I don’t know how many of you have had the opportunity to watch the movie, “The Dark Knight”, featuring Christian Bale and Heath Ledger, but it is a film with some amazing acting talent. Heath Ledger’s portrayal of “The Joker” is second to none, with people acknowledging that he gave life to the character in a remarkable way. In acting terms, he embodied “the method”, a technique of acting in which an actor aspires to complete emotional identification with a part. This method brings about a vibrancy to the character that people can see.
As we enter into Palm Sunday and Holy Week, as we look forward to the Resurrection, let us embrace some of the style of “method acting” and allow ourselves to enter fully into the story. Let’s be honest, Hollywood wasn’t the first place where this method took root. I’m not sure what the first example was, but St. Ignatius of Loyola gave us an example of it in the method of prayer he developed.
He suggests three elements to prayer (as found on www.ignatianspirituality.com/25924/three-ways-to-pray-ignatian).
1. Put yourself in a Gospel story.
Just choose which character you’re going to be, and walk right into the scene where Jesus heals someone, delivers a teaching, or feeds thousands. You can be a main character in the story, or you can be a bystander or friend that you simply invent for this prayer. Don’t get distracted by trying to be historically accurate—this is not about you interpreting Scripture in a scholarly way. The point is to encounter Jesus. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide this very spiritual function, the human imagination, to where you need to go.
2. Pray as though you are having a conversation across the dinner table or in your living room.
In the Spiritual Exercises, this is called a colloquy, but it’s just conversational prayer. You speak to Jesus as you would a close friend. You speak to Mary, his mother, or to God the Father/Creator, or to the Holy Spirit who is comforter, or to one of the saints, who can be part of this conversation with the Divine. Sometimes, when we pray the way we talk, it can enable us to be more honest. Probably the only danger is that we become flippant or casual, but this isn’t much of a temptation when we remember who it is we’re talking to.
3. Do the Examen.
At the end of the day, ask the Holy Spirit to guide your memory over the day’s events and conversations. Give thanks for the blessings of the day. Ask God’s forgiveness if you have wandered from Jesus’ path of truth, compassion, and kindness. Ask God’s help with any negative patterns you see in your life, or for strength and wisdom to deal with upcoming events or issues. You can do this prayer once a day, twice a day, three times a day; the important thing is to develop a pattern that’s best for you.
As we conclude our Lenten Journey, let us enter fully into the mystery of Christ’s Passion, seeing in it our own redemption. Let us pray for the grace to have the experience of actually being there, present; knowing that our Lord is working in us and for us the greatest of all wonders- human redemption.
Fr. Adam Westphal