It has been about a year since I’ve made the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Upon reflection, to my surprise, I have seen God in the moments that I wouldn’t have expected to see Him. These encounters with God have been especially vivid during my time here in Belfast at L’Arche for my Long Experiment. I have felt His presence explicitly when presented with very ordinary, everyday events and the feelings that arise. Through the events that I perceive as somewhat negative, the Lord is showing me my weaknesses, my growing points, and how He can readily be found in all things, perhaps even more so in tumultuous situations in which I feel dryness in prayer and His apparent absence. And through the events that I perceive as positive, I’m learning that God is rooting for me; He truly wants me to be in consolation and to experience joy and His love.
I recall some events which I perceive as negative while being here in Belfast: I think of the nitty-gritty of each day, how the routines can be boring and mundane at times, how I’m emotionally drained at the end of the day, and how I have to juggle prayer and action, which is essential to being a “contemplative in action”. Thinking back to the Spiritual Exercises, three questions remain at the forefront of my mind: What have I done for Christ? What am I doing for Christ? What will I do for Him? In reviewing the various events and emotions that arise in me during my daily Examens, I regularly ask God for the graces of perseverance and fidelity. And I’ve come to realize that none of the moments of the day are wasted and Divine Providence wants me to experience certain things for my good.
Some events which I perceive as positive come to mind as well: I remember celebrating a couple’s engagement, having spiritual conversations with others that stirred up consolation within me, being humbled as I assisted a core member in his shower routine, and attending a L’Arche fundraising concert where I heard such beautiful music, particularly one of the staff members playing American and Irish folk music on the fiddle. I felt great consolation from the Lord in that music because it resonated with my vocation of being an American in the Irish Province of the Society of Jesus. I was also thoroughly impressed when this same staff member played traditional Norwegian music on a Norwegian fiddle.
I believe that God is actively working through my concrete experiences during my Long Experiment. As I continue to press on in Belfast, with about six weeks remaining, a quotation from Walter Ciszek, S.J.’s book He Leadeth Me comes to mind: “I had continuously to learn to accept Gods will—not as I wish it to be, not as it might have been, but as it actually was at the moment. And it was through this struggle to do this that spiritual growth and a greater appreciation of his will took place”. I pray that I can continue to learn this too.