The Jesuits: … Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam

So that’s Latin. Since I sure as heck didn’t study Latin, here’s what it means:

“To the Greater Glory of God…”

A noble motto from Saint Ignatius, the founder of the Jesuits (literally followers of Jesus) whose feast day we celebrate 31 July (today!)

I am a groupie of Saint Ignatius (1491-1556) a Spanish noble who made major life changes after a mystical experience during convalescence from a battle wound. He totally devoted his life to Jesus and then enlisted buddies to join him in a new way of living, thinking and doing. Approved by the Pope at that time, the fledgling order founded universities, sent missionaries (ever wonder why so many schools are called “St. Xavier’s?”) and prayed while being the hands and feet of Jesus to those around them.

The Jesuits and the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius have lasted (not without a bit of turmoil along the way.) Today Jesuits still serve Jesus the world over in so many ways – running universities, assisting refugees (Jesuit Refugee Service), through churches (Holy Trinity in DC a favorite), facilitating spiritual growth (retreat centers, Spiritual Exercises workshops, books and more), sharing faith in Jesus, providing social commentary (America Magazine) and well, too much to list.

Father Timothy King was the first Jesuit I met while taking an evening class on Teilhard de Chardin at Georgetown University in D.C.  That was 23 years ago. I still remember his humble spirit as he unpacked his fellow Jesuit’s spiritual writings (that were not allowed to be published during the life of Teilhard de Chardin – a great scientist – although his writings had major impact on Vatican II!)  The thing is, Evangelical Me was so impressed how Father King loved Jesus. Big-time.

I also appreciated going to Holy Trinity weekday mornings (they had 7:00AM & 8:00AM masses as I recall? or maybe it was 6:45? Whatever, easy to zip in and out to work.)  All this to say, I have always liked the Jesuits: special place in heart and all that. Then, since returning from Africa I have been blessed with two week-long silent retreats at the Jesuit Spiritual Centre in Wernersville, PA.

The first time I picked the place from online options to seek discernment regarding Ph.D. programs. Many Jesuits are total braniacs, so go figure it would be wise to consult their input in a structured manner during a directed silent retreat using the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius.

God has a BIG sense of humor. Instead of getting a brainiac Jesuit, Sister Maria was assigned my spiritual director for the week. A few internal pouts later, her strategic direction turned out to be a gift from God – lots of restorative healing. Sister Maria gave me 2 Corinthians 4, the jars of clay verses, to contemplate. Humph! I memorized those verses as a child and put them on my office wall in the Middle East. But at the end – eight days of praying is lots of work – I realized yes, we may be cracked clay pots (Virginia to our Tanzanian staff, “isn’t it grand that as our cracks get wider there’s more room for the light of Christ to shine through?”) But guess what??


…and diamonds are hard to crush.

YAAAY God, and thanks to Sister Maria for her persevering spiritual guidance. The next year I zoomed back for another week-long dose of silent prayer with a dear friend who was blessed with Sr. Maria’s direction. That week I had a blast praying with Sister Sarah.  Literally. Lots of Holy Hilarity and serious prayer. She confirmed my earnest prayers about becoming a nun. (‘Twas a ‘No.’) Sister Sarah affirmed that I am far too independent (which sense since I’ve had a hard time in that commit to one guy for life thing; to join an order you kinda commit to lots of folks in that community living thing.)

But there were other prayed-for truths:

Receive My Love anew, to BE My love anew…”

Study My Words.  Know My Words. Be My Words.”

That may not seem like much after eight days of prayer, but the last 3 years I have asked Jesus every day to pour out His love anew into this (valuable) clay pot, so that I may BE His love anew. I also ask every day that His words permeate my life. That involves studying His words to know them and then do them.

Eight days of prayer – silence, meditation, listening to God – the Spiritual Exercises. Faith is a process, a daily-take-up-your-cross and follow Jesus deal. I highly recommend silent retreats for spiritual growth. For my Evangelical/Protestant this is freaking me out buddies, both times I went on this adventure there were many traditions represented in the retreatants: Lutheran, Episcopal, Evangelical, and some folks I’ve never heard of.

There’s also the Trappist Option. I made my first week-long silent retreat 22 years ago at Gethsemane Abbey where Thomas Merton was a monk. But that will have to wait for another posting as dinner is now becoming a very hasty scallop stir-fry (minus the must-bake-an hour butternut squash.)

So, today as we celebrate the life of St. Ignatius and the continued Jesuit faith-builders around the world —

…Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam…

grace, peace & God’s Glory

Virginia : )

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12 Responses to The Jesuits: … Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam

  1. jaymers says:

    Loved your stream-of-consciousness reflections here. I once worked at one of those St. Xavier’s schools! Thanks for the good reminder of the Jesuits, they have a soft spot in my heart, too.

    • Virginia says:

      ..very stream of consciousness since the prayer i picked out for a quick post was posted last year ( : ) So fun you worked at a St. Xavier’s ..& glad your heart has also been softened up by the Jesuits ~!

      grace, peace & purpose-driven-ingredients (still chuckling over your post last week!) – VA

  2. Thanks for sharing so openly and with such grace. I love the clay jars/cracked pots reference. I think it is the Japanese who fill the cracks in pottery with gold–our cracks and wounds are also places of beauty where God may be glorified.

    I enjoyed several fruitful short retreats at the Sacred Heart (Benedictine) Monastery in Richardton, North Dakota and at Maryvale in Valley City, ND (Sisters of Mary of the Presentation). I’ll definitely have to look into Jesuit Centre in PA.

