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Praying through tough times

Brendan McManus SJ and Jim Deeds, authors of Finding God in the Mess and Deeper into the Mess, are running a number of one-day retreats throughout the country offering practical approaches to prayer for the messy times. They gave retreats to parish groups in Ballymena, County Antrim, on 29 February 2020, and Buncrana, County Donegal, on 7 March 2020. In this interview with Pat Coyle of Irish Jesuit Communications, Fr McManus talks about Deeper into the Mess: Praying through Tough Times, his latest book with Jim Deeds. This includes a reading from an exercise on anxiety where listeners are invited into God’s peace.

Fr McManus explains that Deeper into the Mess was a follow-on from their best-selling book, Finding God in the Mess, which aimed at giving people hope in difficulty through dealing with general issues. The most recent book addresses even tougher issues such as depression, anxiety and suicide and includes simple rituals with scripture and prayer.

Fr McManus found ritual to be particularly powerful and healing in his own life when, during a Camino pilgrimage in Spain, he burned the football shirt of his brother Donal, who died by suicide. He says, “There’s something in human nature that needs ritual… and to use that as prayer. It’s really powerful because your whole body is engaged in it.”

The authors draw on the spirituality of St Ignatius Loyola, who was known for his practicality, to help people pray through tough times. Fr McManus says, “God is with us most powerfully in these moments of darkness, apparent abandonment”. He believes that if people stay faithful they will come out the other end and maintains that “God’s grace is greater than any darkness”.

Regarding the retreats, they say: “The realities of suffering, sorrow, loss and grief may appear messy and uninviting, but it may be the place in which God is ready to meet and bless us. These one-day retreats offer practical approaches to prayer for the messy times when God seems absent from our lives, or when we feel abandoned and forgotten”.

Brendan McManus SJ and Jim Deeds will be leading another one-day retreat at Manresa Jesuit Centre of Spirituality in Dublin on Saturday, 13 June, 2020. Click here for details ».

Listen to the podcast interview above.