January 15, 2023 Essay: Thank You, St. Ignatius, for Welcoming Me Back to God and Prayer
I am a cradle Catholic, from a perfectly average American Catholic family. Having drifted off Sunday Mass in college more than 45 years ago, I had tried to come back to the fold a few times through the years in the many cities my family and I lived in. Maybe it was me, but the message from the pulpit never resonated. I did not quite get what prompted adults to attend Mass, other than obligation.
Then, one Saturday afternoon, I entered our beautiful Church and found myself waiting in the confessional. It was time.
I came into St. Ignatius wanting to deliberately discover Catholicism anew, how it all fits together and captivated millions of minds over the ages. Once in, I was moved to go to confession. I did not realize how much I had forgotten: the only saint I could relate to was Thomas, and I couldn’t even recite the Act of Contrition. Without judgment, Father Danny suggested that I dispense with my palpable guilt and make a fresh start right there. When he handed me a cellophane-wrapped printed version of the Act of Contrition, it felt as though God had been waiting there for me all along.
The next few months were filled with early Sunday morning Masses and sermons like I had never heard before. I felt a connection to my now-deceased family that I hadn’t ever felt. For the first time in my life, I was leaving Sunday Mass feeling much better than I had entered, wanting to learn more. I can’t tell you how relieving that thought was for me. That there is so much here, that all my questions were answered enthusiastically by priests and fellow parishioners in ministries alike.
All the ministries I participated in were outstanding, but Meeting Christ in Prayer was truly game-changing for me.
Meeting Christ in Prayer is an 8-week spiritual renewal (developing in my case) program fostered by daily guided prayer. Based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, I was guided to pray over Scripture readings on God’s love for all of us, Jesus’ life and ministry for others, and our response. I felt I was personally invited to meet God every day and share my concrete experiences with other participants; we created a community by sharing how the readings touched us in our daily life.
But my first week was a personal low—I completely whiffed! My MCIP book and newly purchased Bible sat there unopened, and my journey might have ended the second session. However, the facilitators invited me to start again that night (sound familiar?), and let the Holy Spirit transform what I could offer then—the fact that I showed up and was willing to listen and perhaps share.
What did I learn through the eight weeks? That prayer is becoming the heart of my relationship with God. That through prayer, I can experience the guidance of the Holy Spirit. That in prayer, I do meet Jesus and allow Christ’s love to transform me.
I learned that all of this is life-changing to me and that, like everything that is so primary in my life, I want to nurture it. I learned to pray every day . . . not out of obligation but in response to God’s invitation, a privilege to me now.
Thank you to all at St. Ignatius.
With love and appreciation,
Mike Tierney, Parishioner & Meeting Christ in Prayer Participant
Please join us at MCIP by registering at [email protected] before February 5, 2023.
To learn more about the upcoming session of Meeting Christ in Prayer, click here.