Every now and again it is good to pay attention to the little things that make us smile. One such thing has come to me from a rather odd place: a TV commercial. It is an animated ad for a supermarket chain which depicts a round, hairy-chested, workout-clothed guy sporting a long pony tail, but is balding more than a little. He never stops exercising while simultaneously drinking a green smoothie as the song “I’m Too Sexy” * is heard in the background. The little guy runs out of his smoothie, discovers an empty fridge, and thus drives to said supermarket, exercising to the beat the entire time. The ad ends with him making a new smoothie, still to the beat, with a facial expression that confirms that he does indeed think he is pretty sexy. This clever commercial, 30 seconds of lighthearted fun, never fails to make me smile. And it has helped me to realize that now more than ever it is important to find the simple things which bring joy, or at least a smile, and be grateful for them even if they are a bit silly. It is a reminder that it is good to pay a bit more attention to the seemingly insignificant things which we either take for granted or simply have forgotten how to see. This is not suggesting a denial of life’s realities, but rather that we need to stay balanced if we are to remain emotionally and spiritually healthy. To see and savor tiny moments is important. In fact, it is often in the little things that the greatest miracles are found.
To find joy in little things is related to the greater spiritual gift of wonder and awe. We receive this grace at Confirmation, but sometimes we under-utilize it because we forget it is there. Given that we specifically receive the gift of wonder and awe along with knowledge, wisdom, piety, counsel, fortitude, and understanding, it is therefore of equal importance with them. Some may say that we entertain easily if we go out to a river and see a shore full of rocks and find them fascinating. I do not believe that is the case; rather, we are utilizing the gift of wonder and awe. But if we can spend time gazing at a sunset, searching the sky for a rare comet or a meteor shower, enjoying gentle surf, or spending time in a peaceful garden, we can engage the gift of wonder and awe which can move us to glorify and praise their Creator. We can learn to savor these moments, and well we should, since our lives can be so busy that we become jaded to them. And if we can find wonder and awe in things, imagine how much we can find in experiencing other people if we let this gift take root.
St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556, feast day July 31) is one who learned to see with such clarity that he was often filled with ecstatic joy, a result of the gift of wonder and awe. Although he did not describe the experience in detail, on the banks of the River Cardoner where he nearly ended his own life in despair, Ignatius noticed joy. That is, he was invited by the Holy Spirit to embrace life and to let go of his sinful past which at that point overwhelmed him completely. He had been forgiven, but had been unable to accept it until he let the grace of God become all he needed to proceed into his future. Once he realized that we are all loved sinners and that God will give us the graces we need when we ask, he was able to start seeing and savoring that which gave him joy. Ignatius learned to recognize God’s presence in others and to see the giftedness within them that perhaps they themselves had not yet seen. It was this ability, (part of the gift of discernment, but also his unique gift) that enabled Ignatius to attract and then instruct men who shared his vision for mission and ministry.
What convinces me most about the wonder and awe-filled heart of St. Ignatius is the Suscipe prayer which is found at the end of his Spiritual Exercises. Only someone with a heart moved profoundly by the Holy Spirit, who lets Love lead, could have composed the prayer which ends: “Give me your love and your grace. That is enough for me.” ** The entire movement of the Spiritual Exercises is meant to help the retreatant to arrive at this point; that is, to help them to embrace the joy of knowing that our purpose is to know, love, and serve the Lord in whatever way we are called. No matter what our personal expression of the call might be and no matter how much struggle we encounter along the way, if we give everything over to the Lord and trust in His love and His grace, we will begin to see joy in little things that others may see as ridiculous or insignificant. Let us savor that which brings wonder and awe, even the silly things, and let grace and our love of the Lord be the power behind our ‘evangelization by example.’ And because God is in those moments, they are indeed miraculous.
May we ask the Holy Spirit to help us with the gift of wonder and awe so that we may see and savor the little things which bring us joy! May we bring joy to others, letting them experience wonder and awe at the gift we offer them, and in doing so make their burden a bit lighter! And may we ask the intercession of St. Ignatius of Loyola to help us attain the graces we need that we might be able to say “your grace and your love are enough for me” for the greater glory of God! Let us continue to meet in the heart of Jesus! Peace!
©Michele L. Catanese
* I’m Too Sexy was written and performed in 1991 by Right Said Fred, a rock group from the UK. It eventually made its way to the US and was on the radio for a while before fading away. The song was originally meant to be a satire of those who walk the catwalk or who are body builders who think too highly of themselves.
** Full text of the Suscipe prayer: “Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all that I have and possess. You have given all to me. To you, Lord, I return it. All is yours. Dispose of it wholly according to your will. Give me your love and your grace. That is enough for me.”
1.My photo, a playful marmot on Copper Mountain in Colorado: this little critter seemed a bit whimsical, and also a bit full of himself, so it seemed a fitting photo here.
2. My photo, rocks at a lake near Copper Mt., Colorado: I truly did find these rocks captivating.
3. Icon, St. Ignatius in Prayer Beneath the Stars by Fr. William Hart McNichols. If you look carefully, St. Ignatius' feet are not on the ground. He is seen in ecstatic prayer, joyful in the Holy Spirit. You can obtain a copy at https://fineartamerica.com/featured/st-ignatius-in-prayer-beneath-the-stars-137-william-hart-mcnichols.html
4. My photo, sunset in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico: If you look closely there is a man kneeling on the beach. Perhaps he is in prayer, filled with wonder and awe.
5. My photo, a bobblehead I keep on my desk of St. Ignatius, (Iggy): While this may seem strange to end with, the statue is whimsical and makes me smile: I think Ignatius would approve.
- A particular shout out to a Jesuit friend in Denver and to my two Jesuit friends in Puerto Rico, and also to all my friends in the Society of Jesus! To the Jesuits, Happy Feast Day!
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Heart Speaks to Heart