A God of Suprises

Last week, I had the blessing to attend a workshop  at Monserrat Retreat Center just outside Dallas.  The presenters, Fr. Joseph Tetlow, SJ, and Carol Atwell Ackels, happen to be the authors of a twelve week Ignatian Retreat I’m using right now with two groups.  Having been looking for a long time for  a resource for those not able to commit to a multi month 19th Annotation format, Finding Christ In The World, has worked great for the needs of those I’m presently leading.

At the beginning of the year, and by chance, a friend of mine happened to learn of the workshop, Roots Seeking Water, and mentioned it to me.  I jumped at the chance to attend, and was grateful another brother in the Lord was able to join me.

Now, the friend who told me about the workshop has just begun delving into Ignatian Spirituality.  As it happened, a longtime friend of mine sat next to him on a plane last summer, and they got to talking.  He was a seeker and somehow the topic of Ignatian Spirituality came up, and somehow,  my longtime friend mentioned that he had a friend (me) that maybe our new friend should talk to.  I could go on and on about the fact that God was distinctly at work, and one thing led to another and then, there I was at the retreat center on Lake Dallas, listening to Fr. Tetlow, one of the world’s leading experts on the spirituality of St. Ignatius of Loyola.  The teaching of both Fr. Tetlow and his co-presenter Carol was unbelievably clear and so helpful to me.  When I left on Sunday, I felt like my own spiritual roots were deeper and stronger than they had ever been.  Such a gift!

I love the fact that our God is a God of surprises.  He makes unexpected connections, with people He as always wanted us to meet, so that we can become the people He has always wanted us to be, so that we can in turn share the Good News with others.  All these connections lead to conversion, transformation, and new life in Christ.  Be on the lookout, because God just might have a surprise for you today, or maybe it will be tomorrow, or the next day…. But surely it will come.


Happy Saint Patrick’s Day

On March 17th, the feast of St. Patrick, it seems the whole world is Irish. And that’s a good thing. Remembering that Patrick was a holy man who lived a saintly life, there’s much more to celebrate than our modern day parades and green rivers. Here’s a prayer attributed to him, worth praying today. God bless the Irish!


The strong virtue of the Invocation
of the Trinity:

I believe the Trinity in the Unity

The Creator of the Universe.

I bind to myself today

The virtue of the Incarnation of
Christ with His Baptism,

The virtue of His crucifixion with
His burial,

The virtue of His Resurrection with
His Ascension,

The virtue of His coming on the
Judgement Day.

I bind to myself today

The virtue of the love of seraphim,

In the obedience of angels,

In the hope of resurrection unto

In prayers of Patriarchs,

In predictions of Prophets,

In preaching of Apostles,

In faith of Confessors,

In purity of holy Virgins,

In deeds of righteous men.

I bind to myself today

The power of Heaven,

The light of the sun,

The brightness of the moon,

The splendor of fire,
The flashing of lightning,

The swiftness of wind,

The depth of sea,

The stability of earth,

The compactness of rocks.

I bind to myself today

God’s Power to guide me,

God’s Might to uphold me,

God’s Wisdom to teach me,

God’s Eye to watch over me,

God’s Ear to hear me,

God’s Word to give me speech,

God’s Hand to guide me,

God’s Way to lie before me,

God’s Shield to shelter me,

God’s Host to secure me,

Against the snares of demons,

Against the seductions of vices,

Against the lusts of nature,

Against everyone who meditates
injury to me,

Whether far or near,

Whether few or with many.

I invoke today all these virtues

Against every hostile merciless

Which may assail my body and my

Against the incantations of false

Against the black laws of

Against the false laws of heresy,

Against the deceits of idolatry,

Against the spells of women, and
smiths, and druids,

Against every knowledge that binds
the soul of man.
Christ, protect me today

Against every poison, against

Against drowning, against

That I may receive abundant reward.

Christ with me, Christ before me,

Christ behind me, Christ within me,

Christ beneath me, Christ above me,

Christ at my right, Christ at my

Christ in the fort,

Christ in the chariot seat,

Christ on the deck,

Christ in the heart of everyone who
thinks of me,

Christ in the mouth of everyone who
speaks to me,

Christ in every eye that sees me,

Christ in every ear that hears me.

