A Prayer for All Women on Mother’s Day …

I want you to know I’m praying for you if you are like Tamar, struggling with infertility, or a miscarriage.

I want you to know that I’m praying for you if you are like Rachel, counting the women among your family and friends who year by year and month by month get pregnant, while you wait.

I want you to know I’m praying for you if you are like Naomi, and have known the bitter sting of a child’s death.

I want you to know I am praying for you if you are like Joseph and Benjamin, and your Mom has died.

I want you to know that I am praying for you if your relationship with your Mom was marked by trauma, abuse, or abandonment, or she just couldn’t parent you the way you needed.

Continue reading “A Prayer for All Women on Mother’s Day …”

Desert Day 39: Love and Even More Love …

I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.
— Albert Schweitzer from Returning: A Spiritual Journey

 

Even the best of human love is filled with self-seeking. To work to increase our love for God and for our fellow man (and the two must go hand in hand) – this is a lifetime job. We are never going to be finished. Love and ever more love is the only solution to every problem that comes up. Continue reading “Desert Day 39: Love and Even More Love …”

Desert Day 30: Calling Ourselves Peacemakers …

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
— Matthew 5:9

In times of great personal and social upheaval, real peacemakers, genuine bridge builders do four things:

First, they must tap into their own deepest spiritual self and recommit to the higher values that shines in them there. Continue reading “Desert Day 30: Calling Ourselves Peacemakers …”

Desert Day 18: The Opposite of Addiction Is Connection …

To be lonely is to feel unwanted and unloved, and therefore unloveable. Loneliness is a taste of death. No wonder some people who are desperately lonely lose themselves in mental illness or violence to forget the inner pain.
― Jean Vanier from Becoming Human

Continue reading “Desert Day 18: The Opposite of Addiction Is Connection …”

The Eternal Light of the Servant Candle …

One candle is a small thing. But one candle can light another. And see how its own light increases as the candle gives its flame to another. You are such light. Continue reading “The Eternal Light of the Servant Candle …”

Every Human Is An Artist. The Dream Of Your Life Is To Make Beautiful Art …

All true artists, whether they know it or not, create from a place of no-mind, from inner stillness. The mind then gives form to the creative impulse or insight. Even the great scientists have reported that their creative breakthroughs came at a time of mental quietude.
— Eckhart Tolle from The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment
Continue reading “Every Human Is An Artist. The Dream Of Your Life Is To Make Beautiful Art …”

Grace for Thanksgiving Celebrations …

Grace Before Meals
As we begin this meal with grace,
Let us become aware of the memory
Carried inside the food before us:
The quiver of the seed
Awakening in the earth,
Unfolding in a trust of roots Continue reading “Grace for Thanksgiving Celebrations …”

Everything I Know About Prayer I Re-Learned In Spin Class …

Michael Rossmann, SJ, took up spinning to keep in shape during the winter. He lists 11 lessons he relearned while he rode his stationary bike.

1.  A class – or community – is invaluable. Sure, I can exercise on my own, just as I can pray by myself. That being said, it’s knowing that I will see my spin “community” that gets me out of bed and over to the gym, and I work much harder to get through the shared pain I feel in a spin class than I would if I were to sit on a stationary bike alone in a room. Not only are the sacraments similarly communal, but being in a worshiping community pushes me to spend more time in prayer and go deeper in my own faith after seeing the example of others. The daily Mass crowd, especially at an urban parish over the noon hour, can be a ragtag group: professionals on their lunch break, street people, retired couples, and religious sisters (who despite not wearing a habit can be spotted as nuns a mile away). A spin class can be equally eclectic. I may not know the name of the person in the neighboring pew or the young woman on the bike next to me, and yet I love the community that forms and the sense that we’re in this physical and/or spiritual exercise together.

2.  A lot of shame is a bad thing; a little bit of shame can be a good thing. We know that a deep sense of shame can prevent us from exercising in public just as it can keep us from turning to the God who loves us and wants us close. A little bit of potential shame, however, can be productive. If I don’t show up at spin class, I know that Molly will tell me, “So, we missed you this morning.” And that gets me out the door. If I am not there for Mass in the community, my Jesuit brothers will notice. And, sometimes, that gets me out the door. It’s not that I’m doing these things simply because of others’ expectations, but that potential “so, we missed you” gives me a little extra motivation to show up at the places that I know are good for me.

