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Monday, February 01, 2010

William A Barry on friendship with God

I've started reading A Friendship Like No Other: Experiencing God's Amazing Embrace by William A Barry SJ. I'd bought it quite a while ago but never started it, I guess because the premise of the book - that God wants to be friends with me - just seemed like serious wishful thinking. Still, I couldn't give up on the idea. Here's a bit of the beginning of Chapter 3, The First Stages of Friendship with God: Attraction and Disturbances, which is where I am now ......


Because I am a Jesuit, I have made the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola many times. I have also directed people through the Exercises. By this I mean that I have followed Ignatius's guidelines for engaging in a relationship with God in an effort to better know God and follow the Spirit's leadings, and I have guided others through this process. The Spiritual Exercises, a classic of Christian spirituality, contains an ordered series of prayer exercises based on Ignatius's experience if being led by God into a deeper relationship with God. It is written as a manual for those who direct others through the Exercises. The progression through the full series of exercises entails, in its ideal form, a thirty-day retreat from ordinary activity, with four distinct stages of prayer and contemplation. Adaptations can easily be made, however, for individuals and groups who want to experience the Exercises in a shorter period of time.

After years of making and directing the Exercises and reflecting on the idea of friendship with God, I believe that I have discerned a developmental pattern that appears in both the Exercises and the experience of friendship as sketched in the first chapter of this book. In this chapter and the next, I want to develop with you and ask you to consider whether you have experienced anything like it in your own relationship with God. Through the exercises I offer here, I hope you will come to know God's desire for your friendship, if you haven't already, and enter into a deeper relationship with God. But first I want to address those of you who find it hard to believe in a caring and loving God.

Poor and abusive parenting leaves some people with an image of father or mother as someone to be feared; this image is easily transferred to God. Others have an image of a terrifying and threatening God because of teaching imbibed in childhood. For some such reason, Pierre Favre (Blessed Peter Faber), one of the first Jesuits, had a terrible image of God when, in 1529, he began rooming with Ignatius while both were studying theology at the University of Paris. For four years, Ignatius patiently worked with Pierre to get him ready to make the Spiritual Exercises. I presume that Ignatius was helping him trust in experiences of a caring and loving God whose plans are for our good, not a test that finds us wanting. Eventually, through what we might call pastoral counseling or spiritual direction, Pierre was ready to begin the Spiritual Exercises. He had the foundation of an experience-based trust in God's desire for his friendship that enabled him to fully engage with God ......



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