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 Claudia Maxson shares with us her journey with Ignatian Spirituality.
Have you ever spent your whole life doing something, only to find out much later that there is a name to define it? That’s how I felt for years traveling the unknown road with St. Ignatius. Little did I know how well Ignatian Spirituality described me and my relationship with God.
For as long as I can remember, I found God in all things. When I was a child, rote prayer was something that I did with my classmates or at Mass; never was it my preferred method to communicate with God. God spoke to me more clearly through music – singing, playing the flute, listening. I became aware of the beauty of joy, peace, happiness and even discord, one of the melodic voices of my prayer that soothed my soul.
But there was also a greater force at work within me, the call of nature. As soon as I was permitted, I ventured outdoors. Whether riding my bike or hiking and camping, I found God communicating and engaging with me through the shade trees, the magnificent sugar maples in autumn, a babbling brook, or the dancing sparks of a campfire. God called me to respond to the magnificent gift of creation, teaching me to be a good steward while providing me with a sense of belonging. I learned to trust that in nature God gave me a place to ponder and to wonder, to heal and to be loved.
As my life journey continued, there were times when God and I didn’t see eye-to-eye. Sometimes, I would forget to recognize God’s presence, neglecting my prayer altogether. When I wandered from God, God did not wander from me, whether I was aware or not. The Holy Spirit guided me through life’s major decisions, providing the wisdom to consider each choice carefully, weighing the good against the not as good, and arriving at a conclusion only when I possessed a positive attitude. I benefited greatly from that guidance with little conscious acknowledgement. God stayed faithful to our almost one-sided relationship without much response from me.
I was living the “perfect” life, happily married with two beautiful children in a lovely home, when God started to place a longing on my heart. Sunday after Sunday, I watched my whole neighborhood empty in the morning and not return until much later in the day. “Where were they going and why?,” I wondered. I needed to understand this mystery. It turned out that my contemporaries were heading off to Mass and then spending the better part of the day with their extended families. Living far away from family, I began to explore how we might find such a community with whom to share at least part of our Sundays. The magis, or “more”, placed on my heart turned out to be a vibrant, nourishing church parish where we truly belonged. My call to active ministry began.
It was not long before my thirst for “more” led me to participate in an “At Home Retreat” where I was formally introduced to St. Ignatius of Loyola. I drank in the weekly scripture, prayer, and discussion. I learned about St. Ignatius’s life and his conversion. I learned about contemplation and discernment and spiritual direction. Everything felt so natural, innate to me. It was all so new and yet comfortable like a long-lost friend. I embraced the language of Ignatian spirituality, which filled my heart and energized my soul.
Recognizing my call to God’s service propelled me along an exciting path of learning and ministry, all the while, discerning with the assistance of spiritual directors who helped me learn to listen. From graduate school to leading retreats and marriage preparation to teaching high school young men, many opportunities were presented to me. Some were true callings while others, though needed, identified themselves as mere distractions or not the best use of my gifts.
My life journey thus far has been a dance with God. I have come to understand some basic truths. I learned that when I let God take the lead, the dance is much more beautiful. Developing my prayer life strengthens my relationship with God. Using the tools of Ignatian spirituality provides me with the clarity and wisdom necessary to begin to understand how God is calling me. Finding beautiful souls who share in their appreciation of St. Ignatius allows me to be part of an amazing community.
I am delighted and honored to be included on this blog with my dear friend Becky Eldredge and the Into the Deep team as we accompany you on the journey of faith.
- Are you interested in learning more aobut the magis Claudia mentioned? You can read more about it here.
- You can read more about spiritual direction here.
Photo by Clayton Holmes on unsplash.