Q&A: Awakening Love, making a retreat amid daily tasks

Father Gregory Cleveland, author of Awakening Love: An Ignatian Retreat with the Song of Songs, belongs to the community of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary and is the executive director of the Lanteri Center for Ignatian Spirituality. He conducts a ministry of spiritual direction, including training and retreats.

DC: What inspired you to write Awakening Love?

Father Cleveland: I wanted to explore the profound connections between the mysticism of the Song of Songs and the Spiritual Exercises [of St. Ignatius of Loyola]. I’ve been formed in [his] spirituality and his Spiritual Exercises… As I prayed with the Song of Songs, I realized many of the themes parallel the themes of the Spiritual Exercises. The Holy Spirit has certainly inspired me to make the connections between the two books.

DC: What will someone gain from reading this book?

Father Cleveland: Anyone who reads this book will gain a wealth of knowledge about the interior life of prayer. The Spiritual Exercises are a kind of complete manual of the spiritual life that tell us so much about the journey to sanctity. Most importantly, the book helps to dispose the reader to the experience of God in prayer.

DC: How can the lay faithful make a retreat amid their many responsibilities?

Father Cleveland: St. Ignatius, in his brilliance, created a way to adapt the retreat experience. Instead of going away for a set period of days, he said that someone could make a retreat in daily life over a period of weeks… That requires a strong commitment on the part of retreatant to pray for a solid hour each day and meet with a spiritual director on a regular basis.

DC: Can Ignatian Spirituality be incorporated into a layperson’s life?

Father Cleveland: [Many believe] Ignatian Spirituality is more fitting for priests and religious. Actually, [it’s] tailor-made for the active individual with its goal of finding God in all things, whether in prayer, apostolic activity, or our daily routines… We withdraw from the world for a retreat, or period of prayer in our home, to concentrate entirely on Christ. We return to the world renewed in the Spirit to serve Christ in our work, play, study, family life and socializing with others.

COMING UP: Q&A: USCCB clarifies intent behind bishops’ Eucharist document

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Last week, the U.S. bishop concluded their annual Spring meeting, during which much about the Church in the U.S was discussed. In particular, the bishops voted to draft a document on the meaning of Eucharistic life in the Church, which was approved by an overwhelming majority.

Since then, speculation about the nature of the document has run rampant, the chief of which is that it was drafted specifically to instigate a policy aimed directly at Catholic politicians and public figures whose outward political expressions and policy enactment do not align with Church teaching.

The USCCB has issued a brief Q&A clarifying the intent of the document, and they have emphasized that “the question of whether or not to deny any individual or groups Holy Communion was not on the ballot.”

“The Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life,” the USCCB said. “The importance of nurturing an ever
deeper understanding of the beauty and mystery of the Eucharist in our lives is not a new topic for the bishops. The document being drafted is not meant to be disciplinary in nature, nor is it targeted at any one individual or class of persons. It will include a section on the Church’s teaching on the responsibility of every Catholic, including bishops, to live in accordance with the truth, goodness and beauty of the Eucharist we celebrate.”

Below are a few commonly asked questions about last week’s meeting and the document on the Eucharist.

Why are the bishops doing this now?

For some time now, a major concern of the bishops has been the declining belief and understanding of the Eucharist among the Catholic faithful. This was a deep enough concern that the theme of the bishops’ strategic plan for 2021-2024 is Created Anew by the Body and Blood of Christ: Source of Our Healing and Hope. This important document on the Eucharist will serve as a foundation for the multi-year Eucharistic Revival Project, a major national effort to reignite Eucharistic faith in our country. It was clear from the intensity and passion expressed in the individual interventions made by the bishops during last week’s meeting that each bishop deeply loves the Eucharist.

Did the bishops vote to ban politicians from receiving Holy Communion?

No, this was not up for vote or debate. The bishops made no decision about barring anyone from receiving Holy Communion. Each Catholic — regardless of whether they hold public office or not — is called to continual conversion, and the U.S. bishops have repeatedly emphasized the obligation of all Catholics to support human life and dignity and other fundamental principles of Catholic moral and social teaching.

Are the bishops going to issue a national policy on withholding Communion from politicians?

No. There will be no national policy on withholding Communion from politicians. The intent is to present a clear understanding of the Church’s teachings to bring heightened awareness among the faithful of how the Eucharist can transform our lives and bring us closer to our creator and the life he wants for us.

Did the Vatican tell the bishops not to move forward on drafting the document?

No. The Holy See did encourage the bishops to engage in dialogue and broad consultation. Last week’s meeting was the first part of that process. It is important to note that collaboration and consultation among the bishops will be key in the drafting of this document.


Featured photo by Eric Mok on Unsplash