By Ignatius Plato
Devotion to the Sacred Heart is at the very core of Jesuit Fr. Joe Laramie’s life, and he joyfully shares that devotion with others through his ministry.
Father Joe – as he prefers to be called – is the national director of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network (formerly the Apostleship of Prayer) and has published two books based on his experience as a retreat leader. His dual ministries of retreat leader and author are inspired by his desire to be united fully with the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Father Joe’s work as national director of the Worldwide Prayer Network takes him all around North America, where he interacts with all kinds of people wishing to be brought closer to Jesus. This presents an opportunity for Fr. Joe to reach out to retreatants, showing them how they can be ambassadors of hope in today’s uncertain religious climate.
“Jesus is always showing us examples of how to shepherd His people,” Fr. Joe says. “A big part of my ministry is asking how Jesus is talking to the sheep in front of me – youth, older men, my retreatants – and moving me to guide them toward His Sacred Heart.”
Father Joe’s time as a retreat leader naturally led into his work as a writer. “At first, I was hoping to become a sportswriter,” he says with a laugh. “But a problem arose – I wanted to write things that would leave a lasting impact and have some deeper meaning than just, ‘Who won the game last night?’ So, I looked at my time as a retreat leader and reworked nine of my best retreat talks into a written form, had other Jesuits read over the drafts, shopped it around to publishers – those talks are what ultimately became my first book.”
Father Joe’s books encourage an approach to faith through the lens of contemplation, guiding readers and other participants on the path of prayer that appeals to the imagination.
This Ignatian approach to prayer dominates Fr. Joe’s work as he leads the Spiritual Exercises in the never-ending quest for unity with the Sacred Heart.
“The retreats on which the books are based are no small thing; I’m reaching 50–75 people at once,” Fr. Joe explains. “The books were my response to an internal question, ‘Who isn’t here on this retreat that might benefit from knowing about and growing closer to the Sacred Heart?’ In this way, I brought Ignatian Spirituality into my writing, and with it a message of hope for the whole world. I’m basically living the Jesuit life that Ignatius strove for through my words and my books.”
On a personal level, Fr. Joe feels blessed to be in a ministry in which he strengthens his relationship with the Sacred Heart through his work. He sets out daily to achieve a deeper understanding of his personal relationships through the mental, emotional and spiritual impacts he creates in the lives of his retreatants. He shares a memorable retreat experience:
“One guy at one of my retreats said, ‘Father, you made me laugh, you made me cry, you made me think – you’re a good Jesuit.’ Ever since hearing that, I’ve realized that that’s really what Jesus is trying to tell us: life has joy, so let’s celebrate; life has sorrow, so let’s acknowledge that and bring it to Christ; life has moments of silence, so we might as well think a little bit. That’s Jesuit life summed up – and really the life of a Christian in a nutshell.”
Of course, this philosophy will always circle back to Fr. Joe’s foundational love for the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
“I didn’t think anything like the ministry I’m in now existed,” he says. “I consider myself very blessed. But my aspirations aside, everything we say, do, see – it all comes back to Jesus. If I can unite myself to the Sacred Heart, and in doing so unite others to that same Heart, then that is enough for me.”
Father Joe Laramie, SJ, is the author of Abide in the Heart of Christ: A 10-Day Personal Retreat with St. Ignatius and its sequel, Love Him Ever More: A 9-Day Personal Retreat with the Sacred Heat of Jesus. For more information on Fr. Laramie and these books, check here.