December 1, 2016
James Martin —
Finding God in All Things

Before Pope Francis, James Martin was perhaps the best-loved Jesuit in American life. He’s followed the calling of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit order, to “find God in all things” — and for him that means being a writer of books, an editor of America magazine, and a wise and witty presence on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. To delve into Fr. Martin's way of being in the world is to discover the "spiritual exercises" St. Ignatius designed to be accessible to everyone more than six centuries ago.

Share Episode

Shortened URL

Guests

is a Jesuit priest and editor-at-large of America magazine. His books include Jesus: A Pilgrimage, The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything, My Life with the Saints, and, most recently, Seven Last Words.

Episode Sponsor

Share a Reflection

47Reflections

Reflections

The idea that anyone is "flawed" is quite alien. The tradition is שעשני בצלמו. Not a flawed image. The tradition also points out that there is no distinction between Yechida and Ain Sof: the animating breath of the Divine into the clay (adamah) of physical existence is not separable into parts: it forever remains, as mentioned in the Sefer Yetzirah 1:7, The One without a second.

The concept is not alien to Catholicism. How do you separate the water and the wine once they have been mingled?

Never any "mingling", nothing to mingle: One without a second to mingle, without beginning.

What happens when the "thinking subject drops away?" The Talmud offers this: “In the time to come the Holy One, blessed be He, will bring the evil drive (the yetser hara) and slay it in the presence of the righteous and the wicked. To the righteous the evil yetser will appear as huge as a mountain; to the wicked it will seem thin as a hair. Both the former and the latter will weep. The righteous will marvel that they could overcome so great a power; the wicked will be amazed that they succumbed to so slight a force. And the Holy One, blessed be He, will marvel with them, as it is said, Thus says the Lord of Hosts. If it be marvelous in the eyes of the remnant of this people in those days, it shell also be marvelous in My eyes” (Zecharaiah 8:6). Sukkah 52a.” The yetser hara is not inherent, if it were it would not be "slayable" but the portion of our condition which clouds our experience of seeing that all beings are created in the image and likeness of G-d. The Image of God (Hebrew: צֶלֶם אֱלֹהִים tzelem elohim, lit. "image of God") means "Original Sin" is not our origin, does God have an origin? (NOTE: we are NOT G-d, but in His likeness and image) We are formed from Him, we are free micro-aspects of Him, free to create Holiness or otherwise, when we give freely of ourselves we emulate Him, as He did in creating us, to serve our own interests is to go contratary to our Divine Nature, and yet we are "Adamah" of the Earth, our reconciliation of these two aspects of our human condition (we are in the "image of God" and "Adamah" of the Earth) speaks to the struggle to overcome our physical experience and transmute it to a spiritual one, the whole point on a large scale of Judaism, or "to bring Heaven down to Earth" in this very body, good deeds being the means to carry out this evolution.

Your perspective is understandable, but incorrect.

There are certain physical imperfections that disqualify a priest from service in the Temple. There are certain ritual impurities that disqualify a layperson from even entering the Temple.

For Jews, in this world the ultimate quality of one-ness where all is perfection is not what determines how we act - it's the myriad distinctions of many-ness.

We are All One in Christ Jesus. In the Christian New Testament it is clearly stated that Jesus came to bring both Jews and Gentiles out from under the Law into Grace. This was and IS His mission throughout eternity and infinity. It also clearly states that "there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus..." There is Only One and that One Being an infinite multitude of times in infinitude...as in the number One.....

Aggie: With due respect for your beliefs, Jews don't subscribe to that perspective. The Christian New Testament is not scripture for Jews.

And since Vatican II's Nostra Aetate document, the Catholic Church has stated (though not as a matter of doctrine or magisterial teaching) that God's covenants with the Jewish people are eternal. They are still discussing how to reconcile that with salvation only coming via the Church.

