Friday, October 4, 2013

In Him Alone is our Hope (Magnificat)

When I take the time to examine my spiritual life, if I am honest with myself I can find a lot of shortcomings: things I wish I did better. It seems that prayer is always at the top of this list. I wish to be better at this discipline. I strive to be better at this discipline. Sometimes I progress. Sometimes I regress. I keep trying though, and that is important. St. Ignatius of Loyola's Spiritual Exercises have intrigued me. It has always been a practice that has escaped me, but I have been reading about it a lot lately.

Recently, I picked up the book In Him Alone is Our Hope, courtesy of Ignatius Press. In this book, the then Cardinal Bergoglio preached a Holy Week retreat for the Bishops of Spain using the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. The retreat starts with Cardinal Bergoglio asking the bishops to reflect on how their vocation started. It quickly progresses to asking the bishiops how their vocation has grown and evolved over time. In this time of prayer, the bishops are asked to also reflect on their tasks, duties, and responsibilities as shepherds of the Church. However, he is also asking them to reflect on their personal lives and grow closer to God in this retreat so that they may serve the Church better.

There is a particularly beautiful passage in this book where Cardinal Bergoglio talks about what it means to "keep watch." He first starts by referencing the Scriptural passage of the Agony in the Garden, where none of the Apostles could stay awake with Jesus and keep watch. Then, he contrasts the task of 'keeping watch' against similar tasks like supervision and diligence. To summarize his points, he says, "To supervise and to be vigilant both entail a certain degree of control. To keep watch, on the other, hand speaks of hope." This means that the bishops are called to be like God - allowing us to make our own choices, but always keeping watch ready to welcome us home when we err. One can see this message of love and forgiveness in his short papal reign so far.

One could argue that the audience for this book is only bishops. However, I believe that there is spiritual wisdom in this book for priests and laity as well. Some might read this book and learn more about the vocation of being a bishop and how our current Pope views their role in the Church. Others might read this book and see Pope Francis' possible reform program for the Church. I personally tried to take some of the advice he gave to his brother bishops and apply it to my own life. We can all stand to grow closer to God, and the way to do that is by surrendering to God and allowing him to form us and mold us in His image.

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