During our first Into the Deep blog series “Drawn to Ignatius” members of our writing team will tell us the ways Ignatian Spirituality has informed their lives, prayers, and their desire to go into the deep. Today Charlotte Phillips shares with us her journey with Ignatian Spirituality.
My journey with Ignatian Spirituality began almost 20 years ago. On a hot and humid day in August 2001, my mom and I made the little over two-hour drive to Mobile, Alabama to Spring Hill College to move me into my freshmen dorm. As a pretty sheltered and very shy 18-year-old, this was a huge step outside of my comfort zone. I was equally excited and terrified- l was leaving my family and friends and was going to college where I knew NO ONE. At that time, I knew Spring Hill was Catholic, but I didn’t know anything about the Jesuits or Ignatian Spirituality. Looking back, the Ignatian charism was seen the moment we drove onto campus- standing in front of the freshmen dorm were several smiling upperclassmen waiting to help unload our cars and bring my belongings to my new home away from home. Service for others, a key component of Ignatian Spirituality, is one of my first memories of Spring Hill.
During my time in college I don’t think I was aware of how important not only learning about, but also living the Ignatian way would be. Spring Hill taught me how to think, how to reason, how to learn. While my degree was in theology, the importance of community was present in every class I took. Classes were small and our professors knew our name. I was able to serve others through my work study program-working in daycares and schools in neighborhoods that needed help the most. My spirituality needs were met not only through my classes, but also through Mass on the weekends and retreats offered throughout the year. Four years later I walked down the Avenue of the Oaks beaming with pride-Spring Hill helped form me from a shy 18-year-old teenager to a much more confident 21-year-old young adult.
I went back to Spring Hill a year after I graduated for a retreat. It was then that I learned about Ignatian Contemplation, and I saw scripture in a whole new light. Ignatian Contemplation, or imaginative prayer, is imagining the scripture passage as though you are writing a book or making a movie. You completely immerse yourself in the story to see what God is trying to say to you. To this day, Ignatian Contemplation is still one of my favorite ways to pray with scripture.
As life goes on, I get married and we start to have a family. Two kids into our marriage I attended a preached Ignatian retreat. During this retreat I remember crying out, begging God to speak to me. Thankfully, I opened the ears of my heart just wide enough to hear a whisper-and in that moment was reminded that God is with me always. As St. Ignatius of Loyola said, we can “find God in all things.” This was truly a light bulb moment for me- after this retreat I dug deep into Ignatian spirituality, wanting to remember what I had learned in college and wanting to know more.
Ignatian spirituality is now a part of who I am. Ignatian spirituality has taught me the importance of prayer, and prayer as a true relationship with God-not just a one-sided conversation where I do all the talking. Even our children are learning how to reflect on their day using a child friendly Examen we say as a family each night before bed. I am also so fortunate to work with Becky and have my job being focused on bringing St. Ignatius’ great wisdom to others. At this time in my life I could not imagine a more fulfilling call in ministry!
My relationship with God is essential to me in my everyday life. Just as we have time everyday to work, play, and eat, I also make time every day for God. Because of Ignatian spirituality I am reminded that I am never alone, that God is always with me. I can see God in my children, in my husband, and in others I encounter throughout the day. I can see God in my work, in motherhood, and in my marriage. Ignatian spirituality has taught me the importance of discernment and finding clarity in ways that would not have been possible without the graces of God.
I am truly honored to be a part of this blog and look forward to diving into Ignatian spirituality even deeper with this community of Ignatian women!
Photo: Avenue of the Oaks by Anna Pellerin