Answer the call

Crucifix and candles

Offering up all that I am this Sunday.

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“What religion are you?” … was the first question I was asked on taking in a taxi from Pudong International Airport to Shanghai in 2014. It was a question I would subsequently be asked every week at St Ignatius Cathedral in Xujiahui; one of the first structures to be built by the Jesuits in East Asia in the mid-1800’s. Ignatian spirituality fosters an attentiveness to God, alongside a responsiveness to act and it was in those moments of questioning that the echoes of my own Ignatian formation could be most prominently heard. God was calling; it was up to me to answer the call...

The mission of the Jesuits was instantly apparent

I first became aware of the Jesuits upon my admittance to St. Aloysius’ College, Glasgow in 2003. Though it would only be in my latter years at the College that I would become actively involved in the beginnings of my own spiritual formation, the mission of the Jesuits was instantly apparent throughout the ethos of the College, with Pedro Arrupe’s “men and women for others” holding particular significance through my involvement with the school’s Arrupe Volunteering Programme (the first of its kind in the UK), retreats and the College’s annual pilgrimage to Lourdes.

Retreats to re-centre prayer life – and watch tennis!

What have I done for Christ? What am I doing for Christ? What ought I to do for Christ? Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius Loyola, 53

Retreats, in particular, are a powerful way of reflecting on our spiritual journeys. My experience of undertaking periods of retreat in the unsurpassable surroundings of Barmouth during summer was an annual opportunity to re-centre my own sense of spirituality and prayer life. The opportunity to meet individually with a spiritual director was invaluable, and offered a consistency of support which allowed me not only to listen attentively to God through Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises, but also to challenge and, in doing so, deepen my relationship with prayer and reflection in a safe and respectful environment. Optional opportunities for sharing in the afternoon, Mass, adoration, and Wimbledon were just some of the other incentives that made annual retreats to Barmouth unmissable!

Ignatian spirituality is a profound kind of humanism

The impact of Ignatian formation continues to underlie the wider choices that I have made in the early stages of my life so far. After leaving the College in 2009, I joined the Board–on a voluntary basis–as a Director of the Volunteer Tutors Organisation in Glasgow, a Scottish charity that seeks to extend free tuition for children who experience disadvantage educationally, socially and economically. Ignatian spirituality is a profound kind of humanism. Being able to see, on a daily basis, the sizeable difference one-to-one educational support provides to some of the most vulnerable children in society is really the essence of what Ignatian spirituality asks us to consider: “What have I done for Christ? What am I doing for Christ? What ought I to do for Christ?” Simply put, I can’t imagine a path in which social justice is secondary to the kind of spiritual journey that was encouraged by my Ignatian formation at St Aloysius’ College; one cannot work without the other.

God in “Interesting times”

In 1966 Robert F. Kennedy paraphrased a Chinese proverb which says “May you live in interesting times.” There can be no doubt that we live in ‘interesting times.’ We live in a world that is, on the one hand, becoming increasingly smaller and, on the other, becoming incrementally insular. As a twentysomething, I find myself sometimes struggling to negotiate my time between friends, work and higher education. Finding time for prayer in everyday life is not always easy. It’s not always possible to go to Mass every week.

For me, Ignatian spirituality is a response to these challenges insofar as it is our actions, what we do, and who we build relationships with on our journey, that is as much about our relationship with God as it is about our relationships with one another, with our communities, and with ourselves; it is, in short, a way of life. And, like inadvertently stumbling across St. Joseph’s Seminary and Church in Macau (one of St. Francis Xavier’s final stopping points on his mission to Japan and China), God reminds us that He is always present in our lives, even when we least expect Him, sometimes even in the most unlikely of places.

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