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By Therese Fink Meyerhoff

A few months ago, I received an invitation to visit St. Ignatius Hall, the new community in St. Louis for senior Jesuits and those Jesuits who require nursing care. The men wanted to learn more about Jesuit Prayer, a spirituality platform offering each day’s readings, a reflection and a prayer. The Jesuits were a wonderful audience and responded graciously to my invitation to write for Jesuit Prayer. Not only did great reflections ensue, but so did some beautiful stories of generosity, service and fraternal care.

A little about Jesuit Prayer: It is available online at www.JesuitPrayer.org, as an app you can download to your phone or tablet, or as a daily email. The reflections are brief and inspiring in their relatability. Authors are asked to write for a six-week cycle, meaning they write a reflection for a particular day of the week for six weeks. More than 500 Jesuits and collaborators have written for the site since it began in 2012.

Following my presentation at St. Ignatius Hall, several Jesuits volunteered to write for Jesuit Prayer, including Fathers Jerome Neyrey, Robert O’Toole, Joseph Tetlow, Richard Vogt and Stephen Yavorsky. These wise and holy men have been sharing the consolation of Ignatian Spirituality throughout their lives and were eager to continue this ministry in a new way.

Fathers Robert Hagan, SJ, and Richard Hadel, SJ, team up to share Ignatian Spirituality through Jesuit Prayer.

Many of the Jesuits at St. Ignatius Hall find ways to serve in addition to their “official” assignments to pray for the Church and the Society. Many say Mass or hear confessions at local parishes. Some continue to write for publication. Others continue a lifelong ministry of spiritual accompaniment, either in person or from afar using computer technology.

Father Richard Hadel, SJ, is one of the St. Ignatius Hall Jesuits who gives spiritual direction and hears confessions. He also wanted to contribute to Jesuit Prayer. A poet and experienced spiritual writer and preacher, he has beautiful words to share. However, he has vision challenges caused by macular degeneration that prevent him from using a computer, and he thought perhaps he would not be able to participate in this ministry.

Enter Fr. Robert Hagan, SJ, a longtime friend of Fr. Hadel, who gives spiritual direction and directs online 31-week retreats in daily life. He also helps with the pastoral care of the Catholics who live in the adjacent retirement community and drives his brother Jesuits where they need to be, like doctor appointments.

“Fathers Dick Hadel and Bob Hagan wrote reflections that, in 150 words, gave Jesuit Prayer readers a glimpse into what it would be like to hear these men preach a homily or offer spiritual direction.” – Lauren Gaffey

“We’re friends, and our friendship has grown since we’ve lived here (at St. Ignatius Hall),” Fr. Hagan said of Fr. Hadel. “I was aware that Dick really wanted to contribute to Jesuit Prayer, but that he might have a little trouble on the production end. So, I volunteered to have him dictate it to me, and I type it up.”

“I was very pleased and grateful,” Fr. Hadel said. “He’s made it pretty easy for me.”

“We’ve enjoyed it,” insisted Fr. Hagan.

Fathers Hadel and Hagan agreed to let me sit in on one of their dictation sessions. During the meeting, they discussed the scripture for the day, then Fr. Hadel dictated his reflection to Fr. Hagan, using a hand- held magnifying glass to read what he had previously prepared. The two respectfully and learnedly conferred on some phrasing in the reflection. Once it was dictated, Fr. Hagan read it back to confirm the accuracy. He asked, “Is that good?” To which Fr. Hadel replied, “I don’t know if it’s any good, but that’s what I wrote!”

Jesuits who write for Jesuit Prayer are most often assigned the Sundays or Tuesdays of the cycle, but Frs. Hadel and Hagan took on the final six Saturdays of 2023. Each wrote three charming and thought-provoking reflections based in their own histories and their own personal relationships with God.

Father Hadel dictates his reflection while Fr. Hagan transcribes.

“Fathers Dick Hadel and Bob Hagan wrote reflections that, in 150 words, gave Jesuit Prayer readers a glimpse into what it would be like to hear these men preach a homily or offer spiritual direction,” said Lauren Gaffey, Jesuit Prayer editor and senior associate director of communications for the Jesuits USA Midwest Province.

“Primarily encompassing Advent and Christmas Scriptures, they wrote about ways that each of us can prepare our hearts and our lives to celebrate the coming of Jesus into our world,” she said. “Fr. Hagan shared bits of his life and connected the shared experiences many of us have with the people we encounter in the Gospel. Fr. Hadel brings the scenes to life, providing context to the Scriptures to help in our understanding. In one piece, Fr. Hadel wrote ‘I’d love to see [Jesus’] smile, to see him smiling at me and with me’ – a mental image that couldn’t help but bring a smile to my face as well.”

Both priests enjoyed the process – as do most Jesuit Prayer authors. Even before the two partners had completed their first set of six reflections, they volunteered to write more.

“You will probably develop a following,” Fr. Hagan teased his friend.

 

 

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