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The One Prayer I Just Can’t Seem to Pray

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The Suscipe of St. Ignatius of Loyola is not for the faint of heart

A few nights ago, while waiting outside my daughters’ gymnastics class, I was reading through Dawn Eden’s new book, Remembering God’s Mercy: Redeem the Past and Free Yourself from Painful Memories when I noticed she uses St. Ignatius’ “Suscipe” prayer as headings for her chapters. If there’s one prayer I’ve never been able to pray with sincerity, it’s that one. Have you? If so, you’re far holier than I am. The Suscipe is a profound prayer, moving, but whenever I’ve attempted it, or tried to sing the well-known hymn with the words of that prayer, here’s what happens in my head:

Take, Lord, receive all my liberty,

All of it, Lord? How about just a little? I mean, it’s my liberty, which sort of means my freedom, and frankly, I don’t think I can give you all of that, at least not right now. What does that even mean, by the way? Sorry, too scary. Maybe when I’m really old? But moving on …

my memory, my understanding,

Okay, you can take the painful memories, that’s great, and I’m happy to share all the good ones with you — you already know those too. But my actual memory? That does not sound good. Sounds like I’ll be left with dementia. Am I supposed to be asking you to inhabit my memory here, to infuse it with your grace? Well, why didn’t St. Ignatius just say that? I don’t want you to take my actual memory; it’s already not that good. As for “my understanding,” please no. I really like to understand; I need to understand. I do not understand what this is even supposed to mean. Hey, maybe you’ve already taken this from me?

and my entire will,

Yikes. This prayer is not going well. I should probably stop here.

All I have and call my own

You have given all to me.

To you, Lord, I return it.

Well, I think I can return some of what you’ve given me — maybe. Like some of the stuff. I know everything has come from you, and I am truly grateful, I am, but why would you even want me to return everything? What was St. Ignatius thinking?

Everything is yours;

do with it what you will.

Yes, I acknowledge everything is ultimately yours, and that you really can do whatever you want with it because I’m too small to hang on to it if you really insist, but please don’t do anything terrible. I mean, anything I would consider terrible. Because that would be terrible.

Give me only your love and your grace,

that is enough for me.

I really want this to be true. I do want your love and your grace; I ask for it all the time. But the truth is, I don’t know if it’s quite enough. I know it should be, but I seem to always want more. Sigh. I think I’m depressed now.

***

Somehow, I don’t think this is how St. Ignatius, or any number of other saints, prayed this prayer, but in these words I recognize the kind of surrender I need to work towards. At least I’m in good company: In Remembering God’s Mercy, Eden says that for a long time she resisted “The Jesus Prayer,” which later, at a time of great need, provided her with much grace once she had the courage to pray it. For now, I may just stick with the “Prayer Before the Crucifix at San Damiano” by St. Francis:

Oh, Most High, glorious God,

enlighten the darkness of my heart

and give me true faith,

certain hope and perfect charity…

 

Zoe Romanowsky is lifestyle editor and video content curator for Aleteia.

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