Monthly Archives: July 2015

Finding Iggy: Going to the Frontiers

Love deed IgnatiusDear Pope Francis,

Happy feast day!

I’ve been following lots of the social media updates on Twitter and Facebook about the Feast of St. Ignatius. There have been lots of cool quotes, well wishes to the Jesuits, and funny pictures with the cartoon Iggy to celebrate St. Ignatius’ legacy and the contributions of the order he founded.

What has been popping up for me all day is Ignatius’ idea of being sent to the frontiers; going to those places where other people either can’t go or don’t want to go. The frontier may be a literal place, like a remote mission territory. It could be working with a marginalized population in a very populated city. It could even be spending time with a single person who is feeling like they are at the edge of society.

I’m thrilled to see social media feeds full of pictures and thoughts about spiritual things, especially when they have to do with such a cool saint, but being called to the frontiers issues me a challenge.

I am challenged to go beyond myself, and the safety of posting my thoughts and reflections online. I am challenged to go, to act, to do something to serve my neighbour. One of the quotes floating around today illustrates this: “Love ought to show itself in deeds more than words.” Being called to frontiers, wherever that may be, is to be done with love, and that requires actions. Tangible things that, with God’s grace, I do to share the Gospel with the people around me, even if I don’t explicit talk about Jesus-stuff.

At its heart, this is about following St. Ignatius’ oft quoted maxim: find God in all things. In order to go to the frontiers, in order to serve people or situations with love, I need to genuinely believe that God is there. I need to be willing to find the grace in the hardest moments, and open myself up to allow God’s love to flow through me.

And I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the spiritual contributions of St. Ignatius all year round!

Embracing my inner Iggy,

Lauren

Go Forth Ignatius

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Discernment is not the New Pixie Dust

Dear Pope Francis,

Discernment has been a recurring topic in many of my letters over the last year (like here, here and here), and for good reason, it’s an ongoing part of my spiritual journey. The fact that it’s a common component doesn’t necessarily mean that it gets easier over time.

Lately, the challenge has been making a decision and sticking to it. It’s not so much that I’m making a decision and then completely reversing the decision, rather I doubt the decision I’ve arrived at through the discernment process. I expect that when I make the ‘right’ decision everything will fall into place effortlessly, with minimal work on my part. If the last few years have been any indication, I know this is crazy talk.

I’m reminded of a scene in one of my favourite TV shows: Once Upon a Time. In “Quite a Common Fairy” the third episode of the third season, Regina, the Evil Queen, is presented with the opportunity to meet her true love and find what has been missing in her life. The catch is that Regina needs to walk into the tavern and introduce herself to the man that Tinker Bell’s pixie dust has identified, a man with Faith Trust & Pixir Dusta lion tattoo. Tinker Bell leaves Regina outside the tavern to follow her heart to true love, but Regina chickens out, and runs away. Despite the use of magic, Regina would still need to do some work in order to win her true love.

In this scene, I am Regina. Not that discernment is magical, but it has helped to illuminate important information for me, the way the magic of the pixie dust led Regina right to her true love. But also like Regina, that doesn’t mean the work is over. Discernment points the way, but I have to walk it, taking whatever the path may bring, be it fun, adventure, or struggle. Like Regina, I feel intimidated by what the discernment has shown me. God, you can’t seriously be asking me to do that? Are you sure you want me? Wouldn’t someone else do a better job?

On the days that I come dangerously close to running away, when things get hard and I’m questioning my discernment, I remember a passage from Proverbs: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will show you the path to take” (Proverbs 3:5-6). Sometimes it takes a lot of coaxing to stay on the path, but so far, so good.

Inching forward,

Lauren

pixie dust trail

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Take my Advice: Don’t Settle

Dear Pope Francis,

Don’t settle. It’s quite likely that this is the single most annoying piece of advice that I am given. It’s not that I don’t understand it. It’s actually deceptively simple: don’t settle for something less than what you deserve/can accomplish/etc. The sentiment is generally full of care and concern, and sometimes (oftentimes in my case) it does serve as a helpful reality check from an objective third-party.

What gets me about this phrase is that when it’s tossed out as a helpful piece of advice it usually doesn’t give any indication of what ‘not settling’ looks like. Someone tells me not to settle for a guy or a job or anything else, all they have identified is that the option in question is not meeting expectations, but there is no indication of what would meet those expectations. Social movements, like #GIRLBOSS, have developed around empowering people to set their own expectations for their lives so that they don’t settle for something less than satisfactory. While I generally think that we need to have expectations, trying to always set them on our own can become problematic (but more about that in another letter).

Regardless of whose expectations I am trying to live up to, listening and following through on the advice to not settle ultimately requires me to take a leap of faith. I need to believe that there is in fact something better beyond what is right in front of me, and usually there is. That doesn’t change the irritation and confusion of being told ‘don’t settle’ when presented with a really appealing option, or when I want what my friends have.

Taking that leap of faith to not settle requires me to keep searching, praying and probing to see if I really am where God wants me to be. That can be uncomfortable because often it calls for change, growth and uncertainty. It’s those times when it’s more helpful to remember Pope Emeritus Benedict’s line: “The world promises you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.”

Settling brings comfort at the expense of growth. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell when I’m feeling good because I’m right where I need to be, and when I’m comfortable because I’m settling. Precisely when I’m caught in a period of settling and thinking things feel easy because I’m where I need to be, is when I need to hear the dreaded reminder all the more:

Don’t settle.

In Christ,

Lauren

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