Archive for the ‘bc students’ Tag

on discernment

Happy Feast Day of St. Ignatius of Loyola!

So there’s an old joke that goes something like: a Franciscan, a Dominican, and a Jesuit are concelebrating Mass. During the liturgy the light in the Church goes out. The Franciscan praises God for the opportunity to live more simply. The Dominican gives a learned homily about how Christ is the light of the world. And the Jesuit changes the light bulb.

I had the opportunity to learn this practical side of Ignatian spirituality while I was an undergrad at Boston College. I knew little to nothing about St. Ignatius of Loyola before I arrived at Boston College nearly 10 years ago, but it is safe to say that St. Ignatius has been one of the most influential saints in my spiritual development.  His was a spirituality grounded in the everyday human experience of each and every individual person encountering God.

When I arrived at Boston College—a Jesuit institution— as a bright-eyed freshman, I was ready to take on the world. I had signed on to be a double major in Biology and Psychology to fulfill my dreams of going to medical school and becoming a pediatric cardiologist. I started my first semester of courses—Molecular Cell Biology, Behavioral Neuroscience, Chemistry, Calculus, and a freshmen cornerstone class. Within days of the first week of classes, I began to sense that something was wrong.  I didn’t enjoy any of my work (and believe me, I love school.) I began dreading going to class and my grades were plummeting.  I had never received less than a B+ in my life, and suddenly I was getting C’s and D’s for the semester.  I could not, for the life of me, understand how I could be failing at something that I “wanted” so badly.

Around this time I got involved with Campus Ministry at BC and began to learn more about the Jesuits and Ignatian Spirituality.  St. Ignatius development a method of discernment that seemed to really make sense to me.  I learned that St. Ignatius believed that God speaks to us in the desires of our heart—anDSC01255d that if we look really carefully at our feelings—what brings us joy (our consolations) and what doesn’t (our desolations)—that God speaks to us in these desires about his will for our lives.

It became abundantly clear that I really didn’t want to become a doctor. I loved the idea of being a medical professional, but it was definitely not in the plan for me. I found no joy, whatsoever, in my pursuit of this goal. That is not to say that life should be without its challenges. But Ignatius would probably say that God speaks to us even in the challenges, and that I would still feel some joy or fulfillment as I strove onward toward my goal.  But there was no joy or fulfillment in my pre-med classes.

I went home that Christmas to break the news to my parents that I wasn’t going to be a pre-med major anymore.  When I returned to BC in the spring, I took a few random classes to fulfill my core requirements for graduation while I figured out what I wanted to do with my life.  One of those random classes happened to be “The Biblical Heritage.”

In this course on the Old Testament I was introduced to what would become one of my greatest passions.  I became obsessed with the study of the Old Testament. I hung on every single word, loved the nuances and the poetry and more than anything, I loved the development of God’s relationship with his people.  It became abundantly clear that theology was what I was meant to study.  I finally knew what it felt like to be passionate about my work.  I was thrilled.

I could write a book on how Ignatian spirituality has shaped my life, but it is this practical experience—the experience of figuring out what God wanted me to do with my gifts—that left the most profound impact on me.

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,

 All I have and call my own.

You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.

Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love a
nd your grace,
that is enough for me.

– St. Ignatius of Loyola

Ashes

Once while I was a student at Boston College, I attended Ash Wednesday noon Mass at St. Mary’s Chapel. During my time at BC, the Wednesday noon Mass was a special one—we would be graced with an awesome homily by none other than Fr. Michael Himes, beloved among nearly all BC students. With a perfect blend of wit and profundity, Fr. Himes would have you laughing and pondering the meaning of your life in a five minute homily!

A few years ago on Ash Wednesday, he began his homily by explaining that Ash Wednesday is the perfect example of how we as human beings get everything wrong.  In today’s Gospel we hear Jesus tell his followers:

“When you pray,
do not be like the hypocrites,
who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners
so that others may see them.
Amen, I say to you,
they have received their reward.
But when you pray, go to your inner room,
close the door, and pray to your Father in secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”

But, as Fr. Himes pointed out, on Ash Wednesday, we go to Mass, receive a very obvious sign of ashes on our foreheads, and march around for the rest of the day showing people that we are Catholic! We are not, in any way, “praying in secret.” What are we thinking?

Yet we know that these ashes are an outward sign of our repentance, our humility, and our brokenness.  It is an outward sign of an inward desire to be more Christ-like. It is the perfect way to begin this season of Lent, to question what changes we need to make in our lives to grow closer to God.  And perhaps the outward sign of ashes may prompt others to think about their own lives, their own spirituality, their own brokenness.

What are your Lenten plans? How will you try to grow closer to God during this season of repentance?

Bob Rice

Catholic speaker, musician, author, teacher

domestic diva, M.D.

my mother raised the perfect housewife...then I went to med school

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