"Remember, I am with you always to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20)

[5/9] Novena of Grace: “To see Him more clearly, to love Him more dearly and to follow Him more nearly"

Peter Paul Rubens: Jesus appears to Ignatius while he prays at night


ome of us probably have become too familiar now with the many beautiful stories, metaphors and parables that Jesus taught in his lifetime. But have you ever wondered where did Jesus get all of these? I believe he must have learned some of those stories too from somebody. We must not forget that, first, Jesus had to grow into his role as a son to Mary and Joseph. Not only that, he was a grandson to Joachim and Anne, the parents who taught Jesus's mother through their words of wisdom. He taught in parables using pictures of concrete everyday life experiences as any Jewish rabbi would because it is only through such forms that Jesus would be able to reveal to us who his heavenly Father truly is—through digestible, down-to-earth and "democratized" language. All the images that Jesus used in the gospels are the 'manna' that comes in handy for the sustenance of a healthy spiritual life. It is good to note here that when God gave the manna, it was disparaged, looked at with little worth, by the Israelites who responded "What is that?" We fail time and again to recognize what God is doing day in and day out. We fail to see, hear and touch the Spirit behind the many signs and wonders, extraordinary or not. In the end we do not know how to respond to God's heart accordingly.

In a parallel manner, analogies, metaphors and parables are transcorporeal food in bite sizes that make the grasping of spiritual nutrients more pleasurable, rewarding and satisfying. These are the manna cooked in a new way for our continual nourishment. St Ignatius writes, “The Spiritual Exercises are, above all, a time for intimate contact between God and the retreatant... For in a retreat we do not find knowledge satisfying us but rather deep down tastes and feelings that sensitize us to what really matters” (SE 2). No wonder Ignatius made full use of 'imaginative contemplation' to enter and to bring back to life each and every gospel scene.

In the so-called preludes of Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius begins a formal prayer period with the "Composition of Place." We can see the origins of this in the pilgrimage experience of Ignatius. As he was entering the holy sites, which were still in ruins during his time, he must have composed the place where Jesus grew up and lived. There are different ways to enter into a prayer period as there are ways of entering a house. Mary Gordon’s book “Seeing Through Places” shares her experience of entering the house of her grandmother in three different ways: through the front porch, the side porch, or the kitchen. Among the three, the kitchen is the most common way. Mary Gordon’s experience when entering through the kitchen is like entering her grandmother’s life and person which is comparable to the experience of Composition of Place. After composing the place, the contemplation, beholding, long loving look takes center stage.
TO SEE THE TRACES OF THE LORD: Without elaboration Iñigo insisted on the fruits of his stay in Jerusalem. The life of the Lord, contemplated with devotion, took form in his imagination. In the Exercises, Ignatius counseled the retreatant to begin prayer by imagining the material setting of the scene he wants to contemplate so as to find his own place there, the so-called “composition of place.” At Jerusalem, Iñigo paid attention to all details in order to identify himself with Christ and walk in his footsteps. For him, sight played an essential role in the perception of the mystery. Once he wanted to call attention to himself in court; now as a new convert, he aspired to be seen by the Lord. By prioritizing “interior vision,” Ignatius used the image as a new language about God. Roland Barthes noted that Iñigo thus situated himself fully in the modern epoch which gave priority to the eye as illustrated in the baroque style. Throughout the Middle Ages until the 16th century, hearing was the privileged sense of perception, and the ecclesiastical hierarchy based its authority on “hearing” the Word. Fides ex auditu, faith comes from hearing, as St Paul stressed in Romans 10:17. (Ignatius of Loyola, LEGEND AND REALITY, Pierre Emonet SJ, trans Jerry Ryan and edited by Thomas M McCoog SJ)
Today is the fifth day of our Novena of Grace. As we retrace the footsteps of Ignatius the pilgrim when he embarked on a life-changing, far-reaching and intense journey exactly 500 years ago, let us see the traces of the Lord in the holy sites and events that we read about in the bible. On this memorial of Sts Joachim and Anne, let us compose the place in the kitchen or the living room together with the child Jesus and listen to the saintly couple as they ramble about their youth.

Grace to beg for: "To see Him more clearly, to love Him more dearly and to follow Him more nearly"

Suggested Scripture passages to ponder: Exodus 16:1-5, 9-1—"I will rain down bread from heaven for you"; Matthew 13:1-9—"The seed produced grain a hundredfold"

TODAY, IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE HARDEN NOT YOUR HEARTS'—EVER IN SCRIPTURE, IT IS THE HEART THAT PRAYS. In today's featured reading, what word or phrase from God speaks to me?—PONDER—LISTEN—THANK—SURRENDER. I contemplate God's word and then end with the OUR FATHER...

Repeat this prayer for nine successive days.

Suscipe (Prayer by St Ignatius)

ake, O Lord, and receive
all my liberty, my memory,
my understanding and my entire will. All I have and call my own. Thou hast given all to me, to Thee, O Lord, I return it. Everything belongs to Thee; do with it as Thou wilt. Give me only the love of Thee and with it Thy grace, that is enough for me. Amen.

With St Ignatius we pray:

oul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O Good Jesus, hear me.
Within Thy wounds hide me.
Suffer me not to be separated from Thee.
From the malignant enemy defend me.
In the hour of my death call me.
And bid me come unto Thee,
That with all Thy saints,
I may praise Thee
Forever and ever.


St Ignatius of Loyola, pray for us.