Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Monday, September 20, 2010


Creighton University's online 34 week retreat for Everyday Life, a version of the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola, started yesterday (for those who want to be in sync with the liturgical year).

Ten years ago I made the retreat. I still remember how I felt going into it - doubtful and hopeful, excited and scared. I'd thought the hardest part of the retreat would be believing in God's existence, but instead it was realizing that even with God existing and with a relationship between us, I still hadn't been transformed into a better person, and my questions about the problem of evil still hadn't been answered.

I still believe, and I'm still trying to figure out how to be good, and why God allows suffering. I've learned more about the church in these ten years, much of it discouraging, but what's kept me from giving up has been what I learned in the retreat - that prayer can be a relationship, that the discernment of spirits can help you figure stuff out if you're willing to trust that you're made for flourishing.

I think I mentioned this in a past post, but you can watch a Georgetown U video about the Spiritual Exercises featuring four Jesuits (William Barry, John O'Malley, Joseph Tetlow, and John Padberg) discussing the retreat.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Crystal, the question is not doesGod 'exist' BUT who is he. Does he occupy space?;is he a person as we use that term; does he have a brain ;etc

It's kind of like asking do 'booblang'exist. What is a booblang?

Theist play a game. They love to say God exists and then just skip "What(Who) is God?" If you don't know what something is, how do you know it exists? BTW is God male , female, neither? Robert

8:39 AM  
Blogger crystal said...


I should say, 'does a supernatural and non-corporeal being, all good, all powerful, all knowing, exist?'

There's no way to prove or disprove such existence. I think people decide to believe God exists or that he doesn't and notice 'evidence' that supports their belief.

12:56 PM  
Blogger victor said...

>>I've learned more about the church in these ten years, much of it discouraging, but what's kept me from giving up has been what I learned in the retreat - that prayer can be a relationship, that the discernment of spirits can help you figure stuff out if you're willing to trust that you're made for flourishing.<<

Some good words to live by so don't you ever give UP on Jesus crystal and for what "IT" is worth, I'll keep praying for ya!


4:34 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Thanks, Victor.

5:18 PM  
Blogger Cura Animarum said...

I think people decide to believe God exists or that he doesn't and notice 'evidence' that supports their belief.

Hmmm...I don't know about that. Maybe the more common experience. For myself it was largely the opposite. I had determined through my own all powerful reason that there could be no God and that religion was a lie at worst or quaint self-delusion at best and quite suddenly realized I had been wrong all along. Only then did I start to see the things and relationships that indicate the Truth of God's existence finding myself duly humbled that I had missed what had been in front of my face the whole time.

But then God seems to have a unique language for each of us so it's probably true that one person's experience of God is unlike any other's.

Are you doing the retreat again this year? I'm always curious about it when I see you referencing it and especially now having dome the Annotations but I never seem to have the time/make the time to look into them.

12:41 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Cura,

So you had some kind of experience that changed your mind about God existing?

I was doubtful and afraid in a way, but I think I always wished God did exist, even if I thought the idea was too good to be true. Once I decided to let down my guard enough to try the retreat, I had an experience that seemed to show God did exist.

I always mention it when the retreat comes around in case others might not know about it, so they can give it a try. I'd sort of like to try it again but I think I'm afraid it might not touch me the way it did before. Are you thinking of trying it? The one you made was different?

1:27 PM  
Blogger Cura Animarum said...

I don't know if I could put my finger on an actual 'experience' I had that changed how I felt about there being a God or not. I know I used the word 'suddenly' mostly because, in the course of my lifetime it seemed as though there was a fairly rapid and complete shift from one way of thinking about God to another. From unbelief to belief.

It may be in the experiential way in which I learn. I don't tend to take things at face value but hold them up to what I have experienced and see how the two measure up.

I think at some point I began to really listen to this things people were saying about God, to look at what scripture was really saying and realize that yes, I could actually see God's activity in my own life. Not as an obscure concept but a personal God who had been and was continually an active participant in my life.

As for the retreat, I don't know if it's different or not. I'm curious about it and, if it is based on the 19th Annotation version of the Spiritual Exercises, how that translates to an on-line form. I guess my question is the same as yours but from the other side, 'is it the same?'

I guess I really should find some time to take a look at it then I'd actually know. ;o)

2:11 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

It is based on the 19th Annotation version - it gives about one week to what would be one day in the 30 day retreat. I had the Spiritual Exercises in book form so I was able to see how the retreat handled each week compared to how Ignatius had set it up ... pretty close, with some more modern viewpoints at times. It has readings and prayers and some helpful advice for each week andf also there's a place where people can share their feelings about each week online. I think now they even have book you can use too, though it's not necessary.

It was that retreat that encouraged me to do what you did - see that actually God seemed to have been making appearances in my life since I was a kid.

2:36 PM  
Blogger Cura Animarum said...

It's such an interesting revelation isn't it? Like scales falling from the eyes. For me it seemed like one moment I was my old, scoffing self and then next I could 'see' all these moments and places and encounters with A God who, all the while I was ignorant or actively avoiding or scoffing and denying, had been patiently loving me.

Now, whenever I have concerns that maybe God isn't who I thought He was, I hold them up to that revelation and those experiences to see how they match up. The God I encountered in that revelation (and in all subsequent ones) has been perfectly consistent in His love, devotion and faithfulness, and continues to be. For me, anything else that creeps in, other images, ideas or fears seem like pale lies in comparison, tricks some dark spirit within or without uses to try to cloud the Truth that I have been, am, and always will be loved by God.

