Grace: I ask for the knowledge of the true life exemplified in Jesus Christ, my Lord and my God, and the grace to live my life in his way.
Reading: Matthew 17:1-8
Reflection: I recently discovered a fascinating nugget of trivia from one of those often forgotten coffee table magazines. It stated that the average man speaks about 13,000 words per day and that the average woman speaks about 20,000 words per day. The article went on to claim that each person hears thousands more words than he or she will speak. I had never thought about that statistic before, so the numbers astounded me.
And then I wondered: how often do I intentionally listen to what others are saying? How often do I listen to what I myself am saying? I imagine the numbers to these questions would dwarf the above-mentioned stats
A master of both the spiritual life and good conversations, St. Ignatius considered the right message from the right person at the right time to be vital to furthering in the spiritual life. Accordingly, he regularly had his retreatants end their period of prayer by entering into an intimate conversation with three people: Mary, Jesus, and God the Father. This spiritual exercise is technically called the “triple colloquy.” The term “colloquy” does not normally make the cut for the daily 13,000 word (or 20,000 word) roster. Even though many people consider the phrase to be spiritual jargon and subsequently sanction it off to retreat offices and spiritual direction meetings, the “triple colloquy” can be a very powerful, down-to-earth method of knowing the workings of God within our times of prayer.
- Placement and Intention. The triple colloquy regularly traditionally takes place after a longer and particularly moving spiritual contemplation. The intention for having three intimate conversations after an emotional period of prayer is, simply put, to help us make better sense of it. Like a buzzer beater in a March Madness Final Four game, the daily effects of a powerful contemplation experience makes little sense until we step back, reflect upon it, and talk it over with other friends. A colloquy, that is, a simple conversation with Jesus, can (and should) take place after each experience of prayer. When presented with an extended period of time to pray (a rare gift), a triple colloquy can serve as an opportunity to develop even more authentically our relationship with Jesus, his Mother, and his Father in Heaven.
- The Steps. After a given period of silent prayer, St. Ignatius suggests that the retreatant first imagine him or herself in the presence of Mary. The encounter should be casual, comfortable, normal. We should share our prior experience of prayer with Mary and listen to her humble and wise remarks. We should allow her to intercede for us to her Son. Then we should go, with Mary, to Jesus. The three of us stand together and again review the prior prayer period. We share our experiences with Jesus and then listen to his response. As with Mary, I place my desired grace before Christ, that He might present it to His Father, our Creator and Lord. Lastly, I go with Mary and Jesus before the presence of God. I share all the wisdom that has come from my reflections with Mary and Jesus. With Jesus and Mary, I present my desire for a particular grace to God. I then place myself at his command, basking in His presence, listening to his merciful words. In thanksgiving, I conclude the triple colloquy with an Our Father or some other similar traditional prayer.
- The Purpose. To know God better so as to more effectively help bring about His Reign. We hear a lot of words, but we listen to very few. Our memories are only so big. I speak from experience when I say that we can forget some of our prayer contemplations, even the very powerful ones. We are less likely to forget an experience of prayer when we take some extra time to savor it, reflect upon it, and to share it with others. What more meaningful people can we intentionally share our experience of prayer with than Mary, Jesus, and the Father? When we converse with these three we not only come to a greater memory recall of our prayer, we also grow in an even greater spiritual understanding of our contemplation as well as a closeness to God’s identity and mission for the world.
While we spend our days rambling on, let us remember that sometimes the smallest combination of words from Our Lord mean the most: “I love you.” “I forgive you.” “Follow me.” “Feed my sheep.”