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    Lenten Devotional: Community of Faith

    March 18, 2020

    Ryan Sheehan, assistant director of The Jesuit Center, writes today's Lenten Devotional. 

    "Try to keep your soul always in peace and quiet, always ready for whatever our Lord may wish to work in you. It is certainly a higher virtue of the soul, and a greater grace, to be able to enjoy the Lord in different times and different places than in only one."
    - St. Ignatius of Loyola

    This is often the work of the spiritual life: to quiet ourselves and limit distractions so that we might hear God's voice, active in our lives and present in the world. Whether we go on retreat to or travel to a foreign country on service, we are attempting to free ourselves from our normal routines and expectations so that we may experience God in different ways and in different places – different than the life that we are used to living.

    Now we are being asked to do two very different things at the same time. We are being asked to slow down and simplify our lives – a lot – and limit our interactions with others while simultaneously intensifying the stresses, anxieties, and fears caused by the world around us. To restate the obvious, there are far more questions and unknowns in the world right now than there are certainties.

    But that is exactly where we are called to be at this moment. We are reminded, or perhaps awakened, to the reality that we are not always in control of our lives and we have not been given a choice in the matter. It's easy to read St. Ignatius' quote at the beginning in a light-hearted and casual way within the context of our "normal" lives. We are far from our normal lives.

    St. Ignatius led a complicated life and knew that ours too would be complicated and hard and uncertain. He expected this of our reality. He also knew that grace could be found in these times and that we would be called to find God within the chaos and hardship. Here we are.

    We are not going to have answers for a long time. We don't know where the stock market is heading or when our favorite bar or restaurant is going to reopen. Most community events, including Mass, are being held in abeyance. We aren't even sure when we will see our students and colleagues again. Most importantly, and perhaps overlooked or dismissed at these early stages, we don't know if our friends or loved ones will get sick from the virus at some point.

    However, we remain a community of faith connected through a common mission even when we are physically and emotionally separated. We have served together in many ways: from academic departments and University committees to local service and international programs. We work together, pray together, serve together, and mourn together. We know each other's families. We know what brings us joy and what brings us sadness. We are connected in so many ways and we can hold each other up and care for one another during this time – a text, a call, a prayer. Our connections aren't lost during this time.

    St. Ignatius and his early companions knew what it was like to be separated from each other and the sadness it created and they never lost sight that grace was always present in these times. In a letter sent to Ignatius from Japan, St. Francis Xavier offered his best friend insight that speaks to us directly at this uncertain and anxious time. He reminds his friend Ignatius that we are called to hear a different voice and to offer a different response.

    "Anxious and uncertain times would certainly stir most to meditate on spiritual realities and to listen actively to what God is saying to them. They would forget their own desires, their human affairs, and give themselves over entirely to God's will and His choice. They would cry out with all their heart: Lord, I am here! What do you want me to do? Send me anywhere you like."

    This is where we have been sent. Our desires and hopes have been put on hold. Our reality is much different than expected. May we be attentive to what God is asking of us and may we have the strength to respond to it.

    Ryan Sheehan
    Assistant Director, The Jesuit Center

     PRAYER

    Take, Lord, receive all my liberty, my memory, my intellect and all my will – all that I have and possess. You have given it to me: to you, Lord, I return it! All is yours, dispose of it according to your will. Give me your love and grace, for this is enough for me.

    The Lent Daily Devotional is a project of The Jesuit Center in partnership with University Advancement. It is made possible by the support of many University of Scranton colleagues, friends, families and alumni. Please consider showing your support by making a contribution using the link below.

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