Gerard Manley Hopkins was a Jesuit priest and poet who lived during the latter half of the nineteenth century and became, after his death, one of the leading poets of the Victorian era. His style was innovative and unusual for that time, experimenting with rhythm, word structure and imagery.

I was introduced to his poetry at school and instantly fell in love with it - particularly with what seemed to me a freedom and playfulness with words. In later life, going on retreats to St Beuno's, I learnt more of his varied and fascinating life, of his depressions (which struck a chord with me) and his struggles to hold in tension his poetry and his Jesuit life.

This is one of my favourites of his poems:

God's Grandeur
by Gerard Manley Hopkins

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

To get the full effect, read the poem out loud (even if you are on your own!). It can become a prayer of poignant praise.

Famous Prayers - God be in my head


God be in my head, and in my understanding;
God be in mine eyes, and in my looking;
God be in my mouth, and in my speaking;
God be in my heart, and in my thinking;
God be at mine end, and at my departing.

Sarum Primer, 1558

Ignatius Loyola {{huLoyolai Szent Ignác}}Image via Wikipedia

I have written before about some different aspects of Ignatian Spirituality.

Here is a quick resume:

Ignatian spirituality is the spirituality of the Jesuits - it was Ignatius of Loyola and nine of his companions who founded the Jesuit order (The Society of Jesus) in 1540. Today, many people - not all in the Roman Catholic church and not all belonging to the Society of Jesus (well, you can't if you're a woman!) - use Ignatian spirituality to enhance their own walk with God.

I have written about two different aspects of Ignatian prayer:
The Examen
Using our imagination in prayer

I'd like to explore more about Ignatian spirituality with you.

When Ignatius was developing his way of Christian living and Christian prayer, he devised a series of spiritual prayer exercises designed to draw those who use them more closely to God and to increase understanding of how to serve God and follow God's guiding. As part of this, he established what he called the First Principle and Foundation of the Spiritual Exercises.

This is how it was described to me by my spiritual director at that time - with a few modifications(!):

We are created to praise, reverence and serve God.
All other things on the face of the earth are created to help us to fulfil this purpose.
It follows that we are to use all other things in as much as they help us fulfil our purpose and we ought to refrain from using these things insofar as they are a hindrance.

Therefore, with respect to all things in which we have some influence or control, it is necessary to become indifferent (not the 21st century definition of indifferent but meaning - free, detached). Consequently, for our part, we should not prefer health to sickness, riches to poverty, a long life to a short one, status to rejection; and so for all other things.

Our constant desire and our consequent choices should always be harmonious with the goal for which we are created.

Easier said than done, of course, but a good principle for leading a life which is God-centred and Spirit-motivated.

My own preference would be to have the word 'love' in the first line. For me, wanting to reverence and serve God spring from my love for God.

Any thoughts on the First Princple?

A bit of interest - to pass the time!

This is fun. A heavy metal monk!

Here is a beautiful passage from Luke's gospel to be used for 'praying the scriptures' using the method known as Lectio Divina.

If you don't know about this way of praying then here is some information to get you started: How to do Lectio Divina

Now try it with this passage from Luke's gospel containing the words of Jesus.

Luke 11:9-13

So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!

Thanks be to God.

We all have rhythms to our lives. Our rhythm of waking and sleeping, perhaps a rhythm of work time and non-work time, family rhythms, physiological diurnal rhythms, female monthly rhythms.

If you have a spiritual director/soul friend you might hear them talk of your own rhythm of life - your rhythm of prayer and relatedness to God - the ebb and flow of your spiritual life.

As with all rhythms, individuals and communities differ in speed, depth and content of their rhythms and this is no less true with our spiritual rhythm than any other. However, despite our differences, we can often learn useful tips from people who have trodden similar paths in the past. Christians through all ages and of differing types of spirituality have testified to the helpfulness of specific daily times of prayer. From those who have engaged in the monastic lifestyle from the early days of the church to the more recent evangelical's 'quiet time' - a regular daily prayer pattern has been a fulfilling and humbling experience for many.

Of course, it takes self-discipline and commitment to carry on with a regular prayer pattern through the ups and downs of life. That's why its often good to have someone to talk to about it or even to meet up with and pray together sometimes.

It's also useful to have some external input to help structure your prayer times, if you want to maintain them over a long period of time. Perhaps you are one of those who use some form of Bible notes? Being an Anglican, I love to sink myself in beautiful liturgy, but have often found books of daily prayer can be incredibly dull!
One I do love is Prayer rhythms for busy people by Ray Simpson. I love Ray Simpson's turns of phrase and his warmth - and its short enough for a busy person like me!

Here is a prayer from Wednesday Morning Prayer:

Let us arise today in the Spirit's power:

In the place of fear,
God's strength to uphold me;

In the place of emptiness,
God's wisdom to guide me;

In the place of confusion,
God's eye for my seeing;

In the place of discord,
God's ear for my hearing;

In the place of froth,
God's word for my speaking;
to save me from false agendas
that harm my body or soul.

I wonder what your rhythm of life is like? Is it as haphazard as mine?! Have you thought about changing or refining it? Does it include time that you put aside just to meet with God?

Also see: Prayers to Start the Day

Archbishop Desmond TutuImage via Wikipedia

Desmond Tutu is a Nobel Peace Prize (1984) winner and honorary doctor of several leading universities in Britain, the USA and Germany.

Do your little bit of good where you are;
its those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.

Desmond Tutu