Celebrating Our Jesuitness on the Feast of St. Ignatius

Celebrating Our Jesuitness on the Feast of St. Ignatius

Celebrating Our Jesuitness on the Feast of St. Ignatius

The feast of St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits), occurs on July 31 each year. For Our Lady of Hope, this feast provides an opportunity to consider what it means to us to call ourselves “a Jesuit Ministry.”

At the Thirty-First General Congregation of the Society of Jesus in 1975, we Jesuits asked ourselves this question, “What is it to be Jesuit?.” The answer that we gave was, “It is to know that one is a sinner, yet called to be a companion of Jesus as Ignatius was…To be a companion of Jesus today is to engage, under the standard of the cross, in the crucial struggle of our time, the struggle for faith and that struggle for justice that it includes” (GC 32 Decree 2, 1975).

Fifteen years later, as I began to respond to God’s Call in my life, I was deeply moved and inspired by this mission of the Society of Jesus – the service of faith and the promotion of justice remains for me an orienting principle.

Called as Ignatius Was

Ignatius Loyola’s story may be very familiar to many of us. Ignatius, a Spanish nobleman born in 1491, was wounded when a cannonball shattered his leg while he was defending the city of Pamplona from an invading army. Beginning during his recuperation and over the next decade, Ignatius experienced a profound conversion experience. In these years, Ignatius traveled widely. He begged, preached, and helped the poor as he traveled. His insights began to coalesce into the manual that became the Spiritual Exercises. The Spiritual Exercises are a series of biblical and non-biblical reflections designed to help individuals draw closer to God and to discern God’s call in their lives. He began to share these exercises with others and many began to have profound spiritual experiences. After being questioned by the Spanish Inquisition, Ignatius decided to complete his education – ending up at the University of Paris where he met the other men who would become the first companions – the original Jesuits.

Rooted in the Spiritual Exercises

Jesuit life is deeply rooted in these Spiritual Exercises and the answer the Jesuits gave to the question “what does it mean to be Jesuit” draws from the Exercises – which are divided into four periods referred to as weeks (but not necessarily a 7-day period):

  • The grace of the first week is a deep understanding of oneself as “a sinner loved by God.”
  • The grace of the second week is “accompanying Jesus on mission.”
  • The grace of the third week is accompanying Jesus through the events of his passion and death (the Standard of the Cross).
  • Finally, the grace of the fourth week is experiencing the joy and sharing the consolation of the risen Lord.

Responding to the Call today – On Mission for Justice

In 2008, at the conclusion of the Thirty-fifth General Congregation, Pope Benedict XVI addressed the delegates, saying in part, “As my Predecessors have said to you on various occasions, the Church needs you, relies on you and continues to turn to you with trust, particularly to reach those physical and spiritual places which others do not reach or have difficulty in reaching.”

What this Means for Our Lady of Hope

Our desire to join others in the struggle of faith and the struggle for justice is the basis of this parish’s decision to seek to be a welcoming parish – especially to those on the margins – members of the LGBTQ community, new Mainers, refugees, and those who may be separated and divorced. The challenges that Pope Benedict named as a context for GC-35 have only grown more challenging since that time. These challenges included social, political, and economic change; ethical, cultural, and environmental problems; and conflicts of all kinds.

The animating spirit – based in the Spiritual Exercises and the history of the Society of Jesus – asks us to focus on the now and to stand on that border between the sacred and secular – helping all to “find God in all things.” As a parish, we seek to share the graces of the Spiritual Exercises with others.

  • We seek to help all people to experience themselves as deeply loved.
  • We join in Jesus ministry of healing the sick, feeding the hungry, and proclaiming the Kingdom of God all around us.
  • We seek to respond particularly to places of human suffering as an orienting principle – confident that Christ crucified is present in those places.
  • We seek to do all of this a community that knows the Joy of the resurrection and is open to the guidance of the Spirit.

Fr. Brian Conley, S.J.

