Day 20 of #31DaysWithIgnatius

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There’s nothing quite like death, which reminds us that we are mere recipients of this gift called #life; that we are as empty vessels longing to be filled, and that whatever time we have on this earth, may it be as a gentle grace-filled presence.

Lord, we ask your blessing on the souls of those who’ve passed into the next life. Be with those who mourn and grieve the loss of their loved ones. May we who encounter them be as beacons of light and comfort. Ad majorem Dei gloriam. For the greater glory of God.

#31dayswithIgnatius #empty #full #open #death #love #spiritual #community #gift #mourning #grace #living #amdg #grief #compassion

In celebration of Ignatian Spirituality, and to mark the feast of St Ignatius of Loyola (31 July), I have taken on the challenge of posting a picture a day that speaks to me of the lessons learned from all things ‘Ignatian’; including ‘finding God in all things.’ Here it is, as posted on Instagram (@fcjAustralia).

31 Days With St Ignatius

Our friends at IgnatianSpirituality.com are hosting their annual program to celebrate the Feast of St Ignatius. It is in its seventh year, and the team at Loyola Press have done so much good for the promotion and sharing of Ignatian spirituality and faith in general. Theirs is a resource of immense value and accessiblity, so I am only more than happy to encourage one and all to participate in the festivities by signing up or showing up and taking in what’s in store. There is merit in reflection and merit in discussion; it is another way of breaking bread together.

31 Days with St Ignatius

Holy Feast: Holy Thursday 2016

Holy Thursday. The feast of the Lord’s Supper.

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“Did you know that Holy Thursday is a special feast for the FCJs?” I commented.

My daughter replied, “That’s clever!”

“Why is that clever?”

“Because the FCJs were founded on a holy day.”

I probed a little further for her to tell me what Holy Thursday is about. The body and blood of Christ. Jesus’ gift.

I asked if she could explain it to me as if I hadn’t heard of this person called Jesus. “What words could we use to describe it that were universal?” We thought about it together and we both agreed on:

Love and friendship
Communion and community.

It’s about fellowship and companionship and relationship.

As we enter this holy space of the Triduum, perhaps you too, might ask yourselves how you would explain Holy Thursday to someone who hasn’t even heard of Jesus.

Happy Feast to all, and especially to the FCJ family.

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Jesus in daily life with this painting on an urban wall.

Insight: How is your Heart?

The following article is from the On Being blog, posing some questions well worth our attention.

On Social Conventions and Getting to the Heart of How We Are
BY EMILY JACOBI (@EMJACOBI),  GUEST CONTRIBUTOR

It began when I was a teenager. Skeptical of why I was being asked, with a adolescent’s proper disdain for convention, I felt a certain squeamishness around the phrase “How are you?” How was I? I was a teenager! I was experiencing all sorts of things — good, bad, mysterious, and otherwise. How could all that be encapsulated with a standard response like “I’m fine”?

As I’ve grown older I’ve mellowed. I appreciate “How are you?” as a ritual that encourages conversation, especially between relative strangers. There is a way of asking, of using eye contact and tone of voice, that indicates the questioner is genuinely interested. Even when its use is perfunctory, asking “How are you?” can be an initial step that leads to deeper conversation.

Even so, I still go through periods of feeling frustrated by the social convention. When I most need to be asked and heard in my response, I am most unsure whether I can answer the question honestly. I’ve watched as I’ve asked the question out of convention to friends, coworkers, and housemates, when I didn’t really have the time or space to fully listen to the answers in all their messy, complicated glory.

It was when I traveled to Chiapas, Mexico a few years ago that I learned a different way to approach this standard question. Working with a community of Mayan villagers who were facing eviction from the Mexican authorities, my organization, Digital Democracy, was training them in photography, video, and satellite communications. I was working specifically with women in the community, most of whom only spoke a few words of Spanish, so I learned a few words of their language, Tzoltzil, one of the family of Mayan languages still spoken today. K’uxa-elan? they taught me to ask as I greeted people in community. “How is your heart?” is the English translation.

How is your heart? I would practice asking the villagers — to grandmothers (abuelas) and little kids alike. “My heart is seated” (their poetic way of saying “my heart is at peace”) was the most common response, but they deployed dozens of heart-centered metaphors to describe how they were doing, far beyond what I was capable of learning in my days there.

How is your heart? It, too, is a social convention in the Tzotzil Mayan community, yet, when asked in English, has a tender quality to it and sends a signal from the questioner: Hey, I really care about you and how you are doing.

I’ve practiced asking it, both of others and of myself. It’s not a question I’m likely to pose to a random person on the street. And I certainly won’t ask it of my housemate when I pass her in the kitchen as I’m running out the door to catch the train. But, when I want to take a moment to settle in, to catch up with that same housemate over tea, or to indicate that I am open to deeper connection to a new friend, it’s a question that is surprisingly appropriate — partly because it is a question we so rarely ask ourselves.