Thank you so much Krista and James Martin! I was raised in the Jewish faith and will always consider that my religious home. But over the past few years I have been searching and studying to understand who Jesus was since he is a part of our world. Yet growing up I did not know anything about him. Much of what James Martin said really resonated with me. I was particularly struck by his description of when Jesus was born. For me, this hits close to home because I know that I am on this earth at this time to help children and their parents to heal -- and to know the divinity within each of them. I understand that my task is to help them to be able to 'be themselves' above all else -- and this is one of the things that James Martin speaks about -- that whoever we truly are is god in us. I pray and will work towards a world where each child has the time and space to know themselves, to be themselves. In this way I honor the divine humanity in each person, and carry on the work that Jesus was an example of. Thank you again Krista for all that you bring to the world. Blessings to you and may you know as much joy as you bring to all of your listeners!

'...Each child has the time and space to know themselves, be themselves...'
Marla, thank you for your work and service to children. If our children were universally offered the opportunity you describe we could look forward to a whole and better world. I support and admire your work wholeheartedly. I attempt to do the same thing for my own children and those who are part of my village.

please enjoy this lovely video posted on youtube earlier this year. Three minutes of a lovely story with song sung by Lennon and Maisy.Produced by a Swiss company selling organic products.

This to many, is NOT a lovely video. in fact, this, according to Holocaust survivor,Alex Hershaft, founder of Farm Animal Rights movement, Is the seed and genesis of abusive and dominant power over animals that paved the road to human abuse and domination of other humans.
Profoundly disturbing that in a world that raises 65 billion so called farmed animals, all WILD and FREE before human "domestication", a sanitized euphemism for enslave, and make into property, grows 70% of crops to feed them as a billion children starve to death yearly, this video is somehow glorified and called lovely, when those cows are prisoners, products, commodities, and the children who love them innately, must desensitize to have no empathy since the animals end up slaughtered !

NPR and it's many affiliates repeatedly remind us how non-commercial, fair and balanced they are and aren't we thinkers lucky to have them as a venue for a;; those higher and bigger discussions we need in society. Well the BIGGER discussion never had, kept at bay, is our relationship with nature and non-human beings we confine, subjugate, commodify and exploit.

In my religion, Judaism, it is a sin to cause unnecessary pain and suffering to animals, Tsa'Ar Be'Alei Chayim.
The IDEAL diet commanded in Genesis 1:29 was and is a plant based diet. Food and medicine are one and the same.
Our desire, manufactured and mass marketed as it is, for flesh and animal secretions, coercing children to deny and ignore their inherent sense of kinship with nature and animals , accepted as normal in carnist culture ,(the ONE thing secular and religious society agree on and the one thing that retards moral and spiritual evolution)is not only brutalizing animals, but ushering in what Elizabeth Kolbert writes about in her book, The Sixth Mass Extinction.
All the contributors I hear about at the end of this program who are dedicated to peace and a safer, healthier world, should be focusing on ONE topic, feeding the planet from natures medicine chest, plant foods, and transforming the violence of animal agriculture, ( www.meat.org, www.mercyforanimals.org/investigations/ )

The photo needing view is that of children holding animals and loving them, not cows behind bars whose unnatural, genetically engineered bodies that will end up on trucks to slaughter, retard empathy and mercy, two traits lacking in much of human society.

Not to hurt our humble brethren (the animals) is our first duty to them, but to stop there is not enough. We have a higher mission--to be of service to them whenever they require it... If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.
-- Saint Francis of Assisi

Rabbi Adam Frank, Rabbi Smuly Yanklowitz, Rabbi Gabriel Cousens, Reverend Andrew Lindzey...these are great minds who understand that until animals are safe, protected and free from human predatory behavior, no child will be safe and free from human predatory behavior.

My favorite quote from Thomas Merton, reputedly said during the photographic session with John Howard Griffin for A Hidden Wholeness (see p.48)"It's wonderful, isn't it, the number of words it takes to explain to God that He exists."

I loved this podcast. I felt so uplifted by Fr.Martin's message and I'll never forget his description of the Frozen Chosen. Joy isn't meant to be limited to Christmas and Easter.

you don't make it easy to forward this show .

Trent Gilliss's picture

Lindsay, did you see the share module to the right of the image and right below the audio links? You can share via FB, Twitter, email, etc. I'd welcome other suggestions though about how we can do things better!

