reading: Revelation 21:5-6

Psalm 30: 11-12

Diary of a Sunflower: 11 June Year 4.

The diary entries are extracts from my spiritual journey, going back about twenty years.

No, I tell you this because I was told to tell it – by what you might call ‘ a higher authority’ – and truth is, the thought of how to tell it has taxed me for so many years.

Miss Garnet’s Angel, Sally Vickers

Why am I such a difficult person to love? I don’t understand why he is on my case so often. I’m not sure if I’m very happy in this relationship anymore. I love him, I really do, but I seem to elicit this anger in him – just as I did with my ex. Maybe I’m just an impossible person to live with. Maybe the negatives are beginning to outweigh the positives. There has always been some excuse since he moved in, but maybe we can’t, really can’t live together.  

I want serenity in my life, a certain peacefulness and lack of conflict, and the knowledge that God is there. I yearn for this. Yet, I recognise that yearning for romantic love and oneness too. Maybe this is my dichotomy that can’t be resolved. I can have serenity or love, but not both – maybe I have to choose. It’s not just about me, but there are certain patterns that repeat themselves. One of them relates to emotional dependence (or independence). At the weekend I needed some support, but it wasn’t forthcoming. I can be emotionally independent, but does that mean I always have to be? 

The other thing is living up to expectations – being put on a pedestal. Still the anger comes when I don’t live up to it, and how can I possibly? Is it like this for all women, or is it just me? Am I so full of myself and my rights that I’m unreasonable in my expectations, regardless of what I might think? Things were so much easier when I was young and insensitive to men’s feelings. Maybe I need to be like that again: Just “This is the way it is, and if you don’t like it…” I don’t know where we go from here, but I can’t see it continuing.

Imaginative Contemplation: Jesus Cleanses a Leper

Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle B

Here, as stated before, it is my intention to draw from the forthcoming Sunday liturgy and to offer a guided prayer on one of the pieces of scripture in the same way that we have been doing in Exploring Personal Prayer. I do not intend to offer any reflections on the scripture. My suggestion is that you follow the Ignatian structure: preparation for prayer by reading the scripture, going to your prayer place and doing the prayer itself, and then moving away to another place and doing a review of the prayer. Keeping some sort of prayer journal is good practice. Note any moments of consolation in the prayer, where you felt drawn more deeply into God, and moments of desolation, where prayer was disturbed, where you were distracted and pulled further away from God: feelings of attraction and repulsion should be noted. These points may provide areas for repetition of the prayer. Also, if you have a spiritual director or prayer partner, someone who can listen with an ear to where God is in this, it may be worth sharing your prayer with them. I am following the processes outline in the prayer cards above. You may print these onto A6 or A4 card to have in your prayer space to help you become accustomed to this way of praying, remembering it is more of a flow than a rigid structure.  

Mark 1:40-45

40 A leper[a] came to him begging him, and kneeling[b] he said to him, ‘If you choose, you can make me clean.’ 41 Moved with pity,[c] Jesus[d] stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I do choose. Be made clean!’ 42 Immediately the leprosy[e] left him, and he was made clean. 43 After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, 44 saying to him, ‘See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.’ 45 But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus[f] could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.

Imaginative Contemplation: Mark 1:40 -45, Jesus Cleanses a Leper.

Background music is the album: Keith Halligan – Lifestyle Meditation, Global Journey  

40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich: Day 39

From the time [these showings] were revealed, I desired many times to know in what was our Lord’s meaning. And fifteen years after and more, I was answered in spiritual understanding, and it was said: What, do you wish to know your Lord’s meaning in this thing? Know it well, love was His meaning. Who reveals it to you? Love. What did He reveal to you? Love. Why does He reveal it to you? For love. Remain in this, and you will know more of the same. But you will never know different, without end.

Reading: John 15: 9

Psalm 36:7-9

Diary of a Sunflower: 6 June, year 4

The diary entries are extracts from my spiritual journey, going back about twenty years.

No, I tell you this because I was told to tell it – by what you might call ‘ a higher authority’ – and truth is, the thought of how to tell it has taxed me for so many years.

