by Tammy Townsend Denny, Executive Director
As I write these words, classes started for the Master of Divinity program I am enrolled in at Loyola University Chicago. I’m slowly moving through the program, taking one or two classes each semester as a part-time graduate student, and am about 1/3 of the way through my studies.
This semester I am taking a course on Ignatian Spirituality. The class is focused on elements and principles of Ignatian spirituality including the Spiritual Exercises. In addition to the academic work required for the class, we are being asked to pray an Examen at least once a week. Midway through the coursework, we will create our own Examen. Our final project is to write our spiritual autobiography.
For our first assignment, we have been asked to listen to an episode of the podcast Things Not Seen, produced by our professor Dr. David Dault. In the assigned episode, Dr. Dault interviews Bill Cain, SJ, a Jesuit priest, Peabody Award-winning screenwriter, playwright, and author of the book The Diary of Jesus Christ in which he “reimagines the stories of the Gospels from the point of view of Jesus himself.” While I have not yet read the book (I have it on order), the interview with Fr. Cain is fascinating. Have you ever imagined what it would have been like for Jesus to go back as an adult and see the place of his birth or what Mary’s reaction would have been to hear her son preach?
If you currently practice or are interested in exploring imaginative prayer, you might enjoy listening to this episode: Jesus in His Own Words: in conversation with Fr. Bill Cain, SJ. However, I would like to caution you: you might find portions of the interview spiritually uncomfortable, especially if imaginative prayer is not part of your spiritual practices.
If you are up for the challenge and would like to listen, I’ll extend to you the same invitation that was given to me in my first Master of Divinity class. When you feel spiritually challenged, pause and sit with the discomfort for a bit. Don’t judge it. Just sit with it. Ask yourself what you are feeling. Think about what parts of your belief system are being challenged. Then, try to identify the source of this belief. Did the belief come from your family, your faith tradition, the Catholic sister who taught you in third grade, something you read, your understanding of scripture, a priest, the Catechism, or your own perceptions? I have found that by identifying the origins of my beliefs I am better able to open myself to listening to those with whom I might not agree.