The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius Loyola are best suited for prayer during a silent retreat. However, Ignatius knew that they could also be effective when employed in a less isolated environment. It is the hope of the authors of this blog that you, the reader, find the meditations that we offer here useful in your own search to encounter Christ in prayer in your daily life. The meditations are intended to be prayed in order, from as close to the beginning as possible, perhaps over the course of a dedicated time such as the season of Lent. (more…)
Grace: To have a deep desire to know the will of God for my life and the freedom to be able to do it.
Text for prayer: Ps 139
Reflection: The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola are a great treasure for the Church, and those seeking to walk more closely with God have drawn upon their riches for five centuries now. Through the course of St. Ignatius’ conversion, he kept notes about how it was that the Lord was leading him closer to Himself. Over the years, he steadily gave shape to these notes and created a kind of program of prayer for others to follow which would open them up to the grace of conversion and a greater ability to discern the will of God for their lives, as well as the interior freedom required to then respond to that Divine Will in greater generosity.
The Exercises, as the Saint writes himself, are about “disposing the soul to rid itself of all the disordered tendencies, and after it is rid, to seek and find the Divine Will” (Annotation 1). In other words, the Exercises are about detaching ourselves from all that might hold us back from knowing and seeking God’s Will in our own lives and then helping us to learn how to make better choices that will lead us to God and genuine happiness.This overcoming of disordered attachments is a key component of the Exercises. In the course of this retreat then, we come to know the mercy and love of God only by first encountering the nature of our own obstacles that stand in the way of that relationship, whether they be our own sinfulness or attachments to old wounds and forms of slavery in our own life.
Grace: To ask for the courage and generosity to draw closer to God.
Text for Prayer: Psalm 130
Reflection: Why exercise? The simplest answer might be to say that one exercises in order “to be healthy,” and regular exercise can certainly be a good thing when directed towards physical and mental health. There are many ways that people today strive to achieve what they call their fitness or wellness goals and a plethora of training manuals to go with these many exercise routines.
But focusing on physical exercise only as the sole means to wellness can lead us to forget that it is equally important to focus on our interior lives. St. Ignatius, in the Spiritual Exercises, offers a training manual for a health that is just as important as physical and mental health, if not even more so, our spiritual health and the care of our souls. The Exercises, as the Saint writes himself, are about “disposing the soul to rid itself of all the disordered tendencies, and after it is rid, to seek and find the Divine Will” (Annotation 1). In other words, the Exercises are about detaching ourselves from all that might hold us from knowing and seeking God’s Will in our own lives, and then helping us to learn how to make better choices that will lead us to God and genuine happiness.
Grace: To be free from the obstacles in our lives and in ourselves that prevent us from knowing God and to trust that God will meet us when we sincerely seek Him.
Text for prayer: Ps 91
Reflection: Many years of St. Ignatius’s life were poured into the development of the Spiritual Exercises. This work, though, was not the labor wrought of some saintly theologian academically prescribing a rigid method of prayer. Rather, Ignatius gives us his own journey to God. Before the Saint and before his education, he found a path to God. His years were first spent on the journey and then later refining it so that it could be shared. These exercises are recognized as such a great gift because they work for all of us, whether one is a pauper or papal. If we enter this time with sincerity and an open heart, then there is little reason to fear that we are not going to do it right, for these exercises are not written just for theologians or spiritual giants, but for humans who seek God.
As we enter this Lenten Season, we should seek to enter with freedom. Many think that Lent simply means that we need to pray harder, longer, or go to an extra Mass or two. In this way it might feel much like an obligation or a duty. However, this time is better thought of as an invitation. It is an invitation into the realization of God’s life and the knowledge that God is with us. We are free to simply accept God as an obligation, but our lives are much more enriched when we realize that God is also an unconditional gift who deserves more than just obligatory respect.
Welcome to the Spiritual Exercises Daily Blog for Lent 2011!
Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, when we begin Lent and have a unique opportunity to respond to God’s call to return to Him:
Yet even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God. (Joel 2:12-13)
How can we ‘return to God’? Like any relationship we desire to deepen again, we must spend time ‘catching up’ with the other, getting to know them again. The Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius Loyola is a way of recognizing and savoring (related to the Spanish word saber, ‘to know’ or ‘taste’) all that God has done, and continues doing, for us through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This daily blog will give us the chance to pray with the elements of the Spiritual Exercises this Lent, with the goal of helping us to make a more full and honest ‘return to God’ in prayer, thought, and action.
How (not) to pray. On this blog, we will spend time contemplating Jesus’ life in order to see Him more clearly, follow Him more nearly, and love Him more dearly. This is not just an abstract exercise, as though we could manufacture a relationship with Jesus just by saying the right pious words, or reading another person’s. Our God wants a relationship, not pleasantries. So St. Ignatius invites the retreatants (you and me, the ones praying with the exercises) to grow in relationship to Jesus by meditating on and contemplating His life. In meditating on a passage from the Gospels (like the birth of Jesus), we use our memory, understanding and will. This is a good way to think about the life of Jesus and ponder all the good He does for us.
Grace: A deep desire to know the will of God for my life and the freedom to be able to do it.
Text for prayer: Ps 139
Reflection: The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola is a great treasure for the Church and its riches have been drawn upon for five centuries now. Through the course of St. Ignatius’ conversion, he kept notes about how it was that the Lord was leading him closer to Himself. Over the years, he steadily gave shape to these note and created a kind of program of prayer for others to follow which would open themselves up to the grace of conversion and greater ability to discern the will of God for their lives as well as the interior freedom required to then respond to that Divine Will in great generosity.
St. Ignatius noticed the attachments he had to overcome in himself in order to discover the freedom necessary to enter into a more perfect union with God. This overcoming of disordered attachments is a key component of the Exercises. In the course of this retreat then, we come to know the mercy and love of God only by first encountering the nature of our own blocks that we set up within that relationship by our own sinfulness and attachments to old wounds and forms of slavery in our lives. We come to know God and we come to know ourselves more and more, then, by coming to know Jesus- the One at the center of this experience of prayer and conversion.
In the course of this encounter, it is also possible to come to greater clarity about a major decision we might have to make about our “state of life”. The Exercises have been a great gift for the Church in this regard, also, in terms of being able to learn how to “discern” the will of God for our own lives, that is, how we might best make a gift back to the Lord of our own life in response to all of his generosity to us.
Questions: What is currently blocking me from greater love for God? What blocks me from receiving God’s love for me? What do I most deeply desire in my life at this point? What does the Lord desire to give me at this time?