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Audacious Leadership

Have you heard about Mother Teresa Middle School? They are an audacious middle school located in the inner city of Regina, Saskatchewan. Serving a community of predominantly Indigenous families, MTMS forms graduates who are loving, religious, intellectually competent, open to growth and committed to doing justice. Read more about their mission here on their website!

Terri Cote, MTMS principal, recently shared with me how their school used Audacious Ignatius as part of their school’s Summer Leadership Retreat and Summer Leadership Academy. The retreat is for 7th and 8th grade students and takes place in Calgary, Alberta. The leadership academy takes place at the University of Regina and includes 6th, 7th and 8th grade students. 

From the cover of the MTMS Audacious Ignatius Journal

The students are given Audacious Ignatius Journals on the retreat that focused on being audacious: brave, courageous, and willing to take risks. They used their journals for prayer, and to record decisions they made to be audacious like Ignatius. They also have a connection to the Cree language, as “brave”, “bold” and “willing to take risks” are written in both English and Cree. (Terri notes that the words were vetted by Elder Harry Francis so as to be certain that they convey the correct meaning in Cree.)

A page from the Audacious Ignatius Journal

As a physical reminder of this challenge to be audacious, Terri made each student an “Audacious Ignatius necklace” that incorporated symbols of their school, and how their school loves and supports each of them. Terri explains, “The symbolism included in the necklace was intentional in the following ways.  Of course, “A” for audacious. The rings that are red because of the symbolic meaning of the color; confidence, courage and strength to name a few.  The three blue beads on each side of the A symbolize the color of our MTMS logo and three at MTMS means “We Love You”. So in this case “We Love You” times 2.”

After reflecting in their journals about their courageous plans, they receive a red ring for their necklace to symbolize their desire to be audacious like St. Ignatius.

Eagle, a student at MTMS, shows off his Audacious Ignatius necklace


I was fortunate to meet Terri at the Jesuit Schools Network conference this summer when I presented about how the life story of St. Ignatius is used to teach the fundamentals of Ignatian spirituality. It was so inspiring to talk with Terri and see the energy and love she brings to her work. 

Katie, Terri, and Audacious Ignatius at the Jesuit School Network Conference

This inspired us to make a coupon code especially for Jesuit institutions in Canada. Shipping internationally is quite expensive, but we’ve made the coupon code “SJCanada” to try to offset some of the shipping costs.

Paul and I are Ignatian educators at heart, and we are delighted to know how Audacious Ignatius is being used in schools. Are you using Audacious Ignatius at your school? We’d love to hear about it. Best wishes to Terri and the MTMS community for a bodacious school year!

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Audacious Ignatius featured on Lisa Hendey and Friends Podcast

It was so fun to talk to Lisa Hendey about the process of creating Audacious Ignatius. My kids love Lisa’s Chime Travelers books, and I was so excited to be a guest on her show.

You can find Episode 61 of the Lisa Hendey and Friends podcast in your favorite podcast app, or here on Lisa’s blog.

Fun fact: my five year old son has a cameo on the podcast (at 24:30)… he had painted a picture of a star for me, and couldn’t wait to give it to me to hang up in my art studio!

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Audacious Art

Illustrating a spiritual concept is a fascinating puzzle to me. The Spiritual Exercises, imaginative prayer, talking to Jesus as one friend talks to another… what does it look like? When I was working on the pictures for Audacious Ignatius, I thought a lot about how to make images that would convey the spirit and flavor of Ignatian spirituality, images that could unfold over time, offering meaning to children and adults. 

I was reminded of this the other day when I visited the chapel at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago. It was when I taught at Cristo Rey that I first learned about St. Ignatius’s life, and there’s a picture of the Cristo Rey chapel in the book! 

The Chapel of the Sacred Heart at Cristo Rey: in Audacious Ignatius and in real life!

Cristo Rey’s Chapel of the Sacred Heart was renovated in 2010 with beautiful art that celebrates Cristo Rey’s Jesuit and Latino spirituality. One of my favorite parts is the retablo, the paintings around the altar. The paintings show four stories from the Gospels, and the artist, Roberto Valadez, painted Cristo Rey students into the scene of each story.

The retablo

I love this visual representation of contemplative prayer, and how tailored it is to high school students. 

It’s also a great illustration of the progression of the four weeks of the Spiritual Exercises.

  • The Parable of the Prodigal Son: representing God’s boundless love, and the first week of the Exercises.
  • The Nativity: representing our call to be disciples, and the second week of the Exercises.
  • The Passion: representing Christ’s suffering, and the third week of the Exercises. 
  • The Road to Emmaus: representing our walk with the risen Christ, and the fourth week of the Exercises.

I was reminded of the scene in Audacious Ignatius when Ignatius prays:

First, know well that I’m loved even though oh so flawed.

Next, spend time with the Lord and walk where he trod.

Offer all I possess, beg for my stony heart thawed, 

And act from a deep love, the Love that is God.

Ignatius prays about writing the Spiritual Exercises

As Ignatius prays, he imagines himself being baptized in the River Jordan, and walking with Jesus. I loved creating these images and how it allowed me to engage the concept slowly, savoring it and examining it in a new way. I love sharing these images with my kids knowing that their understanding of them will unfold over time.

If you ever have a chance to visit Cristo Rey and see the chapel, let me know what you think! It is a beautiful place to pray. 

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A letter from Pope Francis

It is our joy to share Audacious Ignatius, and so we have sent copies all over the Jesuit world. A friend and Jesuit priest studying in Rome was able to deliver a copy to Pope Francis. Shortly after, I received the letter you see below. (I will paste a translation at the end of this letter.)

Translation:

Dear Paul,

I have received your book Audacious Ignatius and I send to you my sincere gratitude.  I am moved that you recall with gratitude and joy the experience of Ignatian spirituality that you were able to internalize during your years as a teacher in Jesuit education.  And much more, now, that it will be a spiritual inheritance for your sons.

I hope that the fruit of your work guides along a path to God that includes prayer, intuition, reflection, action, and understanding of who is this God that is manifested in Jesus.

I wish you and your family a peaceful and fertile Easter season.  I ask you, please, to not forget to pray for me.

May Jesus bless you and the Holy Mother care for you.  Fraternally,

Francisco

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Peeking past the fourth wall

Mo Willems is a genius, particularly when Elephant and Piggie peek past the fourth wall.

When we push past the fourth wall of a children’s book, though,  we find two readers.  We find the child and the adult.

Why does this matter for the readers of children’s books?

Jesus’ invitation to “become like children” is, at least in part, an invitation to become as deeply perceptive as a child. My son is young, but I am sure he can pick up on the fact that I think the Elephant and Piggie books are brilliant while others are fairly forgettable.  

The child is reading the book as well as the adult’s opinion of the book. 

This is a deeply important question for religious resources, as a parent’s attitudes and practices of religion form that of the child.

This is why Audacious Ignatius strives for delight and depth.  The book aims to captivate the young person and also strike a chord with the adult, so that when our children read us, they find joy and wonder.