By Grace Salceanu
This reflection, along with other Ignatian prayers, poems, reflections and art, first appeared in our free e-book, “Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places: Through the Year with Ignatian Spirituality.” Sign up to receive it at jesuits.org/ebook.
Earlier this year, I observed my daughter, Sofia, playing with wooden blocks. Standing a longer block upright, she called it “the mommy.” “Work, work, work, work …” she said as she animated the block, busily bobbing it up and down and side to side. The “mommy” block called out to “the child” block: “Mommy loves you plenty! She always comes back!” as it rushed to the far corner of the couch to get to business. When the mommy block finished, my daughter laid it flat immediately. “Sleeeep!” she pronounced.
I was aghast. After a pause, I slowly asked her, “Is this how it looks to be a mommy?” She nodded, proud that her message had come across. “Do you want to become a mommy when you grow up?” I asked tentatively.
“No!” she asserted. “I want to stay a kid!”
This was one of the more painful moments I have had as a parent. It came within the current pandemic, amid the many crises that erupted into fuller form, and I was spent. Stretched by all the loss, I hid in the compulsion and importance of work, perhaps as a shield, or at least a buffer, from reality. Sofia had shared the gift of honesty, and within her bluntness, God nudged me. At that moment, I could feel the uncomfortable ways I cling to the false security of productivity. I saw, with tenderness and sorrow, my daughter, who will only be four years old once. I contemplated Pia, as we call her, in her moss green T. rex sweatpants with the hole at the knee, who fiercely believes that a few of those clever dinosaurs must have survived. I don’t know why it takes hard moments to move us.
I would rather write about beauty. The way a friend and I hiked in Point Reyes through a landscape wild with ferns and verdant green shoots bursting out of charred Redwood logs hollowed from fire. And the giddiness of seeing a doe who gazed at us, how it stirred us to look longer at the quiet ways life emerges from death. I’d prefer to describe how watching a Chloé Zhao film feels like prayer and a call to behold each other. Or relish the details of an afternoon eating pork bánh mì with an 89-year-old friend, discussing everything from the Eucharist, to cats, to the way her love developed for her husband in New York.
Truly, God speaks to each of us through beauty, which we all desperately need now more than ever. But this is the year that we celebrate St. Ignatius, back when he was Iñigo, and a cannonball frustrated his plans and changed him. Ignatius confronted losing what he valued the most as Christ redirected his life. I don’t want to miss the call of difficult moments, the truths I would rather avoid, the way God insists on waking me, again and again, to turn to the Spirit with my life.
When I was an undergraduate at Fordham University, a part of me interpreted “Finding God in All Things” simply as a slogan celebrating our Jesuit education. Now, this way of being has deepened into a practice to save my life. Thankfully, God works with us and through all things to urge us into greater freedom. God desires to connect with us through awesome moments like the burning bush, yearns to speak our belovedness like at Jesus’ baptism. In small ways, I have these experiences too. But I have also learned that when my daughter imagines me as a workaholic wooden block, it’s time to pay attention.
Grace Salceanu lives with her family in San Francisco where she is learning to direct the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.