by Sandy Yates
Ignatian Spirituality came to me by way of the IVC. I was mired in the depths of a deep and dark depression. My 27 year old son had died three years previously and I was stuck in a prolonged period of grief. Having retired from a twenty-eight year career in nursing, I had little to do to occupy my time and mind. My friends and family encouraged me to be active, get motivated; but I suffered from a tremendous ennui.
The memory I have of the day that I did something about it is crystal clear. I was surfing the net and decided to Google, “volunteer opportunities.” I inquired about several, but nothing held any appeal. Then I came upon a request for IVC volunteers. A lifelong devout Catholic, I had fallen away from the church in my present state of desolation. The spiritual component of IVC was compelling and I was attracted to the type of work offered.
My education was secular and my introduction to Ignatian Spirituality was at the first meeting in September. I was immediately drawn to the core beliefs. I read James Martins, A Jesuit’s Guide to Almost Everything and I was hooked. I went on to read Bill Barrry, Mark Thibidoux, Mitch Pacqua, Henri Noewen, and James Martin’s entire oeuvre. I am currently making the Spiritual Exercises nineteenth annotation. My life has been completely transformed. I remember that day, surfing the net so clearly, because I now have a visual of Jesus, as the Good Shepard, reaching out his staff and corralling his lost sheep back into His fold.
You see, my son, Christopher, had died of a traumatic brain injury. But he did not succumb right away. He languished for fifteen months in a state of near paralysis and indignity: with pain and frustration. He was cognizant, but unable to move purposefully or communicate in meaningful way. He died at 7:30 PM on Holy Saturday in 2011. Not a coincidence, given that his birthday was Christmas Eve. His name means Christ bearer, and I find God in all these things. I find God in all things these days.
I find God in the strength He gave me to care for Christopher, to be his advocate and to bear the suffering without succumbing to despair. I see God in the cadre of friends and family who lifted us up in prayer and deed throughout our journey. I see God in all the medical personnel who helped us care for Christopher during that difficult time. Before my introduction to Ignatian Spirituality, I cursed that time of suffering as cruel and unfair. Now I see Jesus weeping with me at Christopher’s bedside. When praying about my feelings I heard Matthew 28:20 “Know that I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” God was indeed with me through my darkest hours.
Jesus brought me to the IVC and thus to Ignatian Spirituality when I was at my most dispirited and desperately in need; to the point of saving my very life. Now I am praying contemplatively, seeing God in all things, thinking of Jesus as my friend, and resting joyfully in God’s loving embrace.
Sandy Yates is a retired RN from Rhode Island. She is a volunteer at Genesis Center in Providence, an adult education facility that teaches ESOL, job training, citizenship study, financial literacy, and more! She has two daughters who are also nurses, and lives with her husband of 34 years in Warwick, RI.