Third Week of the Online Retreat

As the week progresses, I’m adding more reflections to the bottom of this post. If you’ve already read it, scroll down. you might find something new.

Catholic spirituality begins with attentiveness, and ends in action.  The one is impossible without the other. More and more in my own life, I’ve come to realize that the real value of anything and everything I do depends on the quality of my attentiveness.  By attentiveness, I don’t mean just “paying attention” – as a teacher might tell a daydreaming student. I mean an ongoing quality or orientation of my whole self toward another.  All personal relationships are built on mutual attentiveness between persons. Attentiveness means valuing the other enough to get behind their eyes, to understand their perspective (even if not always agreeing with their conclusions).

I guess a good synonym for attentiveness might be empathy, which is not merely feeling for another person (that may be sympathy or compassion), but entering into the feelings of the other at their very source. Communion is another word that is very close to empathy and attentiveness.

Did you ever think that the goal of our lives is to empathize with God. That thought is worth pondering a bit, isn’t it?

As I’m beginning to go through the reflections for this week (the Guide and Getting Started), I can’t help thinking of the wonderful classic song from Godspell, “Day by Day“: “to see thee more clearly, to love thee more dearly, to follow thee more nearly.” See, love, and follow = attention, reverence and devotion. These are the classic three movements of Ignatian spirituality embodied in the Spiritual Exercises.  Here’s a wonderful short reflection by Fr. Howard Gray, SJ, on the heart of Ignatian Spirituality as “finding God in all things,” and just what attention, reverence and devotion mean.  They are not merely three nice words. (This website, ignatianspirituality.com, is well worth exploring while you are making this retreat, especially if the retreat helps begin  to get a bit thin.)

We are so action oriented, aren’t we.  We always want to do something.  Both as individuals and as communities, our past is littered with false starts. It’s so tempting to just get in there and make things right.  But does that mean we should sit back passively and do nothing?  By no means.  What it does mean is that we need first to be careful how we see.  It’s not by accident that so many of Jesus’ healings were to give sight to the blind.  But look what different folks do with that sight.  Most seem just to go back to “business as usual.” Gee, thanks, Jesus. Now go back on the shelf and I’ll call you when I need you again.” Some were actively disobedient: Jesus told them to be quiet about it, and they go and blab it all over, creating misleading expectations on a mass scale. Two people who received their sight are recorded in the Gospels as having been actually changed in their heart, and actively followed Jesus.

The real question is not do we see, nor what do we see.  The real question is how do we see. Perspective and expectation. Here’s an interesting short video about this.

Cyclists are one thing.  Are we looking for God in the clutter of our lives and our world?

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Author: tomwelbers

I have been a Catholic priest for nearly fifty years, most of that time serving in parish and college campus ministry. I also have professional degrees in theology and liturgy, as well as institutional management, and continue avidly to explore pastoral theology, Scripture, liturgy, ecumenical and interfaith relations, and spiritual direction. I have a passion for sharing insight into our Christian heritage through teaching, writing, and leading pilgrimages, especially to Early Christian World sites in Turkey. Now actively retired from parish ministry, I live at Nazareth House in Los Angeles.

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