I bind to myself today

The strong virtue of an invocation
of the Trinity,

I believe the Trinity in the Unity

The Creator of the Universe.


Here Comes The Sun

Over twenty years ago now, I read Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes, and I loved it. By that time in my life, I had been to Italy several times and had become enchanted with the people, the history, the art, the food, the list could go on and on.  Through Mayes’ book, I found out about the Tuscan hill town of Cortona, and it sounded so wonderful I added it to my itinerary for my next trip.  I wanted to see the piazza she lovingly wrote about, along with the house she restored, Bramasole.  The name struck me.  It means “to yearn for the sun.”  When I did make it to Cortona the following summer, I was not disappointed!

As I’ve written on this site over the years, to me, sunrise is one of the most spiritual times of the day.  Being a morning person since childhood (how that came about is a long story!), I’m almost always awake and moving, coffee in hand, before the sun sweeps over the horizon.  I try to see the sun’s first rays every day.  To me, that movement, which in reality happens so quickly, is a massive reminder that there is so much in life outside our control, and that every day we are alive is another day to make a fresh start, to be that person who God calls us to be.  Yesterday is already in the past.  We can’t change a thing about what happened yesterday, but we can have a mindset of making today matter.

Although you might find it odd, today is one of my favorite days of the year.  Ben Franklin came up with the idea of daylight savings time.  You might remember him from his saying, “early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”  Well, daylight savings time didn’t really take off in the United States until the 1960’s, but now it’s pretty common everywhere.  In addition to the change of our clocks, our days are getting longer.  In case you missed it, they have been since December 21st, just before Christmas. 

Friends, like it or not, here comes the sun.  Right now, as I type these words, it’s still dark out and there’s no sign of what’s soon to come up over the horizon.  As the name of Frances Mayes’ home in Cortona reminds me, I yearn for, not only the sun, but also the Son who makes it all happen.  Make today matter, folks and make it a great day.


Disordered Attachments

I love the way St. Ignatius opens his Spiritual Exercises, one of the great works of Christian Spirituality.


Lent Begins

It’s hard to believe the season of Lent is upon us, starting tomorrow, Ash Wednesday. As you may know, this season is a time for prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.  Here are some resources to help you spiritually throughout Lent.  Growing up, the Lenten journey of forty days seemed to drag on forever, and my mom dutifully took us to Stations of the Cross each week, right after our fish stick dinner (I had a grilled cheese).  For some reason, a visiting priest of Polish descent always seemed to  be the presider for our weekly pilgrimage around our church,  commemorating Christ’s passion and death.  As I recall he did not have a good singing voice, so when he belted out “Where You There,” the windows shook.  Actually though, I love these memories of childhood, and enjoyed being an altar server for stations.

I remember hearing a priest ask the congregation once why Catholic churches always have Stations of the Cross hanging from the walls around the church.  His answer has always stuck with me, and every Lent I ponder what he said, now decades ago.  “Everybody goes through difficulties in life, and for some, it may seem like no one could ever have it worse.  But with the Stations, we can look to our right or to our left, we can look forward and sometimes even behind us, and we might realize that Jesus, through his passion, had it worse than we could ever imagine.”

Over the years, the stations have become consoling for me, especially during tough times.  What that priest said all those years ago still resonates with me, and I hope they may be for you as well.  Christ, through his passion and death, offered himself up willingly for all of humanity, and that includes you and me (Philippians 2:5-11) . It was a gift beyond comprehension, a sign of God’s infinite love and mercy towards us.  Lent is a perfect opportunity to focus on how we have responded to this gift.  Let’s use the next forty days wisely, prayerfully, humbly walking through the desert with our God.

For those who are looking for an Ignatian Guide for lent, one of my favorites is the Ignatian Workout For Lent by Tim Muldoon.  Here’s an online version from Loyola Press

Let’s pray for each other over the next forty days, that our Lenten pilgrimage through the desert will bear fruit, fruit which will last.