Miss Garnet’s Angel, Sally Vickers

I feel really sad today – melancholy and withdrawn. I woke up in a bad mood yesterday morning and it’s just carried on from there. Today I’m tired and weary and I’m not altogether sure why. It occurred to me earlier that I had a sense of loss, like grieving. Except I’m not sure what for. Two things happened the night before last: 1. I finished Phillip Pulman’s trilogy, The Amber Spyglass and 2. I started on a diet. Don’t know if either is related. Maybe it is the book that had disturbed me so much. I can dismiss Pulman’s perception of God as shallow and naïve and devoid of any significant understanding of what it is that he is attacking; I can feel superior, or even just better, that he had to denigrate God to an angel, a lesser being – even almost as one made of flesh – just so that he could kill Him off easily in his book. And that he chose to make Him old and helpless, like a baby. Maybe it’s the description of a world without God – where people have the responsibility to create a republic of heaven – maybe it’s that idea that has depressed me so much? And in what way did Mary Malone tempt Lyra? And did he really perceive that “original sin” was sex? Please! And how was Lyra like Eve? Because she could choose the right or the wrong thing? And Will’s responsibility in the choice? His concept of God was seriously lacking, but would you expect an atheist to understand God – or anything about God, for no-one can really understand God. Could you really expect anyone to have any understanding of God and still be an atheist? So, I should not really be surprised at his naivety regarding God, nor that he should have to bring Him down, so to speak, so that he can destroy Him. The concept of God even seems to be an idea that Pulman can’t get his head around. This book could only have been written by an atheist; I think. 

I also wondered today if it was about my relationship with Sedation; if I’d become aware and was grieving for something this relationship would never be? I was thinking a lot about trust the other day and whether it was right or wrong to be holding something back. The conclusion I came to after talking to Sedation is that it might not be the ideal, but it is necessary. If you don’t give it all up though, it will never be a marriage, and maybe that realisation is the source of my grief. I don’t think I will ever marry him, because I don’t completely trust him. I know that I can’t. His addiction gets in the way of me doing that. So, I have to hold back; I have to protect myself and my children, and maybe it is that knowledge that has made me so weary. Sometimes I don’t like sharing my space with a man and I wish it was just me and my children. I don’t know where to go from here. Maybe just be that Samaritan woman at the well and accept that he is not my husband, nor will he be and while I love him, I should remember that he is not, and that my children are my responsibility. 

Lectio Divina: Job 7

Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle B

Here, as stated before, it is my intention to draw from the forthcoming Sunday liturgy and to offer a guided prayer on one of the pieces of scripture in the same way that we have been doing in Exploring Personal Prayer. I do not intend to offer any reflections on the scripture. My suggestion is that you follow the Ignatian structure: preparation for prayer by reading the scripture, going to your prayer place and doing the prayer itself, and then moving away to another place and doing a review of the prayer. Keeping some sort of prayer journal is good practice. Note any moments of consolation in the prayer, where you felt drawn more deeply into God, and moments of desolation, where prayer was disturbed, where you were distracted and pulled further away from God: feelings of attraction and repulsion should be noted. These points may provide areas for repetition of the prayer. Also, if you have a spiritual director or prayer partner, someone who can listen with an ear to where God is in this, it may be worth sharing your prayer with them. I am following the processes outline in the prayer cards above. You may print these onto A6 or A4 card to have in your prayer space to help you become accustomed to this way of praying, remembering it is more of a flow than a rigid structure.  

Job 7: 1-4, 6-7

‘Do not human beings have a hard service on earth,
    and are not their days like the days of a labourer?
Like a slave who longs for the shadow,
    and like labourers who look for their wages,
so I am allotted months of emptiness,
    and nights of misery are apportioned to me.
When I lie down I say, “When shall I rise?”
    But the night is long,
    and I am full of tossing until dawn.

My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle,
    and come to their end without hope.[a]

‘Remember that my life is a breath;
    my eye will never again see good.

Lectio divina: Job 7, guided prayer.

Background music is the album: Keith Halligan – Lifestyle Meditation, Global Journey