Prayer and Conversation

Prayer and Conversation

Prayer and Conversation

Have you been considering refreshing your prayer life? Thinking about how nice it would be to be able to talk over insights? You’ll have the chance this fall. Our fellow parishioner, Cheryl Smith, is putting together an opportunity to pray with Sacred Scripture, developing a shared use of simple forms of prayers to deepen our experience and understanding of what Jesus is offering. And, over time, building a community that gathers together in prayer and conversation once or twice a month will be wonderful.

Cheryl is an experienced facilitator and prayer leader, most recently with the Sisters of St. Joseph.

In order to best get started, we need your help in determining the time of day for this in-person experience which will be held in the Parish Hall. For now, we’re aiming for once a month to get started.

Are there days and times listed here that would work for you?

  • Wednesday at 9:45 am (after Mass)
  • Wednesday at 2:00 pm
  • Friday at 9:45 am (after Mass)
  • Tuesday at 6:30 pm

If you would let us know by sending a message through the website contact form, which can be found here, we would appreciate it!

Four Things Needed For Justice: The Fruits of My Annual Retreat

Four Things Needed For Justice: The Fruits of My Annual Retreat

Four Things Needed For Justice: The Fruits of My Annual Retreat

Each year, Jesuits are expected to complete an eight-day retreat. This year, I completed a retreat offered by the Jesuit Anti-Racism Sodality (JARS) entitled “The God of Us All: Praying with Black Spirituality.” This retreat offered the participants “an opportunity to spend time in song, prayer, and community to experience the transformative nature of the Spirit moving through two deep traditions: Black Spirituality and Ignatian Spirituality.” These eight-days were a profoundly consoling time for me – I would say one of the most powerful eight day retreats I have ever completed.

Prayer Resources that Illustrate The Black Experience

Each day, we were given prayer resources that illustrated the Black experience. These resources included biographical material for seven witnesses, Toni Morrison, Sr. Thea Bowman, Mamie Till-Mobley & Emmett Till, James Baldwin, Fr. Augustus Tolton, Sr Mary Antona Ebo, F.S.M. and Bryan Stevenson. These witnesses are not in the order we encountered them on the retreat and I list Bryan Stevenson last because it was his witness that has stayed with me over the last month. Bryan Stevenson is a lawyer, social justice activist, law professor, and founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative. He is the author of several books including “Just Mercy.” The specific witness that moved me particularly and provided my “take home” grace for the retreat was a sermon that Mr. Stevenson delivered at the Washington National Cathedral on the first Sunday in Lent (February 14, 2016). The scripture passages that for this sermon were Micah 6:8 and 2 Cor 12. In this sermon, Mr. Stevenson outlines four things needed to do justice:

1. Get proximate to places of inequality
2. Change Narratives
3. Be Hopeful
4. Commit to doing uncomfortable things

Get proximate

Mr. Stevenson suggests that God calls us to get proximate to places of injustice or places that we have been taught to fear. Our proximity to these places has the potential to change us as we encounter the reality of those places. In my Jesuit formation I have been called to spend various amounts of time being proximate to the poor and to injustice – several months on the a poor neighborhood (now gentrified) in Boston and the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota as a novice; three years in the Bronx in my First Studies; the Anacostia section of Washigngton in my hospital training. Each of these encounters brought me face-to-face with my biases – the biases that were the root of my fear – and the reality of the good and faith-filled people who lived in those places that I would otherwise avoid. I notice that in each of these situations, I was assigned to those places – I did not choose to get proximate on my own. Mr. Stevenson’s challenge to me today is to find the places where God is calling me to get proximate to injustice.

Change the narrative

We can find power and witness when we get proximate to places of injustice, fear, neglect, or abuse and this power and witness allows us to move to the second thing: changing the narrative. My time on the reservation, in the Bronx, and with the poor in DC changed the narrative of fear and insecurity that I had about these places. While there might be much that was challenging and dangerous there, these were also places of love and community. The narratives that began to change for me on the retreat were narratives that I should feel guilt or shame for past beliefs – guilt and shame leave little space or energy for change. Rather, I discovered compassion for myself and others. The second narrative that changed was the narrative that suggested I had to “fix it.” Discovering compassion allowed me to find a proximate place to injustice and violence that allowed other narratives to be spoken – the narratives of those witnesses each day and the experiences of my fellow retreatants.

