Historian John W. Padberg, a Jesuit for 77 years, died on Christmas Day 2021. May he rest in peace.
Fr. Padberg was celebrated in his lifetime with a collection of essays by Jesuits he inspired, including William A. Barry, SJ; John W. O’Malley, SJ; David L. Fleming, SJ; and Michael J. Buckley, SJ. In Fr. Padberg’s memory, we share this excerpt from Spirit, Style, Story: Essays Honoring John W. Padberg, SJ.
I realized that discerning the spirits requires an act of faith. One of the retreatants had stated early and quite openly that she hated retreats. I asked her why she continued to make them if this was the case. She said, “Because religious have to.” She could pray in short periods, she said, but the idea of spending an hour at a time in prayer sent her into a tizzy. At the same time, she desired to experience the presence of God. The desire was strong enough to bring tears to her eyes as she spoke of it. Nevertheless, she did not have much hope that her desire would be fulfilled.
When I asked her what she liked to do, she told me that she enjoyed listening to music, doing puzzles, and going for walks in the woods. I suggested that she spend the day doing those things with the desire that God make his presence felt. She was afraid that she would feel guilty if she spent her retreat time in this way; it did not seem like prayer. Over the next day or so I prevailed on her to give enjoyment a try. She later recounted that on the evening of the third day she said to herself with a laugh, “I’m actually enjoying this retreat.” She also had the sense that God might be enjoying it too. But the guilt feelings did not disappear; she still felt that this could not be the way a good retreat should go. During the session after this day we looked at the two different experiences: the enjoyment of the retreat and the feelings of guilt. I then asked her, “Which of these experiences are you going to believe in?” At that moment I had the insight that the discernment of the spirits is not complete until it ends up in an act of faith. I thanked her for helping me to arrive at this clarity.
—William A. Barry, SJ, excerpted from Spirit, Style, Story: Essays Honoring John W. Padberg, SJ
Interested in reading the full book of essays honoring Fr. Padberg? Purchase at the special price of $14.00, through February 28, 2022.