The third book from co-authors Sister of the Holy Child Jesus Carol Ann Smith, and Jesuit Fr. Eugene F. Merz, “Moments to Remember: Ignatian Wisdom for the Aging,” published in 2015, offers readers an opportunity to deepen their relationship with Jesus by thoughtful reflection through the aging process.
Like their first two titles, “Moment by Moment: A Retreat in Everyday Life” (2000) and “Finding God in Each Moment: The Practice of Discernment in Everyday Life” (2005), their latest a book is not necessarily to be read from cover to cover, but to be picked up each day, to read a little and pray.
Besides collaborating on books, Fr. Merz and Sr. Carol Ann have separately been involved in all types of Ignatian spirituality over the years.
Fr. Merz was born and raised in Milwaukee, where he graduated from St. Sebastian Grade School and Marquette University High School. Ordained in June 1961, he has offered spiritual direction and retreats based on the work of St. Ignatius in many countries for priests and religious men and women.
Perhaps the most influential time in Fr. Merz’ life was spent in Des Moines, Iowa, under the direction of Bishop Maurice J. Dingman, where he came to cherish the story of Emmaus (Lk 24:13-35) to which Jesus journeyed on the evening of his Resurrection. Jesus encountered two of his disciples who didn’t recognize him. After a day of travel and conversation, the group broke bread. Finally, they recognized him.
Fr. Merz wants the readers to “understand their life in terms of Jesus’ own life, death and resurrection and to recognize Jesus on their faith journey.”
Born in Glen Rock, New Jersey, Sr. Carol Ann entered the Society of the Holy Child Jesus upon graduation from Rosemont College, just outside of Philadelphia.
Like Fr. Merz, Sr. Carol Ann has spent most of her life devoted to God in the ministry of spiritual direction and retreats. She holds degrees from Rosemont College, Villanova University and Catholic University of America.
Using quotes from many religious leaders, saints and authors, the authors remind the reader their journey should include gratitude and hope.
One quote from Jesuit Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, tells readers to trust God’s plan, “Above all, trust in the slow work of God. We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. Give Our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you.”
With many questions to ponder in each chapter, the reader becomes an interactive part of the process, taking time to prayerfully consider their unique response.
In a series of questions titled, “Quiet Time,” the reader is asked, “What are you discovering when you reverence times of quiet? Can classical or jazz or religious music be a companion on quiet days? Are there untapped artistic gifts in you waiting to be explored?”
Later, the authors ask the reader to pray along with St. Ignatius, “We should not fix our desires on health or sickness, wealth or poverty, success or failure, a long life or a short one. For everything has the potential of calling forth in us a more loving response…. Our only desire and our one choice should be this: I want and I choose what better leads to God’s deepening life in me.”
Sr. Carol Ann and Fr. Merz explained the experience of praying through the books questions, quotes and ideas isn’t just for the elderly.
A male reader in his early 40s shared with the authors that in his busy life as a professional, the book helps him to begin his day and end his day in prayer. It has deepened his reverence for his wife and family and for God’s action in his life.
Another reader, an elderly woman, keeps the book next to her chair. She picks up the book often and reads a little at a time, reflecting on life’s challenges, triumphs and changes.
This is just what they had intended, explained Sr. Carol Ann.
“We wrote the book to help people step back and see how God has been at work throughout their life,” she said.
The book is being used by book clubs, faculty, retreat centers and parishes, according to Fr. Merz. Groups can read the book and share their experiences of how God has been a presence in their life.
While Fr. Merz and Sr. Carol Ann said this is their last book collaboration, their spiritual direction will continue in retreat centers, classrooms and homes as readers deepen their relationship with Christ while thoughtfully praying through their books.