Get hopeful

In his sermon, Stevenson says, “Hope is what will get you to stand up when everyone else tells you to sit down; Hope will get you to speak when others tell you to be quiet.” When I told others I was going on an anti-racism retreat, I received many baffled looks; some expressions of fear. I know this – that having spent eight days listening to witnesses of the reality of racism in our world today left me hopeful. I feel hopeful that a long-look at the truth and a willingness to be changed will lead to change.

Commit to doing things that are uncomfortable

While I feel this hope, the retreat included many uncomfortable moments. These moments of discomfort included witnessing depictions of violence during slavery; the pictures of Emmitt Till and others following their lynchings; the treatment of other faith-filled people as they responded to God’s call but were treated as something less than human, like Fr. Augustus Tolton and Sister Mary Antona Ebo. The challenge that remains for me is where I am being called to be uncomfortable in Portland Maine – where are the places I am called to get proximate? To change narratives? To bring a hope filled presence for change?

I welcome others to join me in reflecting on these four things and the questions they bring up in you. Feel free to contact me at Brian.Conley@portlanddiocese.org or by calling the parish offices (207) 797-7026.

Fr. Brian Conley, S.J.

Novena of Grace

Novena of Grace

Novena of Grace

Our Lady of Hope Parish is again joining Jesuit-connected parishes and schools around the world in the Novena of Grace from March 4-12. A novena is a period of nine days of prayer for a specific intention and is a form of prayer dating back to the beginnings of the Church. The Acts of the Apostles tells us the friends of Jesus gathered in prayer for nine days before the first Pentecost and the giving of the Holy Spirit, considered the “birth” of the Church.

The Novena of Grace is prayed in honor of St. Francis Xavier, S.J., friend of St. Ignatius, one of the Founders of the Society of Jesus, and the great missionary to Asia. It ends on March 12 which is the date of the canonization (1622) of Xavier, Ignatius, St. Isadore, St. Philip Neri, and St. Teresa of Avila. This Novena gained the name “Novena of Grace” because so many people reported that prayers offered during it had been answered.

The Novena prayer will be offered at all Masses at Our Lady of Hope from March 4-12.

There’s more! On Monday (March 6), Wednesday (March 8), and Thursday (March 9th) at 7 PM for about a half hour or so,  we’ll be hosting some online time. In addition to the Novena prayer, we’ll have a chance to have a conversation with ideas important in the Ignatian vision: friendship, discernment and spiritual freedom.

We hope you’ll join us in making this Novena – and for some time together online. You’ll find the link here. The Meeting ID is 850 0254 8959. Passcode: K1GB86 We’ll see you in the waiting room and let you in!!

Novena of Grace Prayer:
St. Francis Xavier – Novena of Grace
” I join with you Saint Francis in bowing before the God of all Creation. When I look at the great things you did during life, I see what marvels can be achieved by a person blessed by God. I join with you in praising God and giving thanks for all the good things I have been given.
Dear Saint Francis, please pray to God for me and ask that I may live and die in God’s favor. Please ask God for me for (_____________________), provided of course, that this would be good for me. In the end, my only wish is for whatever give glory to God and is good for my health in body, mind, and spirit. Amen.”

In the spirit of the Novena, if you believe your Novena prayers have been answered, we invite you to let us know so that we may give thanks.

Reminding Ourselves What We’ve Learned

Reminding Ourselves What We’ve Learned

Reminding Ourselves What We’ve Learned

Serving others with Compassion, Kinship, and Tenderness

We heard about a talk that Fr. Gregory Boyle, SJ gave at St. Ignatius Loyola Parish in New York City earlier this week and it reminded us of Fr. Greg’s talk at Cheverus last May, as part of The Ignatian Year celebration. We remembered that throughout his books and his remarks, Fr. Greg stands firmly and reminds us that there is no “us and them”. There is only us. It’s good to remember and reflect on this truth.

