“What you dare not hope for that is what God gives you” ~ Br. Roger
(Guest Blog Contributor: Maureen DeBellis)
It was during the last semester of my spiritual director training at seminary, that I was introduced to The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. During the 15th century, St. Ignatius designed these exercises as a ‘school of prayer’. Their intent is to bring us into deeper union with God by developing our ability to find God in all things. “So be it” I thought at the time. While deciding what to write about this month, I came across that final Ignatian paper - the above quote served as its title. As I read its words again, my whole being paused:
“What you dare not hope for that is what God gives you”
A smile of knowing spread across my face. It’s been almost 5 years since I graduated from seminary. At that time, my head was filled with dreams and plans for my new life as a spiritual director. What I had failed to realize was that the next phase of healing work that was pushing up from just below the surface would be the catalyst into ‘what I dared not hope for’ but was being given.
Reflecting back on my journey through the lens of the Ignatian Exercises filled my heart with gratitude and awe. Gratitude for the answered prayer; awe for the aliveness and the wisdom that fill the spaces that once housed anxiety and intense trepidation at the thought of taking responsibility for the life that was mine to live.
During the Ignatian exercises, we were invited to ask God for something we could not give ourselves: “love, wholeness, and freedom” were my named desires. There was no real clear understanding of what it meant to receive something I could not actually give to myself. “An amazing love story is being written” I write in my spiritual journal back in 2014, “a call to make love to life itself”. Again, the fullness of that statement was not yet known but its imprint could be felt pressing upon my heart. The only thing I knew for certain was that I was in the midst of a transformational change; one that I’d longed for and consented too.
My time since seminary has proven to be one long movement of 1000 surrendered steps. Thoughts, plans, and community have all shifted. My children are stepping into new lives of their own as they graduate from college. My marriage of 30 years has fallen apart. The decision to divorce took several years of discernment before I had the courage to step into the freedom that was beckoning. I am not recommending divorce but it certainly granted a chance to know Sacred healing in the dark, the gritty, and the grievous dimensions of my heart. While this is not how I thought the imprinted desires of love, wholeness and freedom that arose during the Ignatian Exercises would come about, I would not change one transforming step into the spaciousness of the new life given.
Guest Blog Contributor: Maureen DeBellis
Maureen DeBellis is a spiritual director, a teacher of Heart Rhythm Meditation, and a retreat guide for the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius – 19th Annotation. She has a BA in Marriage and Family Studies from DeSales Univ and a Graduate Level Certificate in Spiritual Direction from Moravian Theological Seminary. She is also a commissioned pastoral minister. Her spirituality, while rooted in the Christian saints and mystics, embraces the wisdom of the world’s contemplative traditions. In addition to her private practice of individual and group spiritual direction, Maureen serves as a contract spiritual director at Moravian Theological Seminary and is a member of Spiritual Director’s International (SDI). She believes spiritual formation is ongoing and multi-faceted. She resides in Bethlehem.