I got to see Father Greg Boyle speak last month when he was visiting Portland. If you don't know Father Greg, he is a Jesuit priest who founded Homeboy Industries, the largest gang rehabilitation and re-entry program in the world. You may have read his book, Tattoos on the Heart. If you haven't yet, it will open your heart an inch or two more.
Anyway, in his lecture, Father Greg talked about this term used by St. Ignatius in his journals back in 1544, acatamiento, (ah-kah-tah-MEE-EHN-toh) which he translated as "affectionate awe." Ignatius used the word often in his journals to describe his feelings for God. Etymologically, acatamiento it comes from the Latin cattare, meaning "to look at something with attention," which can mean "sight" or "presence." It is also related to the Spanish word acatare , or "to look at." Some synonyms that come up include reverence, respect, obedience or homage.
But Father Greg was using the word in the context of how God looks at us - with breathless delight and says, "You're here!" If you know anything about Father Greg, you'll know that he really means all of us. His entire ministry is dedicated to teaching and inspiring the action of expanding our circles of compassion so wide that no one can be left out, and no one can be thrown away.
Yoga teaches that we are divine. That divinity resides in each of us. Some people think of this as the soul or spirit.
When we bring these concepts together, we can consider that God uses our eyes to gaze upon one another with that breathless delight, or affectionate awe - acatamiento.
Is that hard to do? Oftentimes, yes. Yes, it is. And, it's connection. It's compassion. And we all know that it feels the way we want to feel - in love. Not romantic love, but the God-as-Love kind of love.
Father Greg says that systems change when people do. And people change when they are cherished. So, if we want things to change, (no, I'm not going to do the Gandhi quote), but really we can orient to affection more than judgement. We can both find ways to relate to those we have trouble with, and we can acknowledge that we don't understand what it is to walk in each others' shoes. But we can hold one another with affectionate awe. And in doing so, it changes us.
In his lecture, Father Greg said, "you don't go to the margins to make a difference. You go to make you different."
So, I hope that a.) you'll forgive my liberal use of God-talk in this post, and b.) that you'll join us in finding ways this month to practice affectionate awe, acatamiento, with yourself, with those in your life, and with those who you find challenging.
It's yoga. It's connection. And it's what is going to get us through.