In the “Foreword” to Busy Lives & Restless Souls, Fr. Mark Thibodeaux, makes a bold statement:
“For too long the written explications of Ignatian Spirituality have been the exclusive work of Jesuit priests.”
A Jesuit priest himself, Thibodeaux offers an enthusiastic endorsement of Becky Eldredge’s approach to Ignatian Spirituality. He knows firsthand the power of the practice.
But he acknowledges that it is one thing to practice Ignatian meditation “in my quiet little bedroom in a house full of priests,” and quite another to attempt to do the same, only to be interrupted by “pajama-wearing, sweet, squealing little kids jumping on my bed.”
Eldredge’s book makes the case that Ignatian Spirituality can be just as transformative for those of us who must live in the real, workaday world. She believes that St. Ignatius wanted us all to become “contemplatives in action,” by discerning and then using our own unique gifts for the good of the world.
To that end, each chapter discusses how Eldredge herself learned to use several of the most familiar of St. Ignatius’ practices, like The Examen, the Colloquy, Ignatian contemplation and more as a very busy wife and mother. The exercises at the end of each lesson allow readers to contemplate and then practice what they’ve learned.
She reveals, quite candidly, her moments of doubt and disappointment. But she also assures us that the Holy Spirit removes all obstacles “so that the soul goes forward in doing good.” And the “quick tips” culled from her own journey are designed to encourage and inspire.
The latter sets her book apart from the more daunting scholarly texts and workbooks. The language and tone are reassuring and personable, as if a good friend, heart afire, had stopped by to share the Good News.
Louisiana born, she even likens God’s mercy to, say, cooking a pot of red beans and rice, as He constantly stirs and checks that pot, turning the heat up or down as necessary.
“First of all, we need to know that we can access God at any time and in any place” she explains.
“God is a friend we can talk to throughout the day as we wake, a we cook, as we eat, as we drive/commute to work, as we play and hang out with our friends. God is available to talk to us as we do laundry, change diapers…Everything is holy.”
Her spiritual “recipes” are indeed inviting and user-friendly. But one might ask if the Spiritual Exercises actually lend themselves to the “shake and bake” approach. St. Ignatius’ original process is meant to be spread out over at least 30 days of quiet contemplation.
Yes, it’s difficult for most of us to find that time. But perhaps making the time is part of the process. A very important part.
To skeptics I would say this book is a timely and worthy introduction to the practices—an “amuse bouche” to whet the appetite.
For, “Jesus calls us now, as we are” Eldredge insists. “Jesus is not waiting for us to be completely healed or whole or to reach some point in our faith journey that magically qualifies us for discipleship. No, Jesus calls us now. Right now.”
Busy Lives & Restless Souls will help you heed that call.