Finding God in all things
Last week, Jesuit Missions staff member, Stephanie Beech attended a course at St Beuno’s Jesuit Spirituality Centre in North Wales on Living and working in an Ignatian way which is made available to all new staff.
“Finding God in all things”, one of the key foundations of Ignatian spirituality, wasn’t hard last week while spending a few days at St Beuno’s which is situated in the middle of an area of stunning natural beauty. I was incredibly lucky with the weather; in a place known for its rain, we had blue skies every day. Coupled with the lush green rolling fields, it was hard not to fall instantly in love with the place.
Usually a place to go for silent retreats, I was there with 13 other people, (including six from JRS UK) on a course about living and working in an Ignatian way. St Ignatius is the founder of the Jesuits or the Society of Jesus and was born in Northern Spain in 1491. After being injured during battle as a soldier aged 30 he spent nine months recovering, during which time he decided to change his whole purpose in life. Twelve years later, after studying and being ordained, he and his first companions began the Society of Jesus which was approved by Pope Paul III ‘for the service of God and the help of souls’. St Francis Xavier was the first Jesuit missionary, sent to India and beyond into South East Asia by Ignatius. By the time Ignatius died there were already more than 1000 Jesuits. Today there are around 18, 000 Jesuits in the society working in 112 countries across the world to continue the 450-year-old project of Jesuit education ‘for improvement in living and learning for the greater glory of God and the common good.’
The course helped us to understand and put into practise Ignatian spirituality into both our daily life and work life. The Ignatian principle and foundation looks at why and how we are on this earth and the relation we have with every other living thing. As a group we wrote our own definition of this as follows:
“The human person, one created in God’s image, is created to express delight in God, have a sense of awe and hallowedness and place him/herself at the disposal of others and God, the father the son and Holy Spirit, the source of life and love, who made the world and by this means to live in the fullness of God’s love, as a loved sinner and it is for the human person that all that lives on the face of the earth is created as helps to following Christ.”
We did a lot of personal reflection including looking at our own faith journeys and the pastoral care which we receive in our daily lives, whether that be from family, friends or work colleagues. We explored the cycle of gratitude and generosity, and what makes someone more open or closed to being grateful or generous. For example, being grateful to all we receive from God leads us to giving more back towards God, the same can be said for ourselves and towards others making us “men and women for others.”
When I first arrived at St Beuno’s I wondered how so many people could do silent retreats, however by the time I left just a few days later I could easily see myself going back there to try it out. It is a place where you can really feel the strength of prayer and presence of God in the many beautiful chapels and surrounding landscape. It was a great opportunity to take a step away from our busy lives and create some space for reflection and prayer.