2:46 PM  
Blogger victor said...

If "IT" doesn't kill you, "IT" will make you stronger is so true.

I've written about "IT" before and I guess that for some reason, "IT" burnts for me to say a little more about "IT" now. :)

I think "IT" was during 1991 I had planned to take my life cause I had given UP searching for God in the real world. I'll try to make a long story short.

Since the mid to late 60's I was searching for God in my own quiet and eccentric way but after having been committed to a mental hospital for the fourth time by alien so called gods who I now know are nothing but past sins who really believe that they are truly "IT" and can't help themselves but think that they really do own this world.

Anyway, I must thank some of my imaginary spiritual friends cause they quietly called me a chicken and challenged me to go one more week and to really give MY GOD another chance. To make another long story short, on the third day the seemingly endless pain that I felt left me and all I did was go to church and with a sincere heart received The Body and Blood of Christ and I was my whole self again.

As you of all people crystal should know that I, sinner vic could go on and on, on fire but what good would "IT" really do cause "IT" is all UP to U>S.

The Evil Trinity is right when they say that God treats all His Children equally and this scared his followers.

Some may not agree with sinner vic but since Jesus The Christ was born we now have a Trinity Family known as Mother, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Go Figure!

I'll close by saying round and round we go in prayer and where we stop, God ONLY knows for sure.

God Bless,


6:29 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

The comments here center around experience. Question: Hundreds of people everyday see Jesus/Mary in their patio doors, their pancakes, their eggs etc. Which is more likely:

What is the difference between the "pancake" group; etc and the people here who "have" had experiences with God?

9:19 AM  
Blogger victor said...

>>What is the difference between the "pancake" group; etc and the people here who "have" had experiences with God?<<

Personally speaking Mark, to experience God in an object is one experience but then for whatever reason to experience God in him or herself I believe is a different story altogether but then again as God's Children we have so many stories that only our heart of heart could fully understand.

I hear ya! Really Victor? :)


1:09 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Victor, we all love you, but your second paragraph doesn't mean anything. Just words.

1:14 PM  
Blogger Cura Animarum said...

It seems to me that the pancake experience (which I have never had...nor ever expect to) is based primarily upon the perception of an image within a random conglomeration of shapes akin to inkblots...a shape or object may remind me of this thing or that, this person or that person, this experience or that...but is not itself the memory which it is pointing to. As a statue indicates a person but is not the person in and of itself.

My own experience of God is based both upon an intimate, personal relationship with God as well as that same relational experience with God as encountered in the other very real persons in my life.

I don't think I could ever really have the same kind of relationship with a pancake (which I find just kind of ok) or even a grilled cheese sandwhich (which I LOVE!) ;o)

1:33 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Grilled cheese sandwich ... mmmmm :)

2:38 PM  
Blogger victor said...

>>Victor, we all love you, but your second paragraph doesn't mean anything. Just words.<<

But Mike! Words are all we have here! Right? :)


3:22 PM  
Blogger victor said...

I'm sorry Mark. An honest mistake!

I hear ya! sinner vic needs to learn how to use his words.

I agree!


4:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But Cura, your experidnces are just in your brain. But my sister-in law actually sa the Virgin in her patio door. And skads of people will testify Padre Pio can be in Moscow and Dennison, Texas at the same time.

Why are your experiences more real than the lady in Dennison,Tx.:() Mark

5:07 PM  
Blogger Cura Animarum said...

You see to presume no substantial difference between a relationship with a person and an individual's observation of an object or shape. I simply disagree and would suggest that, if that fact were indeed true, relationships between persons would be fundamentally impossible and human society, even your own family would never have come into existence.

Still, I'm not about to tell anyone they can't develop as rewarding a relationship as they are able with all the pancakes and patio doors they like. Have fun with that. :o)

9:21 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Cura, please would you 'define' that "person" you say we have with others. Let me be 'crude.'

How can you have a relationship with something non physical?

Does God Occupy space?

Does God have body parts?

If so, does he have male or female parts?

Does God 'think' in the sense we do?

You use the word "person" in describing God. How do you describe "person"?

To repeat: Isn't it morelikely God, Jesus, Mary would appear in a patio door, testified to by 100 individuals, than you would have a "feeling" that you have a "personal" relationship with a non-physical "something" you call God?

Cura,thanks for applying your subtle mind to my questions.

Millions of people claim to have "talked" to God===all the way from politians (Bush,the idiot lady running against Reid in Navada. Does God change his mind since past, present, and future are one to God--"omnipitence."

Do you believe Padre Pio can be two places at once(could?)If you answer "no." Why? :()

11:50 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

Crystal, I noticed you did not 'carry'my last post. If you feel I am out of bounds then let me know.

8:40 AM  
Blogger crystal said...


It seemed like you were making fun of Greeley's injury, which seemed in poor taste.

12:27 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Crystal, who is Greeley? I would never, repeat NEVER, make fun of any persons injury. If Greeley is an animal then double it. Because an animal can not rationalize, I cannot stand any cruelty to animals. My whole family is the city's animal aid society.:() Mark

12:45 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Oh, maybe I don't know what you're referring to? I thought you meant the comment I deleted to my post "Two Books".

2:48 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Crystal, must have been a mix-up. My wife and myself are Greeley fans.

3:10 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Ok - sorry.

7:01 PM  

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