by Frédéric Barriault
February 1, 2019 —It’s not always easy to nourish one’s interior life, nor to find the time to pray in our world. Silence, calm, and interiority are in fact rare commodities in our secular society, addicted to performance (and to coffee!), working without respite in the noise and the constant maelstrom. How does one find balance in all that? How does one establish the right to do nothing and the right to disconnect? How does one claim the luxury of finding time for oneself but also… for God?
As paradoxical as it may seem, I have found in the on-line liturgical apps a technical way to force myself in some sense to be more disciplined in my prayer practice. Soon after my arrival in the Ignatian spiritual family, I discovered a cellphone app called Jesuit Prayer. There you can find various resources online, including a daily scripture quotation accompanied by a biblical commentary, and following the rhythm of the liturgical year. There you can also find the famous videos of the Pope’s prayer intentions, a tab for “posting” your own prayer intentions, as well as the Ignatian Examen of consciousness, which only makes sense in a Jesuit prayer app! As in any app worthy of this name, you find there also the famous notifications, which, like the Angelus bell and the chant of the muezzin in his minaret, remind us of our duty as believers, namely to give time to God, to step back from profane realities and daily cares in order to put oneself face-to-face, heart-to-heart with the Lord. It helps me to have the necessary discipline to read and meditate on the Word, but also and especially to pray.
Since my life as the father of a family and as a professional is somewhat hectic, moments of respite and interiority are very rare. And, thus, very precious! I have also developed the habit of using the prayer app… during my long commute on public transportation. It is often the only occasion when I can focus all my time and all my attention on the Lord – apart from Sunday mass. At the beginning, I experienced some embarrassment praying, even discretely, in a public place and, all the more so, in a “church” as unlikely as a bus. Until I understood better and better the brilliant spiritual intuitions of Ignatius of Loyola. Modern and active, Ignatian spirituality proposes in fact a balance between contemplation and action. The first companions of Ignatius, and the Jesuits who have walked in their footsteps, should most of the time be immersed in the world, often within communities that have never been evangelized – or are at this point profoundly secular. In the absence of chapels, of Christian communities, and of Eucharistic assemblies worthy of the name, the first Jesuits had themselves to nourish their spiritual life, drawing on the richness of the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius.
Praying on the bus or the metro, it seems to me, honours Ignatian spirituality, which invites us to find God in all things – and in all places. It causes to emerge a bit of interiority and sacredness in a place as banal as it is profane. It also takes advantage – with gratitude – of those rare moments of silence that are offered to me in this sometimes crazy life that I live. It allows the Spirit to get to me wherever. It also and especially is a daily “reconnection” with the Source and gives me access to that water that quenches every thirst, so that I don’t succumb to the physical, mental, and spiritual fatigue, which too often is the lot of Christians and also of citizens who are socially engaged.
My morning routine consists of reading the day’s Gospel, and the short “homily” that accompanies it, with the help of the Jesuit Prayer app. After allowing the Word to speak to me and meditating on it, I usually recite an Our Father, followed by a moment of prayer where I give thanks to the Lord for his blessings, where I “offer” Him this new day and ask Him to fill me with light and to send his Spirit over me, so that I may make myself a channel of his peace, and that he might help me build his Realm of brotherhood and justice. On the way home, I review my day with the help of the Ignatian examen of consciousness, followed by a moment of prayer, trying to be attentive to the elements of desolation and consolation that marked the day.
The Jesuit Prayer app, therefore, permits me to maintain my spiritual life by myself and to have an adult and mature faith. Is that enough? No, assuredly not. Nothing replaces a Eucharistic assembly or a prayer vigil where one is in the midst of a community; namely, in the Church, around the Word and the Body of Christ. Now, it happens from time to time that Sunday mass leaves me unsatisfied. An uninspired pastor, a bland homily, poor music, a botched liturgy, a cold assembly – all that can make the Sunday gathering much less than nourishing on the spiritual level. On those weeks, then, I doubley or even triply appreciate the calls to prayer (sometimes unwanted, like all pop-ups) of my liturgical app! And those moments of prayer and interiority that accompany my bus rides.