This blog, by Fr. Si Smith, SJ, is a reflection on the spiritual readings and guide being used this month by Ignatian volunteers in all regions across the country.
So there it is: a Jesuit Pope! A pope who shares with each Ignatian volunteer the same roots in the Spiritual Exercises. That’s pretty extraordinary, when you stop and think about it. He and we have been schooled in the same spirituality.
Do you suppose that’s what led him to live simply, use public transportation, be so at home among poor and speak the truth to Argentinian power? Could it be that Pope Francis, weaned on the Exercises, felt his ministry (even as bishop and Cardinal) shaped by them? How will that affect his pontificate?
Rather fruitless to anticipate that right now. Better to wait and see. But each of us IVCers can turn our attention to how the Exercises touch, even change our own lives. We all know by now that the core of the process is experience, one’s very personal experience of God, prayerfully reflected upon. Let’s be honest, though: your experience is not mine; nor does either of us claim the same experience as Pope Francis. Each is different. Each relates to God differently.
But there is a common element in the process. I’m taken by those who refer to it as “mulling.” I hover over a Gospel scene, enter into it gingerly, feel myself part of it, take time to look around and see what the others in the scene are doing or saying or feeling, pay attention to my own feelings, let it all wash over me until I start to feel genuine movement in my soul. And then I stay there longer to mull over it all.
As I mull, I discover new sensations, new movements. Maybe it’s no more than taking a look at the colors, listening to the subtle sounds in the scene, even starting a dialogue with the people in it. Mulling gives my imagination permission to roam around, to poke here and there in the scene, even to be creative.
Once I am accustomed to such pondering, once I feel comfortable mulling, I am ready to listen more carefully to what Ignatius calls the “movements of my soul.” This is where a spiritual director can really help me discern what’s going on.
Pope Francis, long habituated to Ignatian prayer, knows how to mull. We could do worse than imitate him.
Simon (Si) E. Smith, S.J is a New England Jesuit with a broad background and varied international experience. He taught at different levels in Baghdad College, Iraq, Boston College, Weston Jesuit School of Theology, Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley and Nativity schools in Boston and Worcester. His major and preferred areas of instruction are Scripture and liturgy. He is known as an organizer and administrator, having spent a dozen years based in Washington, as Executive of Jesuit Missions for the U.S. and Canada. Si has published widely, is a popular lecturer, is fluent in French, Spanish and German and has traveled & worked extensively in the third world. And we are grateful that he also serves IVC as a Spiritual Reflector.