Ignatius on the Subway

Some people hate subways, but as a twice daily user–two trains into Manhattan from Brooklyn and two back–I have learned not only to accept that hour-plus ride each way, but even to enjoy it. Leaving Brooklyn soon after 5 a.m., I take my first train from the Crown Heights area four stops to Atlantic Avenue, a big connecting station for various trains of other lines that travel up the west side of Manhattan: the Q, the N, the D. The cross over from Atlantic Avenue involves climbing a huge double-tiered stairway (good cardiovascular workout and I don’t trust the elevators), and then sitting on a wooden bench to await the arrival of my preferred train.

The one I like best is none of the above, which travel express, but the R, a local that makes all the stops, bumping gently along its way into Manhattan. Why this preference for a slow train in a city where speed holds sway? Partly because on the R train, I always get a seat, but also because the extended travel time on the local allows me to do some morning meditating and spiritual reading. Currently, the reading is the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola--in Spanish. And because they are in 16th century Spanish, I have to concentrate harder (given my first-year college Spanish), and that in turn makes Ignatius’ thoughts come through more strongly. Arriving at my final stop next to Carnegie Hall, I have only to turn the corner onto West 56th Street and walk one block down to the America House entrance, prepared for another day in the 21st century.

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George Anderson, S.J.

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10 years ago
I wanted to add that anybody who knows and loves Spaniards knows that they cannot distinguish between thinking and doing or doing and thinking. They are brick walls. This is said very affectionately
10 years ago
For those of you who want to get some Ignatian spirituality in the morning, but on your ipod, the Irish Jesuits have 10 minute mp3s consisting of intro music, gospel, brief guidance on gospel, music, gospel reread. When I remember to do it, its a great part of my commute. http://www.pray-as-you-go.org Ignatius' Spanish (while it's not going to win any awards for grammar) has a directness that's very exciting. I had the amazing opportunity to do an 8-day retreat in Spanish (inasmuch as a silent retreat can be said to be in any language...) and it was fascinating to see how different accents and themes were picked up as a result of the language difference.
10 years ago
The person who first taught me my prayers was my Mexican grandmother. Later, even before grade school, I went to *doctrina* (catechism)in Spanish at her church. I first learned my prayers in Spanish. I still often pray in Spanish. I think it was Thomas Merton who wrote that Spanish is bossy and unsentimental. I agree with that. Also it is a very beautiful language. It is very difficult to explain the temperament of a language to somebody who does not speak it. The way I react to Spanish and the way I react to English is very different. A lot of this probably has to do with my own biography and loyalties. Teresa of Ávila does tell us that patience obtains all.

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