3.  It’s important to push through to the very end. Sometimes there are so many parallels between the Spiritual Exercises and what my spin instructors are yelling out that I wonder if they’ve been reading them before class. Ignatius instructs those going through the Exercises to pray for an hour at a time and to make sure we spend the full hour in prayer. He even goes out of his way to note that “the enemy of our human nature” will tempt us to shorten the time we had set aside for prayer. It’s the same in spin. It is tempting to relax during the bit of silence between the end of one song and the start of another, but instructors push us to keep up the intensity of the workout and in so doing they keep us moving through the lulls to the very end.

4.  If it’s not on my schedule – and typically my morning schedule – then it doesn’t happen. My days are often gobbled up by various commitments, and as a quintessential morning person, my mind turns into a pumpkin after 10:00 PM. But I notice that if prayer and exercise are “non-negotiables,” if they’re part of my routine, then they almost always get done. As busy as I am, I know Kelly will kick my butt into shape on Monday morning and Rachel will spin me around on Friday if that cycling class is already in my schedule. One other note, I recently directed a “busy student retreat” at which students were committed to a daily one-on-one meeting with me because it was part of their schedule for the retreat. But making time for prayer, something they were expected to do, wasn’t built into the retreat schedule. I noticed that because prayer wasn’t built into their schedule like the daily conferences that it was extremely difficult for many of them to make the time to do the prayer they obviously wanted to do.

5.  Women dominate. Remember my experience Irish dancing? Spin – and all too often, service and prayer experiences – are the same. Girls have dominated every retreat and service project I have been a part of, while guys have been busy… playing Halo? With spin class, it’s not even close; often I’m the only dude in a room of women with freakishly good endurance.

6.  The imagination is an underutilized but greatly valuable tool. ”Jena, are you sure you aren’t from Loyola, Spain?” ”No, you’re from Skokie? Well I’m not convinced.” Just like Ignatius has taught many of us how “Ignatian contemplation” (imaginative prayer, in which we place ourselves in a Gospel scene) can greatly deepen one’s prayer life, my spin instructor Jena has taught me how to visualize while spinning. I’ve even started noticing how visualizing that I’m on a hill trying to catch another rider can push me to go faster – or at least help me temporarily forget about the fire burning through my quadriceps.

7.  Transitions are the most difficult. The most painful part about being a Jesuit for me is investing in relationships and digging my roots into a place only to have those roots ripped out when I’m sent off on another new mission in a different location. Likewise for transitions in spin class. In spin transition the spin instructor asks us to cycle in and out of different seated and standing positions. Let me tell you, these are a bear, especially “transitions with sprints.” I always find these analogous to moving to a new place with little time to prepare or settle in, and physically they are awfully like a fiery place filled with wailing and gnashing of teeth.

8.  Things are done better with coffee. Not only is coffee wonderful in itself, but it helps me connect with God because it makes me far more alert in prayer. While some athletes refuse to drink it before a competition, it is actually a legal performance-enhancing drug and makes me fly up those imaginative hills in spin class.

9.  We are supported by a communion of saints. I tend to use the word “saint” pretty loosely. In addition to those recognized by the Church, people like Dorothy Day and Pedro Arrupe are saintly figures who can inspire, guide, and intercede for us. Perhaps the communion of pop singers that blast from the speakers during class could also analogously serve in a saintly role for spinners – even if some of their lyrics or personal lives may not always be so saintly.

10.  Going deeper requires that we allow ourselves to be vulnerable. I am a sweaty mess when exercising. (No, I’m serious – my old yoga instructor would joke with other Jesuits that she needed to put a moat of towels around my mat in order to protect the rest of the group from my sweat). Sometimes I find it particularly discouraging to look around the roomful of spinners and not see a drop of perspiration from anyone else. “I look ridiculous,” I think to myself. Still, looking ridiculous is at least a sign that I’m getting a great workout. Being honest with oneself and God and not running away – even from the sweaty messes of our lives – is likewise essential in the spiritual life. This is especially true because I can only pray as I am, not as I want to be or what others expect me to be.

11.  The first step is the most difficult. Some mornings, it can take a lot of willpower to get out of my bed and make the trek across campus to the gym, just as it can be difficult to put everything aside and “waste time” with God when I’m tired, my bed is warm, and I have a million other things to do. But both spin and prayer nourish me; they challenge me in ways I need to be challenged. They can also be deeply enjoyable. It may take a lot of effort to get to the bike and give that first push to the pedal, but, like prayer, once I’m there it flows.

Read full post here.

—  Michael Rossmann, SJ