When I was preparing my Affiity Group invite for Jan 4, I heard the podcast for Father Martin. I included the link... because as a Quaker, Taoist etc... and Christian, his POV is truly universal... and hopefully more of us will appreciate the common truth within all the great religions--LOVE unconditional and Eternal.

Desmond Tutu grinning
at some event.

Parents and grandparents catch
every moment.

Someone reading aloud
“Who are my mother and my brothers...?”

All the little ones
crossing every line
simply,

“Let's play.”

At ease
teachers assist
with their freedom
so many discernments:

with only one magic wand right now,
when, what, how, where, to whom
to throw.

I wake attempting
a miracle catch

and laugh.

All these characters
in my skit.

The thought that God speaks to us in our desires is such a powerful idea. I enjoy Krista and Fr Jim separately but together they were simply splendid. This podcast really spoke to me where I am today. Thank you.

I love the aspect of guided meditation in the spiritual practices of Ignatius. What comes to my mind, since I'm Jewish and my scripture tends to come from the Hebrew bible, is what Jacob says after his dream of the ladder and the angels going up and down it, that how full of awe that place is - that is was a holy place and he didn't know it.

My first response is "wow, how contemporary that Ignatius espoused guided meditation", but my second response is to laugh, because when I googled him (Ignatius) I realized that guided meditation,one of the things he taught as spiritual practice, has been around as long as he has... and google says the man was born at the end of the 1400s.
So. Wow. Guided meditation has been around for hundred's of years with all of its awe-full power and wisdom, and I didn't know it!!

I loved Fr. Martin's take on joy in faith. It put me in mind of St. Teresa of Avila's statement that "Joy is not the absence of suffering but the presence of God."

Great! Yes, we have tamed Christmas. A woman we know came down with West Nile six months ago, five months ago she went into a coma (the fever had left but her brain was damaged badly). Her husband (she was 71) is a daily Communicant and lector, and the parish prayed for her and him. The sacristan and sexton (takes care of setting up for Mass and setting up the building) and a friend of her husband had a dream Thursday in which her husband said to Jesus how sad he was that his wife was ill. And Jesus said 'It's O.K., I gave her a personal invitation to my birthday in Heaven'. And she died on 12/18. Her funeral is tomorrow, and right after the funeral the parish is decorating the Church for Christmas.

Revolution - people want revolution, reform, change. This is what Christmas is: revolution. The falling down of the proud and the raising up of the lowly, etc.,etc.: Mary's giving birth to Jesus is the revolution the world has waited for, and it is the only revolution we need, since it's repurcussions are eternal and complete.

Great that Krista Tippett is interviewing a devout Catholic and not a rebel or dissident or disgrunted Catholic, bravo!

This interview was wonderful. I love this program for just these kinds of conversations. It was enlightening and inspiring. Just knowing this man is out there, sharing his wisdom, humor, and compassion with others gives me hope. I am not religious, but I find On Being a place to discover wise thinkers and teachers from all walks of life. THANK YOU.

Thank you for your interview with James Martin. It was wonderful for this time of year.

Ms. Tippett, now this interview was truly speaking of faith! I try not to miss your program but this was most inspiring interview I've heard in along time. Thank you.

"To find God in all things" is to find peace in an otherwise overwelming world

Krista, Thank you. I am a reader of James Martin, SJ and a listener of On Being.
Several months ago I emailed Trent suggesting Fr. Martin as a guest. When I received the newsletter email that you were interviewing him, I saw it as gift. I have listened numerous times to the conversation you shared. I love how you use the word conversation. There is much to be learned from St. Ignatius and his Spiritual Exercises for people of any faith tradition. I am a student of the Exercises and one of the insights is that St Ignatius was accepting and encouraging of all people. The more as I believe the Jesuits say. Thank you for offering this conversation to your listeners. Thank you for the gifts of listening, learning, and life lessons in your weekly programs. Listening to your program is like sharing time with a friend. With gratitude!

I am so thankful to have found this podcast. I cannot put it to words. When I say that, I mean it. James Martin helped me discover new ways of discovering, as is this pilgrimage of truth that is the Christian Faith.

Thank you all so much. I'd really like to be a part of this movement.

Thanks for staring such wonderful thoughts on faith, joy, reflection, emotion. Fr. Martin's views were so refreshing, and such a delight... That I've listened to the show several times. I make time to listen to each week's show; this one certainly stood out among them!

