Ignatius and Me: The Suscipe

July 29, 2019

Welcome to another week of the Ignatius and Me series – just one more week! In honor of the feast of St Ignatius on July 31st, I’ve asked some friends to write about what Ignatian spirituality means to them in their daily lives. Each week will look at a different principle or prayer of Ignatian Spirituality, introduced with an excerpt from my book, Busy Lives and Restless Souls and then followed by a friend’s personal interpretation.

From Busy Lives & Restless Souls:The Suscipe Prayer: “Take, Lord”
A prayer that accompanies a person making the Spiritual Exercises in the fourth week is called the “Take, Lord” prayer. Before I share the words of this prayer, I want to give you another warning: If you want to keep your life exactly the way it is, then I suggest you not pray this prayer. Prayer transforms us because of our encounter with Christ, and through this encounter with Christ, we are sent to encounter others. This prayer will have an impact on your life because of the way it deepens your reliance on God and not on the gifts God gives us and because of the way it offers all that we have received for God’s use. Here are the beautiful words of the prayer penned by St. Ignatius:Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,my memory, my understanding,and my entire will.All I have and call my own.You have given all to me.To you, Lord, I return it.Everything is yours; do with it what you will.Give me only your love and your grace,that is enough for me.Amen.

Taking This Prayer Seriously

This week, Spiritual Director Marian Monahan looks at the Suscipe prayer in her life.

I can still remember the first time I heard it sung or at least the first time it made that kind of impression on my heart…We had moved to Spring, Texas in 1983 and found a spiritual home at Christ the Good Shepherd Parish on Klein Church Rd: a parish that embodied in architectural style, liturgical celebration and programming the new, life-giving theology and spirituality that blossomed from the Second Vatican Council. Each liturgy offered wonderful music, but different styles at different masses. And the first day I really heard “Take, Lord, Receive”, it was sung as a communion meditation by a husband and wife team, the only accompaniment was the guitar he played and the voices in the congregation. 

I didn’t really pay attention to the all the words and the path of surrender that it names; the beautiful melody and haunting harmonies in the refrain that composer John Foley SJ created and the simplicity of two voices singing this hymn was enough for me.

As is in the case of most Traditions, different congregations, music ministers and pastors prefer different styles and congregational music reflects those preferences. I don’t remember this lovely hymn being sung so often or at all at parishes in between Texas and Georgia until I arrived at Ignatius House Jesuit Retreat Center. Take, Lord, Receive is sung there faithfully at liturgies after communion. And rightly so as a way to remind us what the spiritual journey is all about; it’s an ode to the heart of St. Ignatius’ and the Jesuit self offering to God born out of love for, and service to, God and others. And we lay folk get to ponder what this prayer, the suscipe, means in our every day, joyous and graced, mired and mucked up lives.

About five or six years ago I asked myself: was St. Ignatius crazy? Can this prayer be taken seriously? And what would happen if I took it seriously and I really prayed it every day…what would it mean if I actually offered myself fully? My liberty, memory, understanding, my entire will? What?!? But I felt The Nudge and so I started…

I worked with it kind of like the way a new baseball mitt needs to be broken in: you oil it and you shove a baseball into the gut of the glove, wrap it up and continue to work at it until the glove is supple and can do what you want it to do on the field. It fits.   

Likewise, although the words are essentially the same each day, it’s not stiff anymore, and has taken on a familiarity and ease that in no way has lessened its implications, importance or impact as I continue to pray it.

 So what does all this mean? Well, here’s how I “understand” it now in the context of my life, fully aware I have taken some poetic license. The scary words liberty, memory, understanding, entire will are now translated my whole self: Divine One, as best I can this day, here I am! You know, like the old song by Frank Sinatra: “all of me, why not take all of me?” I put my gifts, talents, what I uniquely bring to the world’s table, the love I have in my heart on the line. And by the way, while I’m at it, here’s my flaws, my frailties, my failures, essentially my whole broken and beautiful self. It all counts. I’m returning to you with humility, I hope, what you have gratuitously and lovingly already given me so that any or all can be used to help with the heavy lifting of Kingdom building. And I’m convinced I’m received with utmost love and compassion. One last thing: at the end of this crazy prayer that Ignatius composed he says “Give me love of yourself along with your grace...”Ah, there’s a slight but important, I think, nuance here. This is a daily reminder that the God who longs for me enables me to long for God. And so I ask for what I need: help me to love you! 

So have no fear, friends: pray it with wild abandon!  Because It’s all grace. And it’s all good. 

Go Deeper?

The Ignatius and Me series:

Cultivating Space for God Together:

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