Need some spiritual food for thought? Check out these quotations:
“It is impossible to engage seriously in deepening your relationship with God without deepening your relationship with others. It is also impossible to do either of those things without coming to know yourself better in the process.”
“Faith, if it is to have any impact on our lives, cannot just be intellectual; it must be visceral.”
“The whole purpose of faith is to know God’s presence right now, in and through whatever it is that we are doing.”
All of these bits of wisdom are from one terrific book. The book is Rooted in Love: Integrating Ignatian Spirituality Into Daily Life by Margaret (Mags) Blackie. Remember that name, because if you are looking for a book to rejuvenate your spiritual and/or prayer life, this is one of the best ones to cross my path in quite a while.
Blackie’s background is fascinating; she’s a scientist and a spiritual director (more on that later) who has spent years walking with others as they work on deepening their relationship with God. As she explains early on in the book, she has found the spirituality of St. Ignatius of Loyola (founder of the Jesuit order of priests) to be particularly helpful in her own life, thus leading her to write this book to share the insights with others.
If you’ve never heard of Ignatian spirituality, that’s no barrier to reading this book. Blackie explains it in such a way that both novices and those with more experience can benefit from her insights. Through her book you see how prayer doesn’t have to involve leaving it all behind and withdrawing from the world. As Blackie writes, “Ignatius expected that we would find God in all of our daily activities, not just in the ones that appear to be ‘holy’ or intentionally directed towards God … Ignatian spirituality is then a spirituality designed to be lived in the midst of life.” (On a personal note, this is what I’ve come to love about Ignatian spirituality: it trains you to recognize the touch of God in all aspects of life, not just the “churchy” moments).
I read this book slowly over the course of about a month, and my engagement with it was strong the entire time. Blackie has a clear and elegant way of writing about spirituality. She shares helpful personal anecdotes to illustrate the spiritual insights, with the result that nothing is airy or abstract. I found that the book invited me to think about how I spend my time, where I find my truest joy, and which things I hold onto a little bit too tightly. It challenged me to realize what lies underneath the things I want, and to recognize which things in my life are pulling me away from my most authentic self, and which aren’t. It’s hard to think of any adult who wouldn’t benefit from an accessible, wise book like this one.
I had the chance to ask Mags a few follow-up questions about herself and about her recommendations on jump-starting one’s prayer life. You can also find out more about her and her book on her blog.
Mags: This is a question I find difficult to answer. There is no straight line to be drawn between the two, no direct causal effect. Nonetheless I have tried to live as purely scientist or purely spiritual director and neither has worked well. Somehow to be fully myself I need both. I see evidence of the glory of God deeply embedded in both, but quite why it necessary for me to straddle these two worlds remains a mystery to me.
Ginny: Lots of my readers are moms. What would you say to a mom who says, “Ignatian spirituality sounds interesting, but I just can’t think of adding one more thing to my busy life?”
Mags: Having just spent two months with my sister and my two sweet nephews I do understand this. Firstly, don’t feel guilty for not being able to give a chunk of time when you have little children. That phase will pass. I would suggest taking mental time while you perform a task you do every day to just ask yourself three simple questions.
1) How am I?
2) What am I most grateful for in this moment?
3) How is God looking at me?
That exercise can be done in 5 min while you are doing the dishes, or brushing your teeth. Just take a few moments to ground the whirlwind busyness by paying attention to where you are, looking for something to be grateful for and holding that before God.
That mini prayer practice will give you a tether through the years of small children and will be manageable most days.
Ginny: What would you say to someone who says, “I try to sit down and pray, but I don’t feel like anything is happening when I do?”
Mags: Don’t worry too much about how you ‘feel’ in the time of prayer. Pay attention to the fruit. Do you have a sense that God is present and active in your life? If so, where. Take time to be consciously grateful to God for that. Having said that, it may be time to try a different prayer practice. And I would strongly recommend talking with a spiritual director or a prayer partner.