Everyday Ignatian is a monthly series by Shannon K. Evans, a writer and mother of five living in Iowa who is chronicling moments of grace in the midst of her chaotic daily life through the lens of Ignatian spirituality.
By Shannon K. Evans
June 29, 2020 — Today I’d like to introduce you to Alexandria Glaudé, a writer, wrestler for Team USA and devoted Catholic. As a Black woman, Alexandria has been profoundly stirred by the current social climate and Black Lives Matter movement, and yet could not find any devotional-style words that spoke to her as a Christian about it. As a response, she wrote a 7-part devotional series on her blog called We Will Breathe Again, and I’ve asked her to share a bit about it and her perspective as a Black Catholic with us here. Welcome, Alexandria!
Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Alexandria Glaudé and I am a recent college graduate from McKendree University where I wrestled and double majored in sociology and communications and minored in ethnic studies. I am currently a wrestler for Team USA and am on a mission to make the Olympic team in 2021 and win a gold medal in Tokyo. I am a biracial woman, both Filipino and Black, who grew up in the Catholic faith.
What motivated you to write the We Will Breathe Again devotionals?
I saw a common theme of deep depression and lost faith within myself and the Black community. I was searching through the internet and various devotional plans and could not find anything that would soothe the pain; nothing was specific enough. I knew that if I was feeling this deep hurt that surely other Black believers were feeling it too. After not finding what I was looking for, I decided to write it myself. I wanted to give my brothers and sisters truth and to remind them that even if the world does not see you as worthy, Jesus does. Even if other believers turn against us, I wanted to shift our gaze directly at what God says about our struggle. I wanted to remind my brothers and sisters that our struggle is not in vain and that we are included in the promise of God.
The devotionals are written in the spirit of St. Ignatius, diving prayerfully into the life of Jesus to illuminate our own spiritual journeys. What are one or two parts of Jesus’ own life experience that you feel speak to you as a Black American?
Jesus was a radical, he was hated, he was ridiculed and persecuted in particular by people who were considered religiously faithful. When he shared with his disciples this would happen to them, I see myself in that. There are some “believers” who quote Scripture as a means to continue to oppress or create a spirit of self-righteousness when that is totally opposite of the example Jesus set for us.
In your experience as a Black Catholic woman, how has the church supported you? How has the church failed you?
I think my relationship with the Holy Spirit and my deeply rooted faith has allowed me to grow into my own. Our smaller parish communities have supported me and loved me. My family was active in ministry which surrounded me with loving, faithful Catholics.
But honestly, the church in America in a broader sense has failed me more than it has supported me. The lack of push for representation has continually made it hard for me to feel welcome in certain places. The inability to condemn racism as a whole and validate the Black and minority experience in America has made me feel unwelcome. The dismissal of Black lives and the further stigmatization of Black people has helped me to understand why people leave our church. The hypocrisy of the pro-life movement is deeply painful. I see them fighting for the lives of the unborn, but I don’t see those same faces fighting for the lives of those suffering now.
What do you wish white people understood about the Black experience?
It is oppressive to tell Black people they will only be accepted if they fit your mold. Racism and discrimination is not a Black people problem, it is a sin problem that everyone should be concerned with. It is not up to Black people to find spaces where we fit in, it is every white person’s responsibility to unlearn racist ideology.
The white experience is assumed to be the norm in our American society, but the white experience is not the same as the Black experience, so that assumption invalidates our humanity and our experiences. When they see Black people pushing for what is right, it does not invalidate their way of life; rather, we just want the freedom to live our lives equally as free.
Ignatian spirituality teaches us to find God in all things. Where are you finding God right now?
My devotional was one place that allowed me to really dig deeper and find God amidst the struggle. I find peace in knowing that God’s light shines brightly in the darkness. There is so much darkness in the world but I know that death was already conquered. Ignatian spirituality teaches being a contemplative in action. The interior life is important but I also find God through taking action, which is why I wrote the devotional; it was my inner experience coming out. I continue to live out the sacraments, spend frequent time in my inner contemplative space and pray for revelation to take the right steps toward change. I find the presence of God in community, family and friends and further, I just try to seek all of the good in the world.
What would you like to see change in the church?
I would love to see more diversity in leadership roles of the church. It is unacceptable to have a demographic of leadership that is not representative of our universal church. It must be a priority of the church to challenge the status quo and make it known that all are not just welcome, but belong.
Shannon K. Evans is the author of “Embracing Weakness: The Unlikely Secret to Changing the World.” Her writing has been featured in America and Saint Anthony Messenger magazines, as well as online at Ruminate, Verily, Huffington Post, Grotto Network and others. Shannon, her husband and their five children make their home in central Iowa.