    • Virginia says:

      Sharron – you are probably Not Too Far from Wernersville (a small town between Reading & Harrisburg @ 35-40 mins from Lititz).. the Centre has weekend programs in the fall & other Special Spiritual goings-on to recharge the internal batteries of ministers like you (! – i kept bumping into a fellow in all the same places – music room, on walks throughout the gorgeous grounds etc. – he reminded me of my older brother, a Pastor… & when we finally talked the last day, turns out he was, indeed, a Lutheran Pastor!)

      Filling in the cracks with Gold. Love it! thanks for sharing… oooh & i do love the Benedictines, too … especially the worshipful music so often filling their monasteries!

  3. Carol Ostrye says:

    Looking forward to your post about the 1st silent retreat you took b/c that was with Marge and me. I remember driving over the Kentucky mountains and hearing you say, “You mean we aren’t going to talk at all during the entire week?” I think you thought we would have small group sessions at night. I remember panicking inside but knew that it would work itself out. Neither you or I are known for our “silence.” Remember, Marge, a Park Street Presbyterian, had never been to a Mass before. I remember panicking about her impressions but she looked at me and said “I’ve been lied to my entire life. THe whole mass IS SCRIPTURE!” Then we had the little lectures at night with the monk. THe first night was about Mary. Oy vey! But Marge said “I agreed with everything he said.” All of our traditions have been misled about prayer. It isn’t talking to God, it is listening. And for me the best part is not an agenda of prayer but just “being” with God and actively sharing and celebrating our connection. At the end of the week, we were hugging complete strangers with whom we hadn’t spoken a word, but we had all shared an intimate week with our Father. There is a communal bond. P.S. I also remember that you went jogging in a flashy purple sweatsuit with your bright red ponytail in the “monks only” area. I hope they’ve gotten over that….

    • Virginia says:

      CAROL – you have the gift of diplomatic understatement (re: ‘we are not known for our silence’).. LoL(s)! I would say that a week of silence was an utterly amazing achievement for the 3 of us (don’t recall even a moment of silence on the long drive from DC to Kentucky!?!)

      i will write more on that experience (trying to locate my spiritual journal from the time – i know it’s here, somewhere as i have saved them all…but the exact location remains TBD when there are many piles, piles under piles & hidden piles…) What you said captures the gist: listening, listening, listening… opening our hearts, minds & spirits in silence to really hear without distracting clutter… BEING WITH GOD.

      i did have an agenda (recall toting a Huge Pile of spiritual books to read) .. but then
      found JB Phillips ‘Your God Is Too Small” in the monastery library that totally changed the week… shifting prayers to forgiveness (lots for me & for me to give to others.) Will never forget that time at Gethsemane that sill remains one of the most treasured weeks of my (now considerably longer) life.

      uh, forgot about that jogging incident. LOL… you are too much, Carol (!)
      thanking you – always- for the introduction to Teresa of Avila & those classes at Georgetown (Teilhard & then Thomas Merton) that had such a Big Impact!

      grace, peace & Silent Meanderings
      Virginia : )

      p.s. oh how i miss Marge – what a godly lady who loved Jesus & loved life…

  4. lisa loden says:

    Hi Virginia,
    Although we never shared a silent retreat together, your contemplative spirituality has repeatedly blessed me. I loved this post and too love the Jesuits. I have a new friend who is a Jewish Jesuit in Jerusalem. He’s the brainy type but with an awazing heart. Only once did I do an 8 day Ignatian retreat and it was an awsome time with deep, deep spiritual experiences of God’s love and grace that hold and nourish me till today.
    Keep up with the wonderful blog. There are many more roses in the rubble.
    Love, love, love and shabbat shalom,

    • Virginia says:

      LISA – Thank you so much for sharing this shabbat shalom comment that made my Friday extra special!!! Has been hard of late squeezing in roses-in-rubble search & development given new night-time ‘monitoring’ duties with my Papa’s BiPap machine (my Mama is a SAINT getting up 2 – 4 times per night helping him the last 25+ years!) How do mothers do it up in the nite at all hours? …. ’tis hard as tireditis tends to make me a bit scattered (but Papa is Oh-So-Much-Better with the strategic help of this little machine!!)

      love, love & more love back to you … & many shabbat shalom(s)!!
      grace, peace & contemplative hearts- Virginia : )

      p.s. so glad you have experienced God’s grace & love through the Spiritual Exercises – ’tis totally ‘your cup of spiritual tea.’ … & so grateful to God – ALWAYS- for your inspiring example of God’s grace-filled love IN ACTION (in Tough Places!)

  5. The FSSP used to give silent Ignatian Retreats up in the Scranton area. Not sure if they still do in their new home in Nebraska but it is a beutiful experience. Our priest leader was Fr. James Buckley who at the time was the novice master and now I understand he is the spiritual director for their seminary. If you ever get a chance to attend it is truly a life changing event that you will never forget. I know you have many family duties and may never get the chance but should you someday find that opportunity it is the a most challenging spiritual exercise that bestows years of grace.

    • Virginia says:

      Thank you for this recommendation – the directed retreats in Wernersville (where they use the Spiritual Exercises to facilitate) were such a blessed time… i am hoping to get back again, but it may be a little while! You should also check out Wernersville – they also give 30 day Ignatian programs in the summer (very hardcore!)

      Nebraska is a Bit Far, but i have visited Creighton University (& really like their Daily Reflections! : ) Thanx for dropping by the blog & so appreciated finding your blog the other day.. grace, peace & spiritual resources – Virginia : )

  6. Pingback: WONDER’ful Wednesday: Mt. Tabor …(& the Glory of God!) | Roses in the Rubble

  7. Pingback: Clay Pots: Masterpieces of Divine Art | Roses in the Rubble

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