Tag Archives: Spiritual Exercises


Spending time with God

In 1995, two friends and I started a faith-sharing group. We began with the 19th Annotation of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, and we made a commitment to spend an hour every day in prayer and meditation. We got together once a week to share what God was saying to us during that daily hour of prayer.

My yes to this commitment was monumental because I had resisted setting aside a regular time for daily prayer and meditation. I was one of those people who said that my prayer life was more fluid and the idea of setting limits—fifteen minutes, thirty minutes, an hour—every day would limit the Spirit. I believed that, too.

Until 1995 when I actually tried it. “Mea culpa,” I said to Sister Ann, one of the people who had suggested this practice to me. She was right; I was wrong.

It turned out that setting aside time for prayer every day did not inhibit the Spirit and actually opened me up to being more present to God throughout the day. It was as if that time each morning predisposed me toward God.God-prayer-meditationI both like and dislike those kinds of insights. Admitting I am wrong did not come easily to me when I was young. (And although I am still not much of a fan, I have had lots of practice owning up to my mistakes, and it comes a bit easier now.)

So, since 1995, I have set aside an hour each morning for prayer and meditation. I journal, read scripture, and pray the Liturgy of the Hours. I call to mind the people who have asked me to pray for them and allow space for God to bring others to mind. I ponder the words and images that catch my attention and sit silently with whatever the hour brings.

In the beginning, I would sometimes find myself looking at the clock, but other days the hour would fly by. It turned out I had a lot to say to God—and God had a lot to say to me, too.God-prayer-meditationI came to cherish that quiet time each morning and eventually got to the point where I could not imagine my day without it.

Sometimes, there seem to be no new insights, just an hour spent in silence; then I would remind myself that no hour devoted to God is ever wasted.

One hour a day, 365 days a year for more than 22 years—that’s a whole lot of hours.

I could have done something else with that time—watched the morning news, cleaned my house, etc.—but I believe my life would be the poorer for it.

I am grateful for my friend Steve, who first suggested praying the 19th Annotation of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, and I often say a prayer of gratitude for his wisdom and guidance. Steve died in 2013, but I still feel his presence during my morning prayer.God-prayer-meditation



Daily Prayer

After college, I applied to be an FBI agent. My background check turned up no skeletons, and I was accepted. Shortly before I was scheduled to go to Quantico, though, I withdrew my application. It may have seemed impulsive and misguided, but it was the right decision for me at the time.

Then, though, I was left with no life plan. Unsure of what to do, I sought guidance through prayer and spiritual direction.

Sr. Catherine Quinn, a wise and patient woman, became my spiritual director and tried to guide me to a deeper relationship with God. I was a headstrong young woman who resisted most of her suggestions.

For example, she suggested I read An Interrupted Life by Etty Hillesum, and I baulked. I had just finished college and the thought of reading non-fiction just did not appeal to me.

She also suggested I set aside time every day, the same time every day, to pray. I already went to daily Mass, which seemed enough “set” time for me. I preferred to pray spontaneously when the spirit moved me.

In some situations, Sr. Catherine found a way around my obstinacy. For instance, about a year after she had suggested I read An Interrupted Life, someone in my book group proposed it. Once I started reading the book, I recalled Sr. Catherine’s suggestion. It turned out Sr. Catherine also saw this woman for spiritual direction. “Sneaky,” I thought.

Of course, she was right about the book. I loved it, and it profoundly affected me. I have re-read it several times and even used it as the basis for a grad school presentation.

Bringing me around to read a book only took a year. It took more than ten years for me to adopt her prayer suggestion.

It happened like this: two friends and I decided to do the 19th annotation retreat, the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises in daily life. We made a commitment to set aside an hour each day to pray and then to get together once a week to share what was happening in our prayer. I set aside an hour each morning, and by the end of the eight months of the 19th annotation, a daily hour of prayer was a habit.

That was twenty years ago, and the habit has persisted.

I was thinking of this today because I am preparing to facilitate a day of reflection for local Jesuit volunteers. Theological reflection on community living will be the focus. I realized that setting aside an hour each day for prayer has helped make theological reflection an integral part of my spiritual life.

I want to publicly thank Sr. Catherine for her wise guidance and to apologize for my stubbornness. She was right in these two matters—and so many more. What a blessing she has been to me.