Summer Reading: The What, How, and Why of Prayer

Summer Reading: The What, How, and Why of Prayer

Summer Reading: The What, How, and Why of Prayer

If you are looking to explore prayer you might try one or more of these links. What is Ignatian prayer? How can I pray? Why do we pray? These questions all speak to a desire to grow closer to God.

If you are looking to explore approaches to Ignatian prayer you might enjoy one or more of these essays and article, which are linked at the end of the descriptions. 

Why Do We Pray? By William A. Barry, SJ 
“We pray, then, at our deepest level, because we are drawn by the bonds of love. We pray because we love, and not just for utilitarian purposes.” The Ignatian Spirituality website has a beautiful article by Fr. Barry, which you can find here.

A Short Course on Prayer By J.J. O’Leary, SJ
Fr. O’Leary explains that prayer begins with reality. Some of the comments and questions are directed specifically to students or teachers, but the full article is relevant to anyone seeking a prayer life that touches the inner core based on an awareness of self. A link to the full article is here.

What Prayer Is By Thomas H. Green, SJ 
This chapter from Fr. Green’s Opening to God provides a basic description of prayer. It’s a meaty essay, that provides theological, historical context for those of us who have not deeply studied this; Green discusses the effects of semi-Pelagianism (Fr. Green explains what that means) on our traditional concepts of prayer and goes on to describe prayer as the opening of our hearts and minds to God. Fr. Green’s article is found here.

Praying with Scripture By Douglas J. Leonhardt, SJ
Fr. Leonhardt explains Lectio Divina and Gospel Contemplation, two ways to pray with Scripture. His essay is here.

Distractions in Prayer By Kevin O’Brien, SJ
Fr. O’Brien encourages those who are experiencing distractions in prayer. His article can be found here.

Experiences of Boredom or Dryness in Prayer By Kevin O’Brien, SJ
Fr. O’Brien counsels careful discernment of feelings of boredom or dryness in prayer. Like all interior movements, they can tell us something. Read his article here .

Review Prayer by Keeping a Journal By Kevin O’Brien, SJ
Fr. O’Brien offers some questions to ask after a period of prayer that might be helpful to consider while journaling. You can read his article here.

Prayer: A Personal Response to God’s Presence By Armand M. Nigro, SJ
A straightforward description of prayer as a loving response to God’s presence. Fr. Nigro describes the 5 “P’s” of prayer and ends with a suggestion for group or family prayer in an article found here.

Hopefully one or more of these essays spark your interest during this summer season.  May it be a season of renewed prayer for each of us.  And, as always if you’ve found something you’d like to talk over, drop us a line, or give us a call!

The Daily Examen

The Daily Examen

The Daily Examen

The Daily Examen is a technique of prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to detect God’s presence and discern his direction for us.

The Examen is an ancient practice in the Church that can help us see God’s hand at work in our whole experience.
The method presented here is adapted from a technique described by Ignatius Loyola in his Spiritual Exercises.

St. Ignatius thought that the Examen was a gift that came directly from God, and that God wanted it to be shared as widely as possible. This is a version of the five-step Daily Examen that St. Ignatius practiced.
1. Become aware of God’s presence.
2. Review the day with gratitude.
3. Pay attention to your emotions.
4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.
5. Look toward tomorrow.

For details about each step of the Examen, read How Can I Pray?

When Being a “Man For and With Others” Means Being Alone: My Experience with Covid

When Being a “Man For and With Others” Means Being Alone: My Experience with Covid

When Being a “Man For and With Others” Means Being Alone: My Experience with Covid

A few weeks ago, one of the Jesuits in the community tested positive for Covid-19. I followed protocol and immediately conducted a rapid test on myself. I was not surprised to find a negative result for that test as I felt quite good. I was relieved that my busy week would not be interrupted. Our protocol calls for a second test to be administered on the third day after a community member tests positive. This test, on a Sunday morning, came back positive.

Now, I was not the one to help others – I was the one in need of help. Fr. Paul rearranged his schedule to cover all three Masses on that Sunday, preside at the scheduled funeral on Monday, and filled in at some Masses in nursing home facilities in the parish. I was grateful for the help. However, I found the experience taught me something about “being with and for others” .

The phrase “with and for others” has evolved from a speech given by Superior General Pedro Arrupe, S.J., to Jesuit Alumni in Valencia Spain in 1973. The idea of service evoked by the phrase describes the paramount objective of Jesuit education. Since then, the phrase has evolved to “men and women for and with others.”

