Mary Madden became curious about Ignatian Spirituality when her daughter, who was attending a Jesuit college, began talking about this daily prayer form. Mary wanted to learn more about “finding God in all things,” and a Google search led her to Sister Catherine Higgins.
A trained spiritual director and social worker, Sister Catherine recently was named Director of Ignatian Spirituality at St. Joseph Spirituality Center. Well known and respected in the Tri-State region for her long-time ministry in Ignatian Spirituality, Sister Catherine welcomed Mary to a 10-month faith formation experience that Mary says transformed her life.
“This [spirituality] is so much a part of me and my daily routine. I find myself communicating with God in whatever circumstances arise,” says Mary, who describes the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius as “a gift to the world” and “a life-giving blessing” to her.
Mary, a retired teacher from Steubenville, Ohio, drove weekly to Baden to participate with five other adults in “The Spiritual Exercises in Daily Life,” which is designed to lead individuals to personal growth and a deeper relationship with God.
Just months after completing the program, Mary speaks enthusiastically about her faith journey and becomes visibly emotional at times when describing how she is working through her “weaknesses” to mend relationships, to overcome family challenges, to develop an attitude of gratitude every day, and to communicate with God every day – no matter the circumstances. She says she is learning to fend off feelings of anger, pride and selfishness with a sense of peace, prayer and self-reflection.
“The Spiritual Exercises have helped me to feel so connected to God in life’s situations every day – not just when I’m sitting in church,” she says.
On a recent cruise to the Caribbean to visit schools in poor communities, Mary asked herself, “Where is God in this?” It was eye-opening, she says, to recognize that “Church” has no boundaries and extends far beyond the pews where diversity can be lacking.
“There were people of all colors and I loved it . . . this is the world and God loves everybody.”
The hallmark of Ignatian Spirituality is about “finding God in all things,” says Sister Catherine.
“Ignatius believed that everything in the universe is gift and God is the giver. As a result, awe and gratitude are meant to permeate our lives. We believe that God loves us first and our lives are to be lived in response to that love. So Ignatian spirituality is essentially relational. God seeks to relate to us and we are invited to respond to God.”
Sister Catherine says that the humanity of Jesus is a critical component of Ignatian Spirituality:
“Through Ignatian forms of prayer, especially Gospel imaginative prayer, or, as it is called, Ignatian Contemplation, we seek to participate in each Gospel scene. We become aware of the people, circumstances and conversations involved in each Gospel incident, and we notice how Jesus responds to each person in the scene and to us. In this way we come to know Jesus more intimately and we learn to embrace his values.”
Mary says the “imaginative reflection” of the humanity of Jesus allows her to place herself into a particular story in the Gospel and make the experience more meaningful and relatable to her.
Ignatian Spirituality fosters the belief that God loves us no matter what the situation.
“God’s love is unconditional and pure gift,” says Sister Catherine. “This gives us the confidence and courage to reach out in loving service to all, especially those on the margins of society, with the desire on our part to remain vulnerable and transparent before them and before God – as Jesus was.”
Ignatian Spirituality and Our Sisters
Interest in Ignatian Spirituality is growing, and Sister Catherine joins other spiritual directors in crediting Pope Francis, a Jesuit, for this upswing. St. Ignatius of Loyola founded the Society of Jesus, also known as the Jesuits. Their spirituality has not only influenced Pope Francis, but also the life of the Sisters of St. Joseph. In 1650, the first six Sisters of St. Joseph gathered in Le Puy, France. With the guidance of a Jesuit, Jean Pierre Medaille, these women – mostly lace makers who dressed in the common garb of the day – formed a community to live and pray together and to respond to the needs of the time. These Ignatian Spiritual roots provide the foundation for how our Sisters today live, pray and serve the dear neighbor in need.
Learn more about Ignatian Spirituality
Do you want to connect more deeply to God? Do you want to find God in all things? If so, Sister Catherine is offering two free Introductory Days of Ignatian Prayer:
- Tuesday, October 18, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.
- Saturday, October 29, from 10 a.m. to noon
Register online or call 724-869-6587.