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Write Stuff: Joe Laramie, S.J.

06/03/2019

Learn about the projects and passions of SLU faculty and staff members who have written books, in their own words.

Joe Laramie, S.J.

Joe Laramie, S.J., is SLU alunmus, a Jesuit priest and is on staff in the Department of Campus Ministry.

Abide  in the Heart of Christ: A 10-Day Personal Retreat with St. Ignatius Loyola, Based on the  Spiritual Exercises, his first book, will be published by Ave Maria Press in September.

Since graduating from the University, Laramie has taught at high schools and had led retreats. He has also worked in Mayan communities in Belize. 

The book offer accessible wisdom from the foundations of Jesuit spirituality, and allows readers to take a 10-day personal retreat in the midst of their daily lives, through a series of 10 exercises centered on different topics.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am a Catholic, Jesuit priest, and I was ordained in 2011. I entered the Jesuits when I graduated from SLU in 2000.

I currently serve as a campus minister here at SLU, where I work with students on retreats, service projects and in a residence hall.

Jesuit formation and ministry have led me around the U.S. and beyond. I taught public speaking to high school boys at Regis Jesuit in Colorado; and worked at the Jesuit mission for Mayan villages in Belize. I led retreats at Rockhurst High School in Kansas City. More recently, I preached at White House Jesuit Retreat in St. Louis.

I have guided people through the Spiritual Exercises in many contexts: for college students, women, priests, via Skype, over eight days and 30 days. I have made two 30-day silent Ignatian retreats as part of my Jesuit training.

A 2015 pilgrimage to Spain and Rome led me to the places where St Ignatius lived, walked and prayed.

I am a proud uncle and godfather. In my free time I like to run, hike, drink coffee (morning) or beer (evening) while hanging out with Jesuit brothers, friends and my family.

Tell us about your book.

With this book, you can make a 10-day personal retreat in the midst of your daily life. This book will help you encounter Christ and grow in your relationship with him. Abide in the Heart of Christ brings together the writings of St. Ignatius, Gospel passages and personal examples to help you “know Christ more, love him more, and serve him more.” You can ‘abide’ in Christ’s love each day [John 15:9].

The '10-day retreat'  – how does it work?

In the book, I describe a different topic in each of the 10 “exercises.” Every one of the topics will build on the ones that came before. Some topics will be classic themes from Christian life, as described by St. Ignatius: sin, forgiveness, creation, etc. Other chapters will help us to examine God’s work in our own lives, or will connect key Gospel passages with our own experiences. I’ll use personal examples to help illustrate the various topics.

You could read one chapter each day and then pray with the questions and exercises at the end of each chapter. It should take you about 30 minutes to read and 30 minutes to pray. Or, you could do a chapter a week, maybe on Sunday, for 10 weeks. Or  . . . you get the idea. Do it alone, with a friend, spouse or a small group.

After leading a retreat, I often got the question, “What can I do to keep the graces flowing after this retreat?” Well, you can get this book and use it.

Others say, “I’d love to go on retreat, but I am so busy.” Try using this book. Can you spare one hour on a Sunday for a few weeks? Then you can make this retreat.

Who is the book for?

You. Average, normal Catholics, Christians and anyone seeking deeper meaning in life. This book is for parents, teachers, young adults and students. It’s not geared at professional theologians – though they would probably enjoy it, too.

Ignatian spirituality is uniquely suited to help busy people grow closer to Christ. If you’ve got a heart, a mind, and a desire to deepen your faith, this book is for you.

Can you talk about the value of retreat and the kind of reflection  Abide  guides in contemporary, every day life? 
 

We're all seeking peace, grace and quiet.

It’s a busy, loud world we live in. We seek peace, grace and quiet – and we’re afraid of these things, too!

Maybe you’ve thought about signing up for a retreat at your school or church. But you wonder, “What will I do? Will I get bored? Or just be alone with my thoughts – how awful!”