What a sweet human. Thank you for this lovely hour.

I liked the way this answered a few nagging thoughts I had about Catholic practice. Like, "why can't we pray straight to God?"and "if no crying he makes, how is he really like the rest of the humans who cry as babies? does he poop like the rest of us? When I ask this among Catholics, they look at me as if I personally was the anti-Christ and how could I possibly be so irreverent? It was good to hear from a priest I wasn't going straight to hell for asking.

I have heard Fr. Martin speak and I hope to have the opportunity to do so in the future. I purchased his recent book for my Father in Law at a speaking engagement in Manhattan as he is an avid reader and spiritual wonderful man like Fr. Martin in these ways, I think. It was a special gift signed by Father Martin also special as my Father in Law picked a special book every year for each of his children and grandchildren. He told me he was most interested in the subject matter of this book as he reached this particular stage of life and wanted to delve deeper and understand Jesus. My Father in law was a Catholic school teacher principal and administrator a serious advocate of Catholic education for sure. I am blessed my husband and boys have such a wonderful role model and I too am blessed to have loved and been loved by him. My boys are also blessed to have Jesuit educations to date and when they started I told them you need to tell me what is special about the Jesuits as I believe this to be true but not sure why. As they become young men I see the special influences mostly in their high level of commitment to friends, family sports teams, and service projects. If they continue to grow up and are committed men for others no greater gift.

Life = God.

I found this interview, and James Martin, so inspiring that I kept thinking about it, listened to it over and over, and did a series of blogs on it. I would love to discuss it with others!

Krista, thanks so much for this episode. Absolutely in love with you podcast!!
xxx finja / www.effcaa.com

It's great to hear a man who is as familiar with God and Jesus as my car mechanic is with the lift he puts my car on and the impact wrench he uses to loosen the lug nuts. It seems that these days many know what God wants, what God thinks - almost God's psychiatrists. Maybe they could help Him see that things aren't going so well here. Certain Republicans are talking about warming up the ovens again for us Jews - they aren't satisfied, not enough revenge for these followers of Jesus. And that Boko Haran in Nigeria - no, they aren't given to reading St Ignatius but they could maybe do less killing and raping, couldn't they?

Find GOoD in all things:
a lost gLOVE, a sCAREd student,
a depresSING day.

At the risk of being perceived as one of the "frozen chosen" (which I am not), I would have liked to ask Father Martin the following : "Christ is risen. That's the end of the story", you said... With due respect, on a planet where 51% of all vertebrates have disappeared in the last 40 years and 66% will be gone by 2020 and where one plant or animal species becomes extinct every 20 minutes, I am tempted to say that the most likely end of the story will be mankind's fall after sawing the branch it is sitting on.
The man-induced extinction of any species is the destruction of a unique expression of the divine. Before rejoicing that Christ is risen, should we not fear that Christ may become fed-up being born?
Thank you for On-Being.

"Finding God in All Things" Is this statement not too ambiguous? Do we find God in stones, water, trees, etc. It's only in human where the image of God is found. Human consciousness is an indicator that humans are made in the image of God. Conscience alone is not sufficient to ultimately determine what is right and wrong, but by revelation! The Bible is quite clear that "God made the world and all things therein." God cannot be found in any of the above mentioned. Rather, they are the handiwork of God. "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handywork" (Psalm 19:1). They are all His creations! "For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen" (Romans 1:20).

I am writing to comment on Father Martin's comments, we not only find God in Prayer, but as he says, where we are and in others and how we treat each other is part of this. Doing unto others and the Good Samaritan, are reflections of this. We'd all share in the love of God better if we treated each other better.

I enjoyed Martin's description of how we feel God communicating to us, for example when he said "you see a sunset and think 'My gosh that's so beautiful. Why am I feeling like this?'" It really put into perspective that God is in all things, and if we are mindful of his presence, we will see and feel him in all things. This is a great interview and has allowed me to see things differently, to see God differently.

