Driving in the Fourth Week


I swore I would never get a vanity license plate. But then I did. I can’t exactly say it came from deep prayer and contemplation. It was an intellectual challenge to identify something that encapsulated my identity, values, and joys into seven letters. “Chocolate” had too many letters. Names weren’t allowed. “AMDG” was already taken. And then I stumbled onto “4th week.” It fit. My heart did a little dance, proud of my little enigma vanity plate, thinking only those who get Ignatian spirituality would understand it. It would be my wink to them as I drove down the freeway of life.

And then, something completely unexpected started to happen. People started to ask, “So what’s the ‘4th Week’ mean?” In the middle of a grocery-store parking lot, at work with my colleagues, at the gas pump, in the middle of everyday life (all pre-pandemic, this was), I was suddenly asked to start sharing about my spirituality. I needed an elevator speech—enough to answer the question and not be rude, not too much to touch a personal nerve, given most people had no idea it had anything to do with God. Looking for just enough to open a door in case they wanted to go deeper, here are a few ways I have tried to explain what the Fourth Week is to me:

  • “Oh, it is the culmination of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.” (That one usually shuts down any additional conversation.)
  • “Oh, it means no matter how hard life is, if you are doing the loving thing, it is worth it.” (That one gets a smirk.)
  • “Oh, it reminds me always to find the extraordinary in the ordinary.” (Thank you, George Aschenbrenner, SJ.)
  • “Oh, it means I live without fear.” (That one tends to prompt more conversation.)
  • “Oh, it means love must be put into action not just words.” (But I couldn’t fit all that in seven characters.)
  • “Oh, it means I appreciate all the gifts given to me in this life and use them for serving others.” (People seem to like that one.)
  • “Oh, it means my greatest desire in life is to love others beyond anything else.” (That one seems to bring down walls the fastest.)

I know the Contemplation to Attain Divine Love, the Suscipe, and the stories of the Resurrected Christ bringing the ultimate peace to those most in fear are beyond words, let alone seven characters. The Fourth Week is ineffable, only to be understood through experience. It can’t be explained, deciphered, or even claimed. It is simply to be experienced as I drive down the road of life, actually when I let God do the driving, and I freely choose to be the passenger and savor the journey. Love fuels the engine. Service is where the rubber hits the road. Discernment is the GPS. And the destination? Eternal life! That’s what it means to be driving in the “4th week.”

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Lisa Kelly is a wife, mother, and Ignatian Associate living in Omaha, Nebraska. She works to help organizations integrate spirituality into their planning and systems. She and her husband, Tom, completed the 19th Annotation in 2005, just prior to spending two years living in the Dominican Republic with their three young children, supporting the work of the Jesuit Institute for Latin American Concern. Additionally they have lived in El Salvador and Bolivia for extended periods.

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