Imaginative Prayer.



Did you every try to imagine a scene in your mind: maybe you stir up a view of your “happy place” when you can’t be there, trying to conjure up for yourself the peace and joy that place brings you? Or maybe you bring to mind a particularly special time from the past that you shared with a spouse or friend, hoping to feel the love of that moment again right now?

Well, that is exactly what Saint Ignatius of Loyola encourages us to do with Jesus and the Scriptures.  In his classic, The Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius invites us to use our imagination to enter deeply into the life events of Jesus, placing ourselves there to see and feel everything going on.

I must admit I used to resist such imaginative prayer because I thought it wasn’t “real.” It was pretending. At best, it was a creative way to bring up images of the past. Ok. That could be cool, or pretty or interesting. But what then?

Well, as Jesuit Kevin O’Brien explains, Ignatius saw it as a wonderful tool that could lead us much deeper into the life of Jesus, the life of God. He writes:

“Contemplating a Gospel scene is not simply remembering it or going back in time. Through the act of contemplation, the Holy Spirit makes present a mystery of Jesus’ life in a way that is meaningful for you now. Use your imagination to dig deeper into the story so that God may communicate with you in a personal, evocative way.”

How do we do this?    

“Let the events of Jesus’ life be present to you right now. Visualize the event as if you were making a movie. Pay attention to the details: sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and feelings of the event. Lose yourself in the story; don’t worry if your imagination is running too wild. At some point, place yourself in the scene.”

What a great Lenten practice! We could easily try it with this Sunday’s gospel, or with the Temptation of Jesus or his Transfiguration, the gospel readings from the last two weeks.  The Holy Spirit makes present those moments of Jesus life for us NOW so that God may communicate with us the power and grace of those past events in this present moment of our lives! (Because, as my spiritual director reminded me, what God did in Jesus in the past is a revelation of what God is always doing, continually doing.) 

And if you’d like to try this Lenten Practice with others, then come join us at Saint Miriam on Thursday March 7 at 6:30pm. We’ll gather to imaginatively pray The Stations of Peter Liturgy. It’s like the Stations of the Cross, but from Peter’s perspective: what he is feeling and thinking as he experienced the passion of Jesus.  As we let our imaginations take us deeply into the scenes and see the sights and feel the feelings, God leads us to a deeper place of relationship with Christ.

So, come join us! Bring a friend! Tell them all they need is their imagination—and an openness to where the Spirit will take them.

Peace and love,

Fr. Liam

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