So much of what he shared resonated. Many of the parishioners who attended have read Fr. Greg’s third book, The Whole Language, as a way to go a bit deeper into the idea of clearly centering ourselves on the kind of “oneness” to which Jesus calls us. The kind of oneness that draws us to go to the places where people are excluded – the margins, as it were – not to change people, but to erase the margins that separate us. As Fr. Greg says, “Standing with Jesus in the lowly place, that’s where the joy is.”

“Systems are changed by people. People are changed when they are cherished: He put into words what was in my heart,” wrote one parishioner. As founder of Homeboy Industries, the largest gang rehabilitation and re-entry program in the world, this has been his life’s work. Ultimately cherishing people who have been traumatized, believing that traumatized people learn about being traumatized – cherished people learn how to cherish others. He shows that we can learn from people what they need to heal.

Distinction Between Exhaustion and Burn-out
Fr. Greg draws a distinction between exhaustion and burn-out as working for others vs. being self-focused. When we burn out, we have made the work about us, rather than other people and God. When it’s all about God and others, we can go on and on, exhausted perhaps, but not burnt-out. As one parishioner relayed, “I took comfort in his distinction between exhaustion and burn out. The first is bone-tired depletion from working for others, the latter has its focus on oneself! Easier to recover from exhaustion and to get back to work.”  Another says it this way, “I guess what made me reflect is that no matter what kind of work you do in life, if one engages in that work as ‘huh’ and ‘wonder’ versus self-absorbed tasks to complete, it is that much more life fulfilling. Meaning, when I go about my work as ‘it’s all about me’ then I will get burnt-out. But, if I make it all about you I can go on and on.”

Compassion, Kinship and Tenderness: Some questions to for personal reflection

Fr. Boyle describes a call to go to the margins and by going to the margins – we create an inclusive society that is potentially transformative – where on the margins have you felt called to respond? How did you respond?

How was this movement transformative for you? If the move to the margins was not transformative, does Fr. G’s writing/speaking give you any new insight?

How do we translate Fr. G’s compassion, sense of kinship, and tenderness to Portland, Maine?

If you’re moved to action, we invite you to consider serving others through a ministry that calls to you. Perhaps the Welcoming Ministry? Social Justice and Peace Commission? Bereavement? Home Visitors? We’d love it!

A Break from the Busy

A Break from the Busy

A Break from the Busy

The signs that the season is changing are all around us. I had to scrape my car windows for the first time this morning. People are talking about the first snowfall of the season. The TV ads have changed from politics to Christmas. But what season are we entering? In the secular world, we have already entered the Christmas season with an emphasis on gift giving, parties, and connections with family and friends. We all know that this makes the month between Thanksgiving and December 25th a busy and hectic time. This secular Christmas time ends on December 25.

In the Catholic world, we are entering the season of Advent. This coming Sunday, we celebrate the feast of Christ the King – the last Sunday of the Liturgical year with the First Sunday of Advent bringing in the next year. Descriptions of the Advent season often include words like “expectant waiting,” “reflective preparation,” and “solemn.” In ancient times, the Advent season lasted 40-days, much like Lent. In the Catholic Christian world, the Christmas season begins on December 24 and ends on January 6th with the feast of the Epiphany (the 12 days of Christmas that we will sing about between now and December 24!).

Our Lady of Hope, Cheverus High School, and the Ignatian Partnership of Maine are offering a way to make space for the reflective, preparatory aspects of Advent without completely forgoing the fun and connections found in the secular Christmas season. We don’t want to give you more to do in this time – to make a busy season even busier. Instead, we want to give you a 15-minute break from the busy each day – a time to stop and reflect on the Gospel readings of the day as the Church prepares for the coming of Christ. We will introduce two styles of prayer important in Ignatian Spirituality – Ignatian Contemplation and Lectio Divina.

In addition, we are inviting you to share the journey with others through two sessions of small group faith sharing. We invite you to integrate the prayer experience into your life by meeting with a spiritual director twice. These times will serve as a small introduction to these practices for those who have not done them before and an opportunity to deepen the experience for those familiar with these practices.

We hope you will register and join us for an orientation session on Monday November 28th, at 7 PM on Zoom. To get started, you’ll find the registration here at this link.

Brian Conley, SJ

Skip to content