Updated: May 8, 2021
The Suscipe is a radical prayer written by St. Ignatius in the early sixteenth century. After contemplating the immeasurable love of God, Ignatius asked himself what he might offer to such a loving God. Suscipe is the Latin word for "receive," and so he is essentially offering all of himself to God in this prayer:
“Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all that I have and possess. Thou hast given all to me. To Thee, O Lord, I return it. All is Thine, dispose of it wholly according to Thy will. Give me Thy love and Thy grace, for this is sufficient for me.”
This seems like a good way to start out the day, or even the next moment: completely surrendered to Love.
Surrendered with an open hand, as opposed to a tight fist. Holding back nothing. A radical prayer of total self-giving to the One who loved us first, the One whose love is deeper, higher, and wider than we could ever comprehend.
Once you have encountered this immeasurable love, it seems quite natural to offer this prayer from a sincere place, doesn’t it? It’s like receiving a bouquet of beautiful flowers from your spouse (or in my husband’s case, his favorite meal or dessert!).
When you feel loved, you naturally open your heart to the one who initiated the demonstration of love. With gratitude, with joy, with celebration, with a desire to love back. That seems to be the heart behind praying the Suscipe.
But what if you don’t feel it? What if it isn’t truly genuine? What if your faith seems defined by unbelief or even cynicism?
Then the real issue is not that your faith is weak. The real issue is that you need to taste the immeasurable love of God.
An exercise that can help you open your heart to receive God’s love (not just with an intellectual assent, but with your soul – your feelings) is to sit comfortably in a quiet space, and breathe deeply & slowly for a few minutes. Then invite the Holy Spirit to bring to mind a time when you felt loved.
It could be a memory involving other people, or a memory where you distinctly felt that God was breaking into the natural realm with a felt experience of His divine love. For the purposes of this exercise, it doesn’t really matter.
Just rest in the present moment, and allow yourself to remember the positive feelings and sensations in feeling unconditionally loved, accepted, appreciated, seen, heard, valued, or whatever defines that experience of love for you.
Let yourself soak in that memory, knowing that God is the giver of all good gifts and that He himself is the author of love. He was present in that moment, whether you recognized it at the time or not.
Once you remember an experience of love, you have taken one step closer to truly experiencing and tasting God’s love for you. And when you take multiple steps in that direction, it gets easier to believe AND receive His love.
As that happens, you will know when you can genuinely pray the Suscipe prayer, because you won’t be able to resist. It is the overflow of experiencing the immeasurable love of God.