St. Ignatius calls us into that quiet. He tells us that we can meet God there. It could be on a retreat. Or, by using a book like Abide. Ignatius is our guide. He helps us. He offers us some tools – gratitude, the examen, reflections on mercy. With his help, and a book like Abide, suddenly it’s not so scary. It's an “on ramp.” Then you say, “Hey, I can do this. I want to deepen my faith and grow in my spiritual life – and God is with me, Ignatius is walking with me.”

The idea is you can use this book and make a retreat in “daily life.” You go to work, you care for your family, but you take a little time each evening to read, reflect and pray each day. It could be over 10 days, or maybe 10 weeks (doing one reflection each Sunday, for example).

St. Ignatius set up a very flexible format. The Spiritual Exercises can be done over 30 days, over a weekend or in daily life. That's my hope for Abide –  that it’s a retreat in daily life for students, parents, teachers, whoever. Jesus walked with all sort of people. We can know Him more, love Him more and follow him more – hopefully Abide helps us to do that.

You are an alumnus. Can you talk about your SLU experience and its impact on your life?
 

A lot of fun, some great teachers and great memories.

I was a communication major and worked at KSLU and the U News. I covered sports and did some play-by-play for men’s basketball on KSLU, in addition to having a music show.

I was also involved in some retreats and service projects through Campus Ministry. I sang in the choir for the 9 p.m. Sunday Mass.

My Jesuit vocation really took root here. I got to meet a lot of great young Jesuits. Chris Collins, S.J., was a young Jesuit studying at SLU; he led a spring break immersion trip to a Native American site in South Dakota. I was on that trip, and we had some great conversations. We have remained friends.

Most of my closest friends are SLU grads. My sister, Katie, was a year behind me, and met her husband here at SLU. A SLU classmate, Steven Kramer, will be ordained as a Jesuit priest this summer. I had lunch recently with Dan Kozlowski, Ph.D., of the communication department. He and I were buddies and had a KSLU show, “Mr Koz and The Rev.”

In your career as a teacher and vocation as a Jesuit serving students, you must have some funny stories to reflect on.

Lots. A freshman boy accidentally set the microwave on fire in my public speaking class.

Another kid, who was on the diving team, would do back flips in class when I was turned away and writing on the board.

I taught juggling at one of the residence halls at SLU this year as a way to meet students and chat with them; it was fun. A few of them got pretty good at it.

Then the honors students asked me to be in their promotional video, while juggling fire torches (I used to entertain at birthday parties before I was in the seminary). It was all great until I dropped a torch and our backyard caught on fire (we were filming by my Jesuit community). I had to email my superior: “Sorry about that big burn mark in the grass. I can explain.”

St Ignatius once exhorted the Jesuits to, “Go, set the world on fire!”

Some of us take that literally.

How does your book and your writing life relate to your work as in SLU's Department of Campus Ministry?

I love Ignatian spirituality and I love sharing this gift with others. I have an office in Spring Hall, and in the fall semester, I offered seven “Pizza and Ignatius” on Wednesday evenings there.

A winning combination, right? Ignatius and pizza! I’d put up some posters, and ask the RAs to put it in the “GroupMe” for each floor. On these evenings, I offered a short presentation on some aspect of Ignatian spirituality – the “examen,” for example. Then, I'd give the group a little activity: “Ok, jot down your 'Top 10 spiritual experiences;' maybe a good retreat, your confirmation, a family trip to the mountains or whatever. These are times that you felt close to God. Take a few minutes in quiet and then do some writing.”

Then we’d regather and share our reflections. It was fun, easy, less than an hour.

Where can we find your book or get more information about it and your other projects?

Go to my website, joelaramiesj.com. I’m on social media, too.

You’ll find excerpts, short videos I’ve done and ordering info.

Or, look for me and my book at avemariapress.com or at Amazon.

Write Stuff is a new, occasional series of interviews with SLU faculty and staff authors who have newly-published or forthcoming books. To submit your work for possible inclusion in the series, email Newslink.