Be silent. Be still. Alone.
To high school students, none of these three concepts is easy. Often texting or Snapchatting, often going to and from school and commitments, and often encircling themselves with peers lead adolescents to many places but not ordinarily places of silence, calm, and reflection. In a recent moment, STA seniors received the tools to unearth these three gifts and- better yet- were shown how to discover them anew every single day.
Kiki Bean is a spiritual director with Manresa Way in Maine. Manresa Way is a program that facilitates a 30-week retreat (sometimes referred to as the 19th Annotation) where retreatants meet individually with a prayer guide and then gather as a group to hear a reflection on that week’s topic. It is rooted in Ignatian spirituality and introduces the retreatants to the life and conversion of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the Examen Prayer, and how to interpret the spiritual meaning of one’s emotional life.
Kiki is one of the faithful who dedicates her time and spiritual leadership to those seeking a stronger relationship with God.
But it wasn’t always that way.
Years ago, Kiki had a very broken relationship with God and, in her own words, she really had no relationship with Him at all. But with providence and His ability to re-route even His most distanced family members, God called Kiki back home and she accepted the invitation.
A few weeks ago, Kiki stepped into Ms. Shannon McAden’s classroom and led STA’s “Christian Life” students through the history of Ignatius’ conversion to Catholicism.
Once a warrior infatuated with himself and his prestige, Ignatius had vanity knocked quite literally out of him by a cannonball. Gravely wounded and disfigured, he spent a great deal of time convalescing alone with only two books: “The Life of Christ” and “Flowers of the Saints” (a book on the lives of the Saints). Frequent reading and re-reading of these two books led Ignatius to develop a love for spiritual things. He began meditating on holy things. Eventually, this once-upon-a-time ladies’ man became one of the most humble and worldly saints who wanted his Jesuit missionaries to “go out and find God in all things.”
After teaching about Ignatius’ history and transformation, Kiki guided the students through a contemplative exercise. Quiet music, a soft tone, and Kiki’s gentle voice invited each senior to rest, lower their heads, and center themselves for a few moments. While the exercise was brief, the effect was palpably positive. And unbeknownst to them, the students had just received a lifelong gift if they choose to receive it.
Ignatian spirituality encourages spiritual athletes to focus on intense gratitude. It helps them see the power and presence of God in everything, everywhere, at all times. Through deep discernment, people acquaint themselves with God’s voice and lean in to His calling. They begin to relate with Christ and the scriptures through imagination, listening to the Gospel and swirling through it as an active participant.
To practice this type of spirituality is to learn how to carve a safe space within your own human canvas, a place where the world’s noise, venom, betrayals, and toxicity cannot enter.
Perhaps the most wonderful treasure that St. Ignatius bestowed upon the world is to help people see that God is among us in all things, in all ways… always.
Before your God.
Let your God look upon you.
That is all.
God loves you
With an enormous love,
And only wants
To look upon you
With that love.
Let your God—
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam (For the Greater Glory of God)