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Monday, June 14, 2010

Prayer: James F. Maguire, S.J.

But the more basic explanation of my contentment and happiness in the Jesuit way of life is spiritual. Slowly – ever so slowly – over the fifty-seven years of my life as a Jesuit, I have been coming to experience in a most modest yet gradually deepening way the companionship of Christ.

It is at Mass especially that Christ’s presence has been becoming real for me. In my early years as a priest and before that as a scholastic, there were occasional moments of realization that the Christ of Gethsemane, of Calvary, and of that first Easter morning was actually on the altar before us. Slowly – distressingly slowly – this awareness has gradually become more pronounced, especially in the moments following the consecration.

Along with this growing awareness of the living and loving Christ in the Mass, there is experienced a growing closeness to him in and out of prayer outside the Holy Sacrifice. Under these conditions prayer ceases to be simply a duty to be discharged. One feels drawn to prayer – or rather to Christ who may be found in it.

As the sense of Christ’s closeness becomes more continuous, one experiences deep personal fulfillment; but also an ever increasing amazement. Faith calmly accepts, but it is a clause of endless wonder to mind and heart that Christ continually seeks us out in such a personal and intimate fashion. Gradually – again with maddening slowness – one senses a lessening of disquiet over the inevitable frustrations, disappointments, and trials of our human condition.

The ideal of the novitiate then is not entirely beyond realization. In time, We Jesuits do approach in some measurable degree the Society’s ideal and become gratefully conscious of Christ’s continuing companionship. As my years multiply, the thought of death occurs with frequency, but with little if any disquiet of the soul. One is increasingly sustained by and finds deep satisfaction in the guarantee of our Catholic faith that the growing sense of Christ’s presence that we now experience is but the merest suggestion of the eternal intimacy with Christ that is awaiting us.

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