This is the eighth Pray as you go reflection, commemorating the two hundredth anniversary of the Restoration of the Society of Jesus. A reflection on the life of St Alberto Hurtado.

Joanne Boyce sings You are my Hands. As I listen to this music can I put myself entirely at Gods’ mercy?

This month we are reflecting on the life of St Alberto Hurtado. Born in 1901, Alberto was a Chilean priest, lawyer and social worker, who in 1944 became the founder of the ground breaking charitable organization ‘Hogar de Cristo’, which aimed to provide homes and shelter to assist poor and abandoned young people in Chile. He was dedicated to making Catholic Social Teaching more widely known and understood. He published a number of important books and founded the journal ‘Mensaje’ and in 1947 he helped establish the Chilean Trade Union Association. He was much sought-after as an inspirational preacher and retreat director for young people. He died of cancer aged 51 and was widely revered throughout Chile for his saintliness. He was canonised by Pope Benedict XVI in 2005.

I hold that every poor man, every vagrant, every beggar is Christ carrying his cross. And as Christ, we must love and help him. We must treat him as a brother, a human being like ourselves. If we were to start a campaign of love for the poor and homeless, we would, in a short time, do away with depressing scenes of begging, children sleeping in doorways and women with babies in their arms fainting in our streets.
There are many sufferings to heal. Christ stumbles through our streets in the person of so many poor who are hungry, thrown out of their miserable lodgings because of sickness and destitution. Christ has no home! And we who have the good fortune to have one and have food to satisfy our hunger, what are we doing about it?

St Alberto has in mind real faces he has actually seen with his own eyes around the city he lives in, the faces of the poor, the hungry and the destitute. For sure, the faces you know will be different ones. See if you can bring to mind the times and places when you have encountered the homeless where you live. Can you picture their faces?

And now, notice how you reacted to the people you saw. Did you turn away from them or move towards them? Did you feel disgust, or fear, or tenderness, sympathy…? Don’t judge yourself: just take a moment to remember and to deepen your awareness.

How would you like to react the next time? Put aside your hesitations and inhibitions… if St Alberto is right, if people in need are nothing less than Christ in our midst, how do you want to respond to Him, standing in front of you, needing your help?

Finding Christ in the poor is not as easy as it sounds. We need the help of deep prayer and we can count on the support of our friends in the communion of saints. Let’s listen once again to the words of St Alberto Hurtado to see if his vision and his passion are infectious.

Finally, ask the Lord to help you to go deeper. He is always happy to receive the doubts and dreams of his followers. When we talk freely and openly to him about our lives, He offers us His healing, his insight and his power. Take a moment to open your heart to Him now; sharing with Him anything you need to say and asking Him to help you respond lovingly and generously to the needs of the poor.

Introduction to the Examen

The EXAMEN is a way to look back over your day to say thank you for the things which have gone well and sorry for the things which have not. By doing it each day, you will become more aware of what God is doing in your life. People who use this prayer often find that their lives just get better.
First start by finding stillness. Allow yourself to relax and just do the minimum it takes to be here. Shut your eyes if it helps. Gently listen to all the sounds around you. Try to capture each one.
Now, what was the best thing which happened today? It might be something small, it might be something big. Remember that moment in your day, see it again, touch it, hear it, smell it or taste it all over again… and whatever that moment was, just thank God for it.
Let that feeling of thankfulness spread to the whole of your day. Ask for a gentle light so you can see what God has been doing in your life.
Now replay everything that happened today in your mind, just as though you are watching a movie. Start from the moment you woke up… what you did with your day… how you spent your free time… the people you were with… what amazed you or what disappointed you…
Where you feel thankful, give thanks to God who gave you that moment…
Where you did not live up to everything you could be, say sorry to God…
Now you have replayed the day in your mind, let those feelings of gratitude and sorrow sink deeper. Speak to God about your day, in the same way you speak to one of your friends.
And finally, what is the one thing which you need to ask from God to strengthen you for tomorrow? Ask him for it now.

Image of Jesus walking on water by Maria O'Laughlin
St Ignatius wooden painted statue

St Ignatius of Loyola founded the Society of Jesus - the Jesuits - in 1540. Today there are over 18,000 priests and brothers present in more than 100 countries.

One of the 18,000 just so happens to be our current Holy Father, Pope Francis. His heart for social justice, deep prayer and inspirational teaching in some ways makes him a typical Jesuit.

So who can tell us more about St Ignatius and his teaching? How can we learn from Ignatian Spirituality to deepen our own prayer by having that personal encounter with God - that face-to-face conversation?

We visited Campion Hall in Oxford to speak to Dr Rob Marsh SJ.

The Last Supper by Andrew White, detail

It is Holy Week – the week in which we re-live in our prayers the journey Jesus made from Jerusalem to his crucifixion on Calvary and his resurrection.

We have produced eight conversations for Holy week to take you back to those tense and frightening days in Jerusalem and place you alongside the apostles as they try to make sense of the political and mystical forces at work in what is happening to them, to Jesus their Lord, and to the people of God.

Listen to the other episodes >>

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the Roman province of Judaea was under the authority of the Roman Prefect Pontius Pilate, who reported to the Governor of Syria and the Emperor Tiberius in Rome.  The Jews were a reluctant subject people, but generally peace was maintained.  In Jerusalem itself the politically astute Romans allowed considerable authority to the High Priest in maintaining the sanctuary, taking responsibility for law and order, and running the affairs of the holy city.  However, it was they who appointed the High Priest and they expected full co-operation from him and his inner circle.   The Passover festival was always a volatile time as hundreds of thousands of pilgrims flocked to Jerusalem to offer sacrifice at the Temple and celebrate the festival of liberation from Egypt.  The city was over-crowded and emotions ran high.  Pilate himself made sure he was present in the city with an enhanced military presence ready to intervene in case of any flare-ups and to remove insurgents from the streets.

Jesus and his friends entered the city as pilgrims on the first day of the week.  We call this day Palm Sunday because as he entered the people of Jerusalem flocked to him and laid palms on the ground before him, acclaiming him as their king. This was a clear political challenge to the powers that be.