March 25, 2020 — The upcoming book The Inner Chapel: Embracing the Promises of God by Becky Eldredge from Loyola Press offers readers some comfort and prayer practices for Lent—as well as for these uncertain times during the coronavirus pandemic.
In the book, Eldredge invites readers to discover a deeper and more fulfilling prayer life. By drawing on the wisdom and practices of Ignatian spirituality, she guides readers seeking an inner closeness and intimacy with God. The Inner Chapel demonstrates that a relationship with a loving God is available to all who seek it. Purchase the book here.
Read the excerpt:
Suffering Makes Us Compassionate
This promise of a companion in our suffering does not end with the darkness of Good Friday and Jesus’ death. This promise of companionship continues even if our lives linger in Holy Saturday for a long time when we find ourselves stuck between our loss and the hope of new life.
New life does come. One sign of new life that comes after suffering is that we become more loving, more faithful, more generous, and more compassionate. St. Ignatius says, “There are truths that can be discovered only through suffering or from the critical vantage point of extreme situations.” I can honestly say that there are truths I learned through suffering that—while I do not want to go through such pain again—I consider great gifts of understanding, for which I am grateful.
The biggest grace given to me is the grace of compassion. I see suffering making some people hard and bitter, but I believe that suffering can create a compassionate heart when we allow the experience to turn us to God. Jesus suffered, and out of this his compassionate love for each of us is poured into us as a source of hope, strength, and companionship. The suffering we experience becomes transformed into wells of compassion for us to share as we are invited to companion others in their suffering.
As Pope Francis reminds us in On Hope, “God the Father comforts by raising comforters.” How might God be inviting each of us to use our suffering to now become a source of comfort and compassion for others?
The promise of Jesus companioning us in our suffering gives us strength to stay with others in theirs. I am not sure I could have stayed with Boppy and walked with him had I not known and trusted the power of Jesus’ companionship to both of us.
Let’s turn now to some practical tools we use to go to our inner chapel to deepen our understanding of the promise of God’s companionship.
Let’s Go To The Inner Chapel
Colloquy with Christ Crucified
St. Ignatius invites us to have a conversation, or colloquy, with Jesus on the cross as we pray with his passion or with our own “passion moments.” Remember that Jesus understands and relates to our experiences.
I invite you to reflect on where your life is connecting with Jesus’ passion. Or where has it connected to Jesus’ passion?
- Are you having an agony-in-the-garden moment? Begging for something to pass?
- Do you feel betrayal by a friend or a loved one as Jesus experienced with Peter and Judas?
- Do you find yourself struggling to forgive, the way Jesus was asked to do on the cross?
- Do you feel abandoned, the way Jesus was by his friends and followers?
- Are you experiencing any kind of exile, the way Jesus was exiled from his community?
- Do you feel you are being cast out the way Jesus was?
- Are you an immigrant or refugee, seeking refuge in ways Jesus did as he longed to belong somewhere among a divided people?
- Are you enduring physical pain?
- Are you watching another loved one suffer, as Mary watched her son?
Once you reflect on where your life and Jesus’ life connect, go to your inner chapel. Turn to a conversation with Jesus on the cross. Talk to him openly and honestly about whatever is stirring in your heart.
Here are St. Ignatius’s words to guide your prayer.
Imagine Christ our Lord present before you on the cross, and begin
to speak with him, asking how it is that though He is the Creator,
He has stooped to become man, and to pass from eternal life to
death here in time, that thus He might die for our sins.
I shall also reflect upon myself and ask:
What have I done for Christ?
What am I doing for Christ?
What ought I do for Christ?
As I behold Christ in his plight, nailed to the cross, I shall ponder upon what presents itself to my mind. (SE #53)
Close with an Our Father.
Embracing the Promise of Companionship in Our Suffering
These Scriptures can encourage you as you read them and pray with them.
- Isaiah 43 // “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; / and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you.”
- Psalm 23 // “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, / I fear no evil; / for you are with me.”
- Revelation 21:1–7 // “God himself will be with them; / he will wipe every tear from their eyes. / Death will be no more; / mourning and crying and pain will be no more.”
Prayers for Support
I’ve come to think that the only, the supreme, prayer
we can offer up, during these hours
when the road before us is shrouded in darkness,
is that of our master on the cross
“In manus tuas commendo spiritum meum.”
[Into your hands I commend my spirit.]
To the hands that broke and gave life to the bread,
that blessed and caressed, that were pierced; . . .
to the kindly and mighty hands that reach down
to the very marrow of the soul—that mould and create—
to the hands through which so great a love is transmitted—
it is to these that it is good to surrender our soul,
and above all when we suffer or are afraid.
And in so doing there is a great happiness and a great merit.
—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ
Excerpt from The Inner Chapel: Embracing the Promises of God by Becky Eldredge (Loyola Press, available April 13, 2020)