For many years, I have wanted to know more about – and to live more – of a life inspired by the spirituality and the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola. There are no shortage of books on the topic of the the Spiritual Exercises and Ignatian Spirituality! In fact, many such books occupy space on my bookshelves. Some of the books that I have read are real gems, some of them are not, some of them are beyond me, but I have encountered a new book that has captivated my spirit in a very different way. Beyond captivating my spirit, in a short period of time, this book has helped me in innumerable ways.
Margaret “Mags” Blackie and I first met via social media. She lives in South Africa and we encountered one another on Facebook. Then I began to read her blog, Mags Blackie. When I heard that she had a book coming out, and that I might be an advance reader, I was very enthused – and my instincts were on.
Rooted in Love: Integrating Ignatian Spirituality Into Daily Life, by Margaret Blackie is a real gift. As an advance reader, I got to contribute these words to the publisher:
One of the greatest challenges of reading this soon-to-be-published book by Margaret Blackie is that I can’t yet give this volume to everyone I know. In a world with no shortage of Ignatian titles, Rooted in Love forges through brilliant new territory with profound grace.
This book is at once practical and deeply spiritual. Using quotes from poet Mary Oliver, citing all manner of written works, and prompts that ask one to look inward and outward, Blackie has given us a gift of a book. I would recommend Rooted in Love to anyone with an interest exploring Ignatian spirituality, and I would recommend it as well to those already deeply living the Spiritual Exercises.
Clear, thoughtful, practical, and wise. Rooted in Love is destined to be the “go-to” book for many on the spiritual path – and for good reason.
As you can see, I have high praise fort this book. As someone long attracted to Ignatian prayer and spirituality, but as someone who often stumbled along the way, this book – well, Margaret’s wise interpretation of the spiritual way of Ignatius – has been an enriching and inspiring companion for my journey.
Speaking of journeys, Margaret’s path has not been entirely traditional. She studied chemistry, went in another direction by delving into Ignatian spiritual direction. Ultimately her life combines the many paths, integrating all these things.
Gratefully, she agreed to answer a few questions about her life, her studies, and Rooted in Love.
Margaret, you are an academic chemist – a lecturer at a university and an Ignatian Spiritual Director. Can you give us a few words about how these seemingly disparate paths merged?
This certainly wasn’t a big plan I had. While I was doing my PhD I made the Spiritual Exercises. That shifted relationship with God to being central in my life and my intention was to move full time into spirituality at the end of my PhD. I did that for four years and found it tremendously rewarding, but I missed the ‘scientist’ part of myself. In the end I found myself drawn to the idea of returning to academia. I was incredibly blessed in that a door opened which allowed me to follow that path. For a while I played the role of ‘chemistry postdoc’ but again I found that I missed the ‘spiritual director’ part, so I’ve had to find a way to hold both together. I am sure some might think that I could be more productive in either field if I simply focused on one. Maybe I could, but I know I would be far less of a human being that way. Somehow, although it is not easy at times, I really do feel called at this stage to hold them together. Even if that ‘holding together’ is simply the living in my life which takes me into these two spaces.
Following and living the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola can seem a daunting task if one has no experience or exposure to them. What might you recommend to someone who is interested, but unclear about how to proceed.
I’d like to make a distinction between making the Spiritual Exercises and learning some aspects of Ignatian spirituality. I think anyone can pick up some of the tools of Ignatian spirituality through reading a book like Rooted in Love and use them to good effect. One of the central elements in Ignatian spirituality is discernment. You can access that most easily through daily reflection and the practice of the examen. If you want to take it a bit further I would suggest getting a Ignatian spiritual director. The perspective of a director can be invaluable in helping you to see the patterns which are so familiar you hardly notice them.Finally, if you find the dynamic attractive and life-giving then I would strongly recommend making the full Exercises. You can do that either by going on a 30 day retreat, or by making a ‘retreat in daily life’ – either way an experienced director is a very important part of the process. I think Ignatian spirituality is best transmitted through an apprenticeship rather than through a DIY process.
Now that Rooted in Love, clearly a labor of love, is published, what do you hope to achieve through its publication?
I fell into Ignatian spirituality almost by accident in my early twenties. I was in the right place at the right time and simply had to say yes to what was offered. I have found it so utterly transformative in terms of my relationship with God, my understanding of myself, and the way I interact with people. My real desire is to share something of what I have been given with people who may be thirsting for something more.
Mags, thank you for your time, your insightful answers, and your work in the world!
(You may follow Mag’s work at her blog, which you can subscribe to at the link.)
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