Dan Persico is an Ignatian Volunteer serving at the St. John’s/St. Ann’s Outreach Center in the South End of Albany. Dan is the organist at St. Francis Church in Albany and shares his talent as a pianist in leading the IVC Albany community in song at the monthly reflection gatherings.
In my decision to retire a year and a half ago, a number of questions presented themselves. Not least of these concerned how I would spend my time. I knew I would want some kind of work and that this work would consist of service to others, and that I would want to do more with my prayer life. Nothing unusual so far for a (more or less) observant Catholic.
But initially I thought of these as separate from one another; it took a while before I truly recognized the two could be of one piece.
Regarding prayer, I thought I might try go to mass more often, pray the Liturgy of the Hours, and even pray the rosary now and again. Then one day I came across something I’d read countless times, the opening words of the
rule of Saint Benedict: “Listen, my child, with the ear of your heart.” In that moment it occurred to me that what I really wanted was not to pray more but to pray differently, to change the quality of my prayer. Not saying prayers — which usually means doing most of the talking myself — but quieting myself and listening to the Holy Spirit.
Everything seemed to change — not in an instant, of course, but slowly, slowly. To pray through listening invited me to live in — or better — from God. Now the invitation was to make of my life my prayer, to in a very real sense become my prayer. Now prayer and service could be seamless, albeit imperfectly so. Put another way, in listening I could respond to the promptings of God, meaning that whatever service I might perform could be a participation in the building of God’s kingdom, not my own.
Being a part of the Ignatian Volunteer Corps, with its emphasis on ongoing discernment and finding God in all things, has supported me on this path. And a curiously liberating path it is, which, when everything comes together, frees me from the awful burden of myself because I’ve placed myself in the hands of Another. Achievements, per se, are not so important when I remain faithful to this path. On the contrary, I find myself concurring with Chesterton: “Perhaps angels can fly because they take themselves so lightly.”
So far, retirement has been quite rich. Not easy, and certainly not one success story after another, but rich nonetheless. Now I’m persuaded that through listening and responding to the Holy Spirit, so fundamental to Jesuit spirituality, retirement can be a fruitful time indeed.