Gavin T. Murphy keeps a weekly blog on ilovebipolar.com and he looks to Ignatian Spirituality for strength and inspiration.
The spiritual path is one of many twists and turns. Much of our journeys involve going through unknown territory and we learn to be okay with this. One characteristic that defines spiritual maturity is gratitude for the many gifts that we have been given in our ordinary realities and relationships. And this brings us to an important concept.
“Thankful in all things” – 1 Thessalonians 5:18
To be thankful in all things, we really must begin with the basics – thankful for a tea and chat with a friend, for a unique sunset, and for a gentle breeze. I am thankful for my faith, interest in psychology and spirituality, my girlfriend, accommodation, and career. But I am well aware that I am far from being thankful in all things. In my low mood, for example, I find it hard to be thankful for anything in my life. It all just seems too much and there is a pull towards an overly-internalised world which stretches away from reality. I need to look elsewhere for inspiration.
To burst out in praise
I learned this week that St. Francis of Assisi, the great lover of the natural world, was almost blind and in a lot of pain when he burst out in praise for all that had been given to him. “All praise be Yours,” he acclaimed. In gratitude, he created the beloved prayer Canticle of Brother Sun, which refers to the sun, wind, air, and fire as his brothers, and to the moon, stars, water, earth, and death as his sisters. I often sing in the shower but how I would love to be able to burst out in praise like my brother Francis.
A few things surfaced as I reflected on his prayer during morning meditation. First, I felt consolation as Francis refers to the inevitable sister death: “Blessed are they She finds doing Your Will”. How wonderful it must be when you consistently do his will so that any worry about passing fades away; doing the same in public as in private; confident in following the right path when called to the kingdom. Second, I resonated with the “playful” brother fire, and imagined his dance as well as his movement inside me. Third, I experienced all my brothers and sisters of nature coming together in colourful harmony – complementing each other, maximising each other’s potentials, and seeking unity and order.
I attended a family wedding in Galway over the weekend and I listened attentively to a reflection during mass. Regarding husband and wife, it stated: “And so my wish to you both is that when you wake each day, you will turn to each other with the same look you share today” (JM Casey). I pondered that this look is one of deep gratitude for finding someone compatible to share a life with. It gives me inspiration: this consistent look may be the result of staying with each other through the good times and the bad times; it must take compromise, sacrifice, and above all else a willingness to share “what one has and what one is with those one loves” (St. Ignatius Loyola). There were many grateful moments between the married couple such as when they kissed, danced, and smiled. During the speeches, the groom turned to his new sister-in-law and said: “I now have the sister I never had”. It was quite warm and touching.
At the same time, I just about survived the wedding: I showed my face, greeted people, sat next to family, and went home. I used my intuition quite a bit as to when to stay and leave social situations – there was no point forcing myself to be with others if it meant being quiet and awkward. As I travelled back to Dublin on the train, I felt out of place, vulnerable, and tormented by temptations. When I arrived at Heuston train station, I prayerfully gave thanks for my perseverance, respect for myself and others, and for nourishing my spirit, body, heart, and soul. I stumbled in my own ways afterwards but I am striving to live in a dignified space with a great desire to burst out in praise.