I experienced some mild symptoms on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. I knew that I was sick and that quarantine was the best for everyone. On Wednesday, I was feeling much better and felt ready to get back to work. Thursday was to be the last day of quarantine – followed by a few days of regular activities with a mask. I had a regular doctor’s appointment scheduled for Friday, my mother was scheduled to visit here with a friend and I had several weekend liturgies. I tested positive on Thursday – which caused my Dr appointment to be canceled. I tested positive on Friday which postponed my Mom’s visit. Fr. Paul began to make contingency plans for the weekend liturgy – a Communion service as no priest would be available to say Mass. Fortunately, I tested negative on Saturday. We still took precautions – I wore a mask throughout the liturgy, increased the distance between me and the altar servers, did not distribute Communion, and Deacon John presided at the scheduled baptism.

To be with and for others means to have the others’ best interest at heart. It would have been easy to say “I’m feeling great” and to return to normal activity without a second thought. While I would be with others, I would not be with them in their best interest. Instead, my being with and for others meant some distance – time alone in quarantine and distance in the ministry. It meant asking for help and receiving help, a change from being the one who gives help.

As we think about being a community that is with and for others, we might pause to consider how we want to be with one another. To be with one another in a way that allows us to flourish individually and collectively.
Fr. Brian Conley, S.J.




Originally a Jewish harvest festival, Pentecost has become to us a celebration of the gift of the Holy Spirit. Red is the color of the Holy Spirit, signifying life, energy (the “tongues of fire” is the image used in the Scripture). Pentecost is sometimes called the birthday of the church. Can you think why that might be?

It is through the Holy Spirit that we receive the gifts of God’s life in us. The Acts of the Apostles tells us that the gift of the Spirit made it possible for people gathered in Jerusalem for the feast to hear and understand the preaching of Jesus’ disciples who, because of the Spirit, had finally left their locked room and took to the streets to tell everyone of the Good News of Jesus.

Some parishes around the world mark Pentecost by having the readings done in different languages. Another good way to reflect on the importance of this day and the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives is to think about how the gifts of the Spirit are present in us, in our life as a parish and in our homes. Gifts of the Spirit include patience, forgiveness, hope, courage, generosity of service (think of the various parish ministries: those we see at Mass and those that go on throughout the week such as visiting the sick, knitting prayer shawls and baptismal blankets, feeding the hungry, teaching our children, responding to issues of justice in our communities) and so much more.

For what gifts of the Spirit can you thank God in your own life? The many gifts you see in your neighbors, family members, and parishioners – can you thank God for them? Can you thank the people in whom you see these gifts? Such wonderful ways to celebrate the reality of God’s presence in our lives!

Fr. Paul Sullivan, SJ

Luke, Paul, and Greg Boyle S.J. – An Ascension Message for 2022

Luke, Paul, and Greg Boyle S.J. – An Ascension Message for 2022

Luke, Paul, and Greg Boyle S.J. – An Ascension Message for 2022

Both the scripture readings and Fr. Greg Boyle S.J. ‘s talks at Cheverus High School on Tuesday, May 24 focus our attention on the intersection of Church as a holy place set apart and Church as the Holy People of God becoming the presence of Christ in the world.

In the Acts of the Apostles, the first reading on Ascension Thursday, we witness Jesus’ final moments with his disciples as he ascends to heaven. The disciples watch him go and are approached by two figures dressed in white. These angelic figures ask the disciples, “Why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus has been taken from you into heaven.” The question suggests that looking to the sky is not the right place to be looking for Jesus following the ascension. If looking to the sky is not the appropriate place to be looking for Jesus – where do we look?

Luke, who wrote both the Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles – seems to suggest two places for our attention, prayer and community.

Luke’s Gospel emphasizes the prayer/worship as he tells that the disciples “were continually in the temple praising God” after the Ascension. Luke, in the Acts of the Apostles, emphasizes finding Christ in the community. The disciples begin to carry on the mission they learned from Jesus as they teach about Jesus crucified and resurrected and they heal the sick. The feast of the Ascension focuses our attention on that intersection between church as a holy place set apart – and church as the people of God becoming the Body of Christ in the world – making Christ present through our words and actions.