“How is your heart?” has quite a few things going for it over “How are you?” It is more specific, allowing the person being asked to focus on just one aspect of their complex being. The unexpected question implicitly gives permission to the person being asked and allows them to pause, check in with their heart (both literally and metaphorically), and answer in a way that is likely to be genuine. Even if the person being asked isn’t interested in sharing a vulnerable response, a response like “my heart is angry” or “my heart is closed” is acceptable, giving the questioner an idea of how to transition or appropriately end the conversation.

How is your heart? When we start conversations by connecting our talking selves to our bodies, we bring more of ourselves into the interaction. We might recognize anxiety or stress that was otherwise bubbling under the surface, impacting us without our conscious awareness. Or it may help us recognize a feeling of expansiveness and joy that accompanies spending time with certain friends. Whatever the answer, it is likely to be useful.

When I was younger, I often wondered about the heart as a metaphor. Was it just a poetic expression, a cultural projection on a body part? That seemed the most rational explanation. A Western, scientific worldview taught me that it was simply a part of the body, made of muscle and blood, and any meaning we assigned to it was metaphorical.

Traveling all over the world and working with cultures and languages vastly different from my own, from southeast Asia to southern Africa, from the rainforests of the Amazon to the desert sands of the Sahara, I’ve been pleased to learn how wrong I was. Metaphors for the heart exist in every language I’ve encountered, and the colloquial ways we talk about it. “Heartache” and “the heart of the matter” seem to me to be anything but accidental. There’s a growing body of scientific evidence around this, too, with books like The Heart’s Code connecting ancient traditions to the experience of heart-transplant recipients and the HeartMath Institute’s pioneering research into the way the heart and brain communicate with one another in a more reciprocal way than previously assumed. What will we know about our hearts 20, 30, 40, 50 years from now? A great deal more that we currently imagine.

So, if you haven’t already, I invite you to take a deep breath and ask yourself: How is your heart? I’m asking because I want to know, because I think it matters. Because I’ve learned that how my heart is doing matters. Because the world of human affairs is messy and complicated, and it seems to me that the more we pay attention to one another’s hearts the better off we’ll all be.

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I’ll Ride With You

This morning in a central Sydney café, a group of people were taken hostage by armed men, believed to be militant Muslims. (Read here for live updated reports.)

That there is a hint of religion involved or what claims to be the message of Islam as a motive for the siege has created waves in the wider community. For some, it is a unified solidarity standing up against terrorism and racism. For others, it is fear.

And so started a movement through social media: “I’ll Ride With You”. You can read how it began when one woman noticed another taking off her hijab in public so as to protect herself from outward recognition.

We can take so much from the story, and say so much about today’s events, but in the quiet of the night, this story has shed some more light on the meaning of Advent and the forecoming feast of the birth of the Christ.

It all comes back to us in how we treat one another, in how we live with each other. Here is companionship in everyday life.

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We are busy during this time of year,  so terribly busy, and we all have our tasks to get through. But this story has shown me that as urgent as our meetings and deadlines are, more imperative is the awareness of our need to pause and connect with each other, to say to another, “Whatever you’re going through, it’s ok. I’ll ride with you. We’ll journey together.”


Let us remember and pray for the hostages and their families, the negotiators and security forces as well as for the perpetrators themselves. Love is stronger than hatred, light more saving than darkness. Let us work and live for peace among ourselves.

Insight: Eternal Communion

It is by the love of God through his incarnate Son, joined in the Spirit that we are here. We are social beings, community-seekers and home-makers.

I found this insight cause for meditation tonight, so I share it with you.

I am created for eternal communion.

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21 September 2014: Happy Birthday, Marie Madeleine

We were driving through the French countryside as Sr Mary Campion told us about the caring quality of Madame d’Houët. This was not news to us since we know that as a landowner, mentor,  founderess and caregiver,  she was a woman who looked after and cared for  the many in her charge.

What did occur to me however was that in the midst of hard work and discipline, Marie Madeleine ensured and encouraged that those in her care took Sundays off to picnic, play games and simply enjoy each other’s company. Her love for dancing as well as playing with the many children in her domain taught me that life for this woman, was ultimately for living and for celebrating, echoing the gratuitous joy expressed in the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius:

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my understanding, my memory and my will. You have given all to me, and I return them. Give me only your love and your grace, for that is enough for me.

How have you celebrated today?

I know that for two of our FCJs in Melbourne, they celebrated their own birthdays with their sisters gathered around them with cream sponge cake.

For other companions, glasses were raised in memory of Marie Madeleine.

As for me, although I had a very sombre and much-needed day of rest, I now have champagne to sip on as I wind down for the evening with my husband and children.

Thank you, chère Marie Madeleine, for reminding me that life is for living and for celebrating, no matter how unceremoniously. That we take time to to pause and reflect and ponder the gifts given to us in this world is grace enough,  don’t you think? What are your thoughts?

