Tony Rossi, Director of Communications
Spiritual director and author Becky Eldredge has a special term for “the sacred space within us where God resides.” She calls it “the inner chapel,” which is also the title of her new book that helps readers find comfort, guidance, and communion with God. When Becky was a junior at Louisiana State University 20-something years ago, she took part in a Busy Person’s Retreat, where she met Sister Ily Fernandez, CSJ. Sister Ily taught her how to pause in her daily life to make time for stillness and prayer. The nun never used the words “inner chapel,” but as Becky nurtured her spiritual life year after year, she started unconsciously using the term herself.
Making time for stillness, Becky learned, is key. During a “Christopher Closeup” interview, she explained, “What [being still] does to our body…is take all those heightened emotions and…adrenaline, and it starts calming it. So it does something to us physically. Then, it’s the gift of…coming into this silence and knowing it’s not an empty silence. In our Christian tradition…it’s making daily time to be with the one who completely loves us unconditionally, who offers us mercy like we can’t even fathom. It’s the Christ, the one we belong to.”
Though many might think their lives are too busy to find moments of stillness, Becky has helped people discover they have more time than they realize. It can be the few minutes where you’re waiting for your kids during baseball practice or taking a walk during your lunch break. “It’s helping people name those times that could be pockets of prayer,” she said, “moments where instead of picking up my phone, I can pause and go to my inner chapel.”
Immersed in Ignatian spirituality growing up, that’s where Becky finds her faith life fit naturally. She said that it gave her an “understanding that God was not far off, that God was intimately involved in my life…A big piece of Ignatian spirituality is noticing the way God works in all kinds of ways. Not only in the building of a church or in the sacraments or in Scripture, but also how God is using the entire world – people, creation, our work – to teach us about something.”
One of the great teaching tools given to us by St. Ignatius of Loyola is the Examen. Becky said, “The Examen is simply a review of our last day. Ask God to show you, number one: what are you thankful for, what are the gifts of your day? Number two: where have you experienced moments of consolation…moments that we felt or experienced one of the fruits of the spirit, [such as] peace, love, joy, kindness, gentleness, generosity? The third thing we look for is where did we feel the opposite, which Ignatius names desolation? Instead of peace, where did we feel anxious? Instead of love, where did we run into some version of hate? Instead of joy, where were we feeling sadness, sorrow? Then, he says, after we looked at those three things with God, how do we live our next day differently? So that type of prayer grows an awareness of God working in all kinds of ways. I understand that when I experienced love when I was with this person, that’s an experience of God.”
This approach to prayer has helped Becky find comfort even in dark times, such as accompanying her grandfather through his battle with terminal brain cancer. I’ll share that story in my next column.
For free copies of the Christopher News Note SEE YOURSELF THE WAY GOD SEES YOU, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org