Ignatian Retreat in Daily Life

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Week of Prayer 0 - Introduction

Posted by Thomas David McMurray on June 19, 2020 at 1:55 PM

Week of Prayer 0 - Introduction

Summer Reading Assignment: "God's Unconditional Love: Healing Our Shame" by Wilkie Au and Noreen Cannon Au

Respond to any one or two of the following questions. Post your reflections for the other interns to consider and comment on. Comments (that is, replies to a posting, are to be limited to "affirming," "clarifying," or "mirroring" statements. And, as usual, they are to be non-judgmental avoiding any form of debate.

Questions to consider as you review the reading.

1, What were the highlights of the material for me?

 2. What touched me or gave me new or nuanced insights? 

 3. What challenged me in this material? 

 4. What connects or resonates with my experience of the Spiritual Exercises

 5. What was relevant to my formation as a prayer companion or spiritual director? 

 6. What would you like to take to prayer?


Categories: RIDL Formation Intern Reflections

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Reply Cat
5:28 PM on October 7, 2020 
In reading Carlene and Kathy's insightful comments I was reminded of this poem:

God must be
God must be
God must be seeking imperfection
snarled by lowest self
who insists on kicking the ladder
that reaches to heaven
off balance so it lands
squarely at my feet
too long to upright

it just sits there

and I look and wonder
why each morning as I rise from
sleep, it is lovingly
repositioned so as to reach
toward heaven
once again

