Jesuit’s book a call to deeper prayer life
This new book, “Three Moments of the Day: Praying with the Heart of Jesus” by Christopher Collins, SJ, is one of those tests of Church unity. At least for me. Fr. Collins sets forth before us a simple devotion to the Sacred Heart and introduces us to Ignatian or Jesuit spirituality. As a Lay Dominican, I was not even aware that Jesuits had a spirituality! Or so the old joke goes.
Fr. Collins sends us on a life journey, equipped with three simple prayer habits that help us follow the first characteristic of the New Evangelization – friendship with Jesus. The three prayer habits are: the morning offering, the evening reflection, and pondering the gift of the Eucharist throughout the day.
Sounds simple, yes?
The habits are simple if we set aside the unquenchable fact that the Eucharist is the Real Presence of the Son of the Living God and Creator, which should, upon serious reflection, blow our minds, as the old saying goes. Then we can proceed with pondering.
Fr. Collins understands that an offering in the morning – an offering prayer – does not ensure anything but is a way to start the day off right. We can find dozens of offering prayers in Catholic prayer books or the Liturgy of the Hours that set us addressing Jesus directly and requesting the friendship of His mother, the Virgin Mary. Fr. Collins wants us to understand that when we first awaken, the whole potential for the day is before us. By addressing our offering at that moment, we find ourselves in the best position to give ourselves to God through Jesus. What we do during the day can be couched in that understanding and thus, with practice, that awareness of our giving ourselves and our day over to God can become our habit.
Not a bad habit.
The evening’s reflection is the time to consider what we have done throughout the day, how close we have lived the offering we made in the morning. It helps us to retreat from the day, with Jesus, and to ponder and examine our own place in salvation history. We may ask ourselves: for what have we made our offering, and for what do we live our lives seeking Christ in all things? We should be aware that we strive for the salvation of souls – a good Dominican thing as well – that we seek the salvation of the whole world, seeking peace and solidarity.
Fr. Collins gives us a good structure for actually doing an Examen at the end of the day, using brief prayers and the power of remembering, and he has an excellent litany for us called, “The Litany of Humility.” This begins as follows:
O Jesus! Meek and humble of heart, hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved…
From the desire of being extolled…
And so on.
Fr. Collins also introduces us to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. The beginning of these exercises helps us to recognize “disordered attachments,” of which we have a plethora in this postmodern world. We are directed toward the Discernment of Spirits, which helps us to recognize such attachments. Ignatius fostered the concept of spiritual battle as part of this discernment process and he wanted his followers to be able to identify the Enemy. He used three images of the enemy to help us understand it. The first was the Nagging Woman, noting the negativity that we hear every day from the world. Just take ten minutes and watch the news! The second image was that of the Licentious Man to help us be aware of the pitfalls of the flesh. Finally, he uses the image of the Enemy Commander, the warrior who seeks to find our weakness and exploit it.
These exercises – and more – used during the Examen, help us reflect in those silent moments.
Pondering the gift of the Eucharist throughout the day should not be that difficult. Do we see the Eucharist in all things and in all peoples? If all that we see is created by the same God who is the Eucharist, then it only stands to reason that we ponder it all. The importance of pondering the gift of the Eucharist cannot be understated. The gift represents the Lord who seeks to break through to us, to have us live as He wills.
This book is an easy though rich read and one in which most of us can find value and a changing path for our lives. Who knows, there might even be a Dominican out there who could benefit!