Morning after morning he opens my ear that I may hear;
and I have not rebelled, have not turned back. ~Is 50:5
It feels a little misleading to you, reader, to call this my “2nd Experiment” when there is no “1st Experiment” post. The truth is, I’m still processing the first experiment in this journey of discernment, which was a 10-week live-in position at a maternity home, and I can’t publish thoughts on it yet. Enough to say for now that I learned an enormous amount about:
- being homeless
- being poor
- being privileged
- the immense value of charity
- being Catholic
- being a tiny baby (it’s a roller coaster!)
- the “fourth trimester” of pregnancy
- reconciling (i.e. saying I’m sorry)
- fundraising, Mother-Teresa style
- burn-out and sustainability in ministry
- the courage that it takes to truly open heart and home to others
- and the courage that it takes to accept help.
But until I can write with integrity about this, and with the assurance that my words are acceptable to the women with whom I shared home and life, I ask for your prayers in my second experiment: a 4-month study of the Constitutions and Norms of the Society of Jesus. (See here if you’re curious about what I’ll be reading and praying over.)
It has been said that there are four important texts to study, for a person who is contemplating entrance into a Jesuit way of life (and, of course, for the person who has said yes and is living it from day to day.) These are 1) The Spiritual Exercises; 2) The Autobiography of St. Ignatius; 3) The Constitutions of the Society of Jesus (along with the Norms, which include changes, updates, and extended interpretations of the original Constitutions); and 4) the thousands of Letters written by Ignatius to friends, co-founders, spiritual directees, mentors, benefactors, and colleagues, throughout his ministry.
Today is Day 1, and I’m excited, and also afraid. I’ve pondered that – why does it feel like dying, to just say what you love and do it? Maybe because in doing so, you are not doing other things. There is a sacrifice involved. And also because it brings up the specter of failure, which can be so strong a presence in any new project.
I find that it helps, when the fear becomes strong, to go back to a simple statement of desire. What is my purpose in studying the Constitutions? Put simply, what do I want?
- To keep growing in my ability to discern and live according to the will and creative Spirit of God.
- To find out more about the life to which I feel called – what is it actually like? Am I really called to it, or to something like it, or to something else entirely?
- To understand Jesuit men better, and learn to respect and accept them as they are, even if it hurts, confuses or irritates me sometimes. (Realizing that in genuine relationship, my actions and attitudes may hurt, confuse and irritate them at times, too.)
- The chance to speak with Jesuit men, as my brothers and friends, about these shared principles – to deepen my knowledge so that I can relate to them on their level, and share my experience and ideas openly and (perhaps) skillfully.
- To meet and support other Jesuit women, and be able to voice our experiences and learning to one another.
- To contribute to a viable method of mind, heart, and body training for laypeople who feel called to a greater commitment and a more intensive, lifelong Jesuit formation.
- To enrich the vision of Jesuit Women, and to connect it in spirit, practical reality, and truth to the Jesuit tradition.
And finally, most deeply, I want to be a better person. To me, this means a more whole person, more in tune with God’s love and God’s dream for me as a human being, and for all humankind, all creatures, all worlds. I feel a little like Buzz Lightyear: “To infinity and beyond!!!”
So let’s check back on that in 4 months (and periodically, in between.)
This study will involve reading and prayer every day for 21 weeks. If there’s sufficient grace for it, I’ll end the study with a 3rd Experiment in October: praying the 30-day Spiritual Exercises at a retreat house in my province. I need God, and your prayers, to run the race.
Will you pray for me?