This Random Nun Clip is from Ask Sister podcast episode 144. Hear the full podcast at AS144.
Tom McGrath is a writer and speaker on family-life and on spirituality. He ministers at the Jesuit publishing company Loyola Press, which offers many resources including the "31 Days with Saint Ignatius" series.
Becky Eldredge is a writer, retreat facilitator, and spiritual director. She ministers at Charis Ministries, a Jesuit ministry for those in their 20s and 30s. Becky blogs at the dotMagis team blog at ignatianspirituality.com.
This Random Nun Clip is brought to you by A Nun's Life Ministry. We are here with our guests, Tom McGrath and Becky Eldredge, who are engaged in Jesuit ministries as writers and speakers. Tom is with Loyola Press in Chicago, and Becky is with Charis Ministries.
Where I found Ignatian spirituality so helpful in a moment of suffering was--I'm from Louisiana. And so I was living in Louisiana when Hurricane Katrina happened, and I had several family members that were deeply affected by it. You know, we were living in Baton Rouge at the time, I was working for the diocese. And so for 18 minutes, I would drive up to work and there would be this incredibly long line out of sight of Catholic Charities of people still--18 months after it happened--seeking help. There was just so much suffering everywhere. It was almost a crisis of faith. So saying, "How God? Where are you in all this?" During that time is when I first learned of the Examen. I went on a silent retreat in New Orleans and a Jesuit taught that prayer on that retreat. And what I found that the Examen helps me do was not necessarily say, "Well, God is, you know, causing, or God is behind any of this." I mean, that wasn't it at all, but it was more helping me put a name to it all. I could name, "Okay, I am seeing God in these things, I'm seeing God in the people doing amazing outreach to people--just people taking people into their homes, and giving clothes off their back, food out of their house." But at the same time, I was able to have a very honest prayer and conversation with God, saying, "I'm struggling to see you in these areas. I'm struggling to see and name you in all the suffering." A prayer like the Examen can help us name where we are seeing God and where we're struggling to see God in our daily lives, just in the other suffering we face. I mean, we've just come out of a really turbulent economy, a lot of people lost jobs. There's so many things that we struggle with: death, and transition, change, all these things. I think what's neat about Ignatian spirituality is it really, to me, provides an aid--helps me in my life, provides an anchor, as I walk through those things--really understanding what Jesus did for us, and understanding how Jesus rooted his life in his Father, even in the worst moment. Even in that garden moment, when he's begging his Father to let the cup pass away from him. The exercises and Ignatian spirituality help me say, "Okay, I can root my life like that. I don't always have the answer. I don't always get 'Yes' to the prayers I pray. But I do have a relationship with God, no matter what. And with God, I can get through whatever it is."
And Becky, do you find it also helps you with doubts? Being in a situation like Hurricane Katrina and seeing the devastation, it must certainly raise doubts.
Absolutely. I just remember sitting in church, looking around at all these people from New Orleans, and it just flooded in our parish. Thinking, "How, God? Where are you?" You know? But to me, one of the things that I love about Ignatian spirituality is it helps me have the most honest prayer in relationship with God. You know, talking about the Examen--it's my prayer! It's hard for me to talk about Ignatian spirituality without talking about that prayer. But to bring your life and to pray your life, to really bring all of our fears, all of our worries and all of our hopes and dreams and all the good things to God. I think that's where that idea of finding God in all things comes from. It's the desire for that and the desire to see God at work, even when there is suffering. We don't always see it. I mean, it's hard to see sometimes.
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This transcript has been lightly edited for readability.