In his talks on Tuesday, Fr. Greg Boyle focused our attention in a very similar way as he described his work with Homeboy Industries over the last 40 years. In building Homeboy Industries Fr. Boyle and those he worked with built a structure that allowed everyone to discover their own worth and dignity and to invite others to that discovery of self. Fr. Boyle emphasized the importance of relationship and mutuality by repeatedly saying that the work is not about “me.” Our Christian mission is not about the person alone but the person in relation with the other. Fr. Boyle talked not only about how gang members in Los Angeles experienced transformation but how he – Fr. Boyle himself – experienced that transformation. When we focus our attention on that intersection between holiness set apart and the reality of human existence – we discover the places where we can be a healing presence – healing both the broken places in each one of and healing those around us.

We can see the transformation that occurs in the Apostles during the days between that first Easter Sunday and the feast of Pentecost. “When they had gathered together (after the resurrection), they asked him – Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” We can see that their attention remains narrowly focused on what they see as important – the end of the Roman occupation and the restoration of the Davidic Dynasty – the independent kingdom of Israel.

The early church, guided by the Spirit following Pentecost, refocused their attention to the margins, to places of suffering and oppression. These were the places where many of them came from in the first place. They come with a message of hope for those who are poor; for those who are unjustly accused; for those who are severely punished – even condemned to death. They come with a message of hope because that is where Jesus went. Jesus went to these places when he became poor; when he was unjustly accused; and when he was put to death. If Jesus is present in those places then God is present in those places. God, who is eternal, is eternally present on the margins with the poor and the oppressed because that is where Jesus went. Jesus and the Father are one – where we find one we find the other. Fr. Boyle’s encounters at the margins reminds us of the hope that where others have found God in the past we will find God today.

Our prayer for this day is the same as Paul’s prayer to the Ephesians, “May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Glory give you a Spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of him.” We are not looking to the sky for this knowledge but to our experience here and now. Let us be confident that when we look at places of violence and injustice in today’s world we will encounter the Holy Spirit who will guide us to find ways to bring to new life to those places because we are now the body of Christ present in the world carrying out Christ’s mission of prayer, teaching, and healing/reconciliation.
Fr. Brian Conley, SJ


The Gifts of Creativity

The Gifts of Creativity

The Gifts of Creativity

Photography, children’s books, watercolor and oil paintings, needlepoint, wood sculpting, short stories, Haiku, works of fiction, stained glass, knitted headbands and mittens, note cards, spiral bound blank journals, fiber art and crocheted scarves, wood worked into pens, utensils and bowls – plus, music – all on display in the parish hall on May 14th. Can you picture it? Can you feel the warmth, and lively conversations? It was a wonderful day!

It was still winter when we put out the call for parishioners to celebrate and share their gifts of creativity for an inaugural springtime Arts A Bloom. We had no idea what the response would be – yet were confident that creative gifts among parishioners were plentiful; we were hopeful that people would find a way to share a part of themselves and overjoyed at the response. Several of the exhibitors shared a bit about their relationship with their creative gifts:

I enjoy creating art. I explore with all kinds of media. Every piece is its own adventure for me, it’s always about the journey – not the destination. The final piece, if I ever actually arrive there, is beautiful, no matter how “messy” it may look, because of what I experience through the process of opening myself up and having the courage to take the adventure in the first place – that brings me joy and satisfaction.

I learned the art of Hairpin Crochet from a Sister of Mercy when I was in the eighth grade in Bath. Over one summer, with patience and love, she taught me this art. Over the years, I’d create a piece from time to time. Always remembering her. For me, this craft/art is filled with peace, love of God’s creations, and lasting connections with the ultimate user (whom I may never meet).

I began to take up needlepoint in the mid-1970’s when I lived in Washington, D.C. as it was an occasional hobby of a friend. I never did much in quantity, but enjoyed the variety of canvases available on the market and felt I could produce a decent result. In 2001, I joined the American Needlepoint Guild. It was there that I learned new stitches, threads, techniques and met up with a group of friends which was a delightful part of attending their seminars.

Finishing furniture as a child, I learned to love the smell and feel of wood. Although I am primarily self-taught, I did take two courses on wood sculpture through the Smithsonian resident associates studio arts program and one in furniture making from a prominent Virginia furniture maker. My belief is that we all should give voice to those creative energies within us.

Using my child’s artwork to create notecards and other products, which I sell to benefit the nonprofits that were important to my child has helped give me purpose.

I still pinch myself when I think I was able to see these gorgeous animals in the 80’s when I traveled to Kenya.

We are grateful for the generosity of all who participated. Special thanks to the students and educators at St. Brigid School who created art with this event in mind. Much of their work lined the walls – bringing added excitement and color to the event. If you’d like to see more photos of the event, they’re on our Facebook page in a post from May 14th.

Next spring, Arts A Bloom 2.0. What will you share?

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