Finding God in all things –Father James Martin

I was caught from the beginning. This father seems like such an average man. God met him where James was. at home. Its very encouraging to feel as though God should not be felt to be only in church but in all things. Even something as techy as Twitter and the social media like Fr. James Martin. Lukewarm really described what I feel I am. A lukewarm catholic. Interesting concept. The title of the book James Martin read “no man is an Island” hit me. I haven’t even read this but the title resonates within me. It shakes me to my very core. I feel as though I can relate to Fr. James. I am not an island. I cannot be alone and must depend on others for help as well as for a power greater than myself which could be GOD.

I wonder “who am I meant to be”. What is my deepest identity as James mentions? Is it being a mother/wife/business woman/artist? Can I be all of that? Which one would be my deep identity? It seems so simple to look for God in all things great or small. I believe that we must listen well to ourselves. James mentioned the feeling one gets when watching a sunset. There is God to be found in that experience. It is found when I gaze onto my son’s face. It is everywhere and it feels as though I have been going through world with my eyes closed. My spiritual eye, if you wanted to call it that.

He speaks about your relationships in terms of it being a mirror to God’s relationship with you. If you don’t nurture your relationship like you do with God than it can fall apart. I like how Fr. James martin says that there is no right or wrong way to pray to God. You can be as vocal as you want and as quiet as you feel like. That’s nice to hear. Tippet brings up a great point on talking about celibacy and priests. It really does humanize the whole concept of religious priests. It makes them seem more human and more relatable. He was told that he will fall in love. People can fall in love with him and he with others. He had a choice to love all or to love exclusively. He chose to love all. I was always curious as to what priests think about when given the choice between chastity and love for all vs. being free to marry. He fell in love with God and humanity. It is beautiful to hear.

When Krysta mentioned about Christmas being commercialized and James Martin saying “Christmas being Tamed” really surprised me. I feel myself agreeing with them on this. We have really taken the main point of what Christmas really is. It is a shocking story. It is a scary story. When we think about it it is something that is powerful. Like Fr. James mentioned, it is God being made into flesh. It is almost too big to comprehend the notion of a deity to become flesh and blood. I never really thought about the implications. It is bringing an anthropomorphic aspect and we tend to humanize God. Humanizing is different than commercializing God. I think its fine to have the gift exchanges but to forget the underlying message and story of God being made flesh is wrong.

I am not Catholic, or religious for that matter, but this episode left me feeling full of Grace and very contemplative. I tried hopelessly to explain my experience to my doubtful husband like an excited school girl. Yet, finally, I just found myself wanting to be alone and bask in the feelings of peace and joy.... and dare I say....God in my heart. Thank you Fr. Martin for showing up in the spirit of your practice, so that we may all bath our souls in its truth as you spoke.

After listening last night to this joyful interview and after being reminded of Thomas Merton's illuminating question that asks us “Why do we have to spend our lives striving to be something that we would never want to be, if we only knew what we wanted?", I woke up this morning, delighted and excited by what felt like an insight - one I felt compelled to put down on paper and share...

In this moment, God loves us as we are, and God yearns even more for us to discover and rediscover our vocation and to act in service to others and to the riotous, exuberant, ever-blossoming beauty of creation.

I so enjoy your show and I find it so encouraging in this time where everything seems to be so unpredictable and confusing. I am 62 years old now, but when I was 19 I hitch hiked across the country from New York to California and I was reading Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton as my travel book. I realized then that so much of what defined myself as a person was left behind once I was on the interstate. All that I had would have to fit in my backback, and my life and identity in suburbia would have to stay behind .
When I was in California I found myself taking care of goats at the Morningstar Christian ranch (now defunct) in Buelton, California.
When I left my book on the feedstand and returned later to get it, I found the goats were eating the book and throwing pages that described Thomas Merton's life all over the yard. I remember saying to the goats "Have you eaten many good books lately?"
All of this came back to my memory because of your interview with Father Martin, who was truly funny and inspirational, as you are as well. Thank you and keep up the good work!

Thank you for this episode! I was just talking to my roommate yesterday morning about an idea to do writing exercises imagining what a day with Christ would look like for myself and others. I haven't listened to these podcasts in a while, and ultimately I chose this one- which talks about exercises imagining yourself in the Christ story. It was such a lovely synchronicity.

apples