just waiting
for me
to trust
the invitation

Reading this book created the necessity of having to own my shame. I wrote "Ladder" a few years ago and I see in it the seeds of shame and the hope of healing and connection. God's consistent, persistent loving "actions" or "movements" are undeniable in that they are rooted in our lives and captivatingly intimate in that they are created just for us meeting us where we are.
One compelling notion that I will continue to unpack and bring to prayer is the idea that â??central to the healing of shame is the ability to feel our shame and simultaneously to feel Godâ??s compassionate love for us.â??
Reply Kris
4:32 PM on October 7, 2020 
I can appreciate the author's suggestion to consider the sources of shame starting with a list of areas to consider and which are important to consider for ourselves as well as our directees. Someof these areas for consideration are Childhood Deprivation; Not Measuring Up to Parents Expectations; Parental Over Control; Family Secrets; Child Abuse (Emotional, Neglect, etc.);Negative Depictions of the Body; Race and Gender; Socioeconomic  Variables. 
These areas, such that the authors suggest can affect one's sense of who we are and potentially manifest in how one creates within ourselves defenses such as "emotional substitution," "perfectionism," "hypercriticism" of ourselves and others, "excessive caretaking."  Healing shame is an inside job and is generally complex. I was delighted to find a spiritually oriented piece of reflective writing to help us to consider Ignatian imagination in our healing drawing on  parables and the magnanimous love of Jesus. 
Even mentioned is the wonderful author Helen Schungel-Straumann who reminds us that scriptural images have a "special theological power."  
Where I run into a bit of a challenge (#3) is when the authors prompt us to consider our real fathers and mothers and the love they bring to us. While I appreciate their contextual references to scripture, and can relate to or  resonate with my experience of the Spiritual Exercises, are scripturalstories or accounts  that allow me to access a bit of divinity in the areas of healing that I own in my life. Where I disagree is that the authors seem to, in my humble experience and opinion, is the suggestion to consider how our own real life parents were loving and cradled us. The authors have much discussion about therapeutic approaches such as relational therapy, gestalt, play therapy, transitional object therapy. Sure, these therapies are necessary and it is beautiful that they combine these with stories from Mark's Gospel, Luke, and the practice of Ignatian and imagination in order to  "fit the pieces of our lives together in a completely new way" (77) 
Sure, this works when one has experienced a certain history in growth and development. However, there is a whole world out there of Complex Post Traumatic Syndromes developed in the early years of development of one's childhood and formative years. While there are many grace-filled moments to offer someone to help them untangle their Spirit, and experiencing God's presence is a Gift, the authors begin their story [their book] with a wealth of information and remind us of the God's absolute compassion and how to pray with imagination but have choose to leave out the colossal area of clinical areas of healing. SInce they opened the door to clinical areas in their literature, they also leave a huge  door shut in a clinical area that would otherwise embrace those with PTSD and, at that, Complex Traumatic PTSD.  We will have one or two or more directees who experience some form of complex traumas or PTSD. It is not talked about in many circles but exists.  Referring to Jesus' compassion and the maternal care of Mother Mary is helpful. It is not helpful to ask people before we know them enough to ask, to  relate to transitional object therapy when one may not have had an exactly positive relationship with their primary parent/guardian. Yes, the authors focus on "Jesus' Central Concern: To Empower the Imagination"
that Jesus is intuitive knowing when we need love more than a miracle. This I can support and would share with others.
And, I will end here. In short, I do not recommend this book.
Reply Kathy OhEigeartaigh
10:39 PM on October 6, 2020 
Hi, Diana: I agree that the restatement of sin as shame is a profound and that the unconditional love of Jesus, relieving our shame, is the source of our salvation. I wonder if that unconditional love finds its source in the imagination of God which sees us as we were created to be, not as we see ourselves, judging ourselves as we imagine that God judges us.
Reply Kathy OhEigeartaigh
10:24 PM on October 6, 2020 
Hi, Carlene: I was really struck by your comments about being a perfectionist and God being disappointed by your faults. I am also a perfectionist- but I came at it from a different perspective- if I could do things perfectly, maybe I might be worthy of respect, even admiration. I never raised my eyes/ heart high enough to consider what God thought of me, but only what other people might think. I am really struck by how we humans can be so creative in finding so many ways to entrench ourselves in shame.
Reply Carlene
9:17 PM on October 5, 2020 
For me, one of the highlights of reading the book was understanding the role shame plays in my relationship with God. I shared last week that I was really taken by the idea that my sin is not what keeps me from God, but rather my shame. This was really powerful.
Reading this book helped me to spend time really looking at my image of God and unpacking what experiences have brought me to this image. I found it fascinating to take time to consider all of the people and events that have helped to reveal to me who God is in my life.
One aspect that was both enlightening and challenging to me was the idea that perfectionism is linked to shame. On page 85 the authors write, "Many of us are burdened by a strict conscience that demands perfection, thinking this is what God wants, We have an image of holiness that is out of reach for the simple reason that perfection is beyond our grasp." Wow! For so many years I have felt that my imperfections were such a disappointment to God. I really appreciated that God does not look for me to be perfect and will challenge myself to try to be gentle and come to remember that God loves me "no matter what." - in spite of and including my imperfections.
When I think about my experience of the Spiritual Exercise, I feel that this book takes me back to the very beginning of the retreat when I was able to experience God's love for me. What is different is that instead of simply considering God's love for me, I am focused more on HOW God is looking at me - the tender mercy and forgiveness that He is so eager to share with me - I can almost see it in His eyes. It overwhelms me!
Finally, as I contemplate my formation as a prayer partner, I want to always keep at the forefront of my mind that the experiences the person I will be supporting are different than my own. I want to give the space for that person to be able to share his or her own experiences that shaped his or her image of God. We all have our own path to walk in our faith, but I do believe God has put people on our path to help guide us. I pray that God will use me, my faith, and my experiences to be a help to others as they walk along their own path.
Reply Diana Buono
2:28 PM on October 5, 2020 
A significant aspect of this book that touched me was the realization that shame and sin are closely linked along with the perspective of looking at Jesusâ?? ministry of healing through the lens of saving people from shame. This commonality of the real problem lying in the widely held belief that we are not good enough just as we are makes it all the more critical that as a daughter of God, and God willing a future prayer companion, that I keep this at the forefront of my prayerful growth in my attempt to understand â??what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that [ I ] may be filled with all the fullness of God.â?? (Ephesians 3: 18-19)
Reply Kathy OhEigeartaigh
1:49 PM on October 4, 2020 
I enjoyed reading the book. One of the comments that resonated the most with me is the one about the longest journey being between the head and the heart. Iâ??ve known for a long time that I have hidden behind all things intellectual. The focus of the exercises to grow in acceptance of Godâ??s unconditional love. I need to shorten that distance and grow in the knowledge that I am worthy of that love. I mentioned this the other night - the first time I red this book was in early summer and I was so taken with the repeated references to The Shack that I put aside Auâ??s book and reread The Shack. It was life changing. Still savoring the blessings that experience, I finished reading Auâ??s book. There was a lot of information that I found interesting but no great Ah Ha moments. Then I reread it in preparation for our first meeting and discovered to my great surprise that The Shack was only mentioned in the introduction. I had the impression that it was a prominent source for the Auâ??s and was shocked to see that it didnâ??t even get mentioned in the footnotes! I really believe that urge to reread the Shack was inspired by the Spirit and am so grateful that I paid attention.
I also found the Auâ??s book to be a wonderful reminder that every member of the human race deals with this sense of shame and we all experience it in slightly different ways. Each personâ??s experience of healing will be different. This recognition of shared, but unique experiences, of emotional pain binds the spiritual director to the retreatant in an important bond of a parallel journey of healing and growth. It is much easier to empathize and model the unconditional love of Jesus by always keeping in mind our woundedness.
Reply Thomas David McMurray
4:44 PM on July 20, 2020