Imaginative Contemplation

Imaginative Contemplation

Kerry Holland shares an experience of Imaginative Contemplation…

All of us can probably recall a moment in a fair amount of detail when we were hurt or touched by good fortune. Mostly we can recall how we were affected and the overall atmosphere of the moment.

Our imagination is linked to this kind of recollection. Ignatius, while an energetic young man confined to bed in his convalescence, was left alone with God and his imagination for hours on end. When he imagined himself just as he was in the scripture with Jesus, he recognised the lasting affect it had on him…he experienced the goodness of it, an increase in love of God, and consolation for days.

The fruits of this experience and his observations of it and the translation into the Contemplations in the Spiritual Exercises have been far reaching. Many retreatants find this way of praying very powerful, experiencing a deepening of their relationship with Jesus that can transform their lives.  The artwork below was painted over days and while contemplating Jesus’ healing of the bleeding woman (Matthew 9:20–22, Mark 5:25–34, Luke 8:43–48).

Through Imaginative Contemplation prayer and the painting process, a deepening of the prayer, I saw the courage of the woman and the wholeness stemming from the Jesus’ attentive listening. When I told this story later to a group of young women, and showed them the paintings, I found myself moved to tears and noticed that those listening were affected too. So, I repeated the prayerful contemplation and came to discern more deeply God’s vocation expressed through my life. (Herbert Alphonso SJ made observations along these lines with his book ‘Discovering Your Personal Vocation’).

Finally, perhaps what Ignatius was looking for in a retreatant as we ‘apply the senses’ in our contemplation, was not even so much the exquisite detail, but our sensing of the exquisite scent of the divine in each situation, in Jesus’ interactions with each person. That is, the sweet scent of divine goodness affecting us, so that we might be sensitised to that same scent in our daily lives.


Kerry Holland

(Image “Contemplating the Hem” an artwork by Kerry Holland)