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Reflection: In the Footsteps of Marie Madeleine Pilgrimage

The following reflection is a guest post submitted by one of the pilgrims who “walked with us” on the pilgrimage I made earlier this year.

Keeping-Company.com | Faithful Companions of Jesus

Image: G. Anderson, 2014.

In the footsteps of Marie Madeleine

Some time on, and I am still in awe of the fact that one woman, who lived 156 years ago is the reason that in 2014, 32 pilgrims, 5 FCJ sisters and one coach driver are gathered in Central France, visiting countless churches, houses, run down country estates, disused chapels, negotiating winding country roads, unsure of which turn to take, in order to find four generations of a family willing to welcome a group of strangers, who don’t speak their language, into their home and treat them like long lost friends.

Keeping-Company.com | Faithful Companions of Jesus

The generous spread provided by the de Bonnault-de Bengy families.
Image courtesy: A. Daw, 2014.

It is a fact that we are reminded of as we sit, (at the feet of the master, who is Sr. Mary Campion) in the garden of Rue Coursalon in Bourges, on a very sunny and hot afternoon in July. The group, representing four continents, is grappling with the question, “Am I a tourist or a pilgrim?” “What is the difference?” Someone in the group suggests that the pilgrim is someone who is searching for the meaning of things and I am reminded of the quote from The Little Prince,

It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential remains invisible to the eye. | Antoine de Saint-Exupery

And so, our focus goes beyond the facts of the story which is unfolding before us… We begin to glimpse the young woman, mother and daughter who is struggling to do the right thing, against a backdrop of political unrest, social upheaval and is torn between her strong sense of family duty and her desire to seek only the will of God and accomplish it faithfully, as soon as it is made known to her. It is a struggle, not unlike the struggles of this group of pilgrims, nearly 200 years later. Conversations deepen and centre on questions of justice and dignity for individuals and groups in our 21st-Century world. We come to the conclusion that if Marie Madeleine were here today, it would be these same issues that she would want to tackle.

Our own journey has had its own (albeit trivial) problems, including some geographically challenged sheets and pillows while in Amiens, which means rising with the sun to ensure they can be safely returned or packed away, to travel south with us toward Paris.

There is also the wing mirror on the apparently new coach, which refuses to open and means a three hour wait for a mechanic in Bourges. What to do? Make sure that everyone is as comfortable as possible, with something to eat and drink – perhaps find somewhere to sit in the shade, try to fix the problem ourselves, or find a seat at the back of the bus and start praying – and we mustn’t forget our time of sharing, so some of us sit in the park to reflect on what has happened today…

Keeping-Company.com | Faithful Companions of Jesus

Pilgrim-companions behind the Cathedral in Bourges. Luckily there was a pub nearby. Image: G. Anderson, 2014.

But NO-ONE complains… Good example does much good. We have witnessed the sisters living out community in its truest sense. We have seen ‘the love and care they have for one another’ and what they have done and continue to do for us. Then, for me, another realisation – we are no longer strangers or friends – we are all companions and Marie Madeleine’s spirit is very much alive and living amongst us! Conversations go deeper again, and there is a dawning realisation that whatever work we ‘do’, if it is done for the ‘good of the other’, then it is God’s work and work that Marie Madeleine would have happily undertaken.

The ‘end’ of our journey lies in Paris, almost where we began, as we arrive at the parish church of St Dominique. Having travelled the labyrinth of roads around France and our lives, we finally arrive on the holiest of ground, to be welcomed with open arms by the church community, who are curious to know where we have come from and who might, like us, be in awe of the fact that one woman, who lived 156 years ago has brought this group of companions together to pray in their church.

And then we are gone…. As quickly as we came, back to our realities and daily lives, but richer for the experience. The ‘end’ of our journey is but the beginning and we are no longer alone in our daily struggle.

We are a community which transcends time and space. We are strengthened in our resolve to continue our work with the prayerful support of each other. The prayer, this week, has been powerful. We marvel at how, at each place, the prayer is ‘spot on’, speaks to us, moves us.

For me, it is yet more evidence of the beauty of God’s creation. We have worked together on it, across vast distances, with people we may not yet have known. It has helped shape our experience together and has allowed us to be a community of pilgrims rather than a group of tourists.

Through the skillful and dedicated work of our FCJ guides, Marie Madeleine has been given life and we have all returned home with a new understanding of who she is, the sacrifices she made, and the very real struggles she had in trying to do what she believed God wanted of her.

We give thanks for this very special opportunity and for the many blessings and graces received during our privileged time together.


This reflection was graciously offered by a fellow pilgrim-companion. 

*Do you have your own reflection or pilgrimage story to share? For contributions, and to discuss possible authorship, please contact Geralyn via email: missionandidentity@fcjasau.org.au.