Getting Started

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…)

March 6th, 2014

March 5, 2014 |

Grace: To gain a clearer understanding of the personal relationship that God created me to have with Him.

Text for Prayer: Gen. 1-2

Reflection: 

“Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save his soul.”
-St. Ignatius Loyola, Spiritual Exercises no. 23

St. Ignatius does not begin the Spiritual Exercises by talking about God.  Instead, he begins by talking about the relationship we are meant to have with God.  What is presented is meant to be considered, prayed over, and “savored interiorly” (cf. SpEx 2) in order to help us deepen our relationship with Jesus of Nazareth.  Our ongoing relationship with God is always the key in every reflection given and every prayer made.

It is also important to note that St. Ignatius does not say that “man was created”, but that “man is created”.  Present tense.  God’s creation of us is not some obscure act in the far-distant past.  Fr. Joe Tetlow, S.J. uses a great image to describe God’s ongoing creation: that of a light bulb.  The electricity must always be present right there in the bulb.  The instant that the electricity is taken out of the picture, the light is gone.  Similarly, God is always present with us, giving us life and being, even during the worst things we do.

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March 5th, 2014 | |

February 13, 2013 |

Grace: That all intentions, actions, and works may be purely directed towards the praise and service of God our Lord.

Text for Prayer: Genesis 1:26-31

Reflection: Why did God choose to make mankind? If I were to pose this question to the 8th graders whom I teach, they would likely—using their energetic imaginations—come up with various hypotheses: Maybe God made us because He was lonely and wanted some friends. Maybe He was bored. Maybe it was an experiment to see what would happen and what we might to do to entertain Him. Maybe He wanted someone who would pay attention to Him and do things for Him. These answers may seem humorous, but they flow from the difficulty of trying to envision a God who is not just one thing among many other things but who is wholly unique, wholly other.

When we ask the question, “For what purpose did God create man?”, we naturally tend to put ourselves in God’s place and to imagine how and why we would have created mankind, and the rest of creation, if we had been in the same situation. This can lead us to think that God’s purpose in creating must have been to fill some need or to make up for some insufficiency. However, if we want to understand better why God created us, we might be helped by first asking a related question: Who is this God who did create us?

The Church has always taught that God can be known through his effects, that is, through the things that He has made. Saint Paul writes to the Romans, “[e]ver since the creation of the world, his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made” (Rom. 1:20). Thus, by using the power of our human reason and reflecting upon the things we see around us as well as upon ourselves we can eventually determine with certainty specific qualities which God must possess. We can know, for example, that God is totally simple, that He is one, that He is unchanging, infinite, perfect. Using human reason in this way, we come to see the inadequacy of some of the hypotheses proffered above: God couldn’t have made us in order to fill some gap because he is a perfect, infinite being and lacks nothing.

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February 13th, 2013 | |

February 22, 2012 |

Grace:  That my intentions, actions, and entire life might be purely ordered to the praise and service of my Creator and Lord.

Text:  Ps 117

Reflection:  Today we receive ashes on our foreheads and head into the desert for 40 days.  What will guide us along the way?

We might be inclined to draw up an itinerary for ourselves: I hope to get this, this, and this out of the Lenten retreat.  But even if the things we name are good in themselves, we instantly recognize how artificial it all sounds.  We did not decide to go into the desert on our own, but only because our Lord went first.  And so we have to follow his lead.  Plus, we know from experience how quickly we run up against our own limitations and how often we have abandoned our good intentions in the past.  How can I count on myself any more this year than last?

The words we hear as the ashes are being traced on our foreheads point the way forward: “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”  While we are prone to forget the fact, Lent always reminds us that we are creatures.  And if creatures, then not isolated individuals.  Our very existence points beyond us to our Creator.  He alone is the answer to our questions.  He alone establishes the itinerary of our pilgrimage and gives us the grace to complete it. (more…)

February 22nd, 2012 | |

March 9, 2011 |

Grace: To have a deep appreciation, realization, feeling, and taste for what it means to be a creature, to have God’s love create me and keep creating me each day, to be totally possessed by the creator.

Text for Prayer: Ps. 104

“Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save his soul.”
-St. Ignatius Loyola, Spiritual Exercises, n. 23

Reflection: As we begin the holy, penitential season of Lent today, let us also consider the way in which St. Ignatius begins the Spiritual Exercises that will guide us as we approach Easter. Ignatius speaks both of the moment of creation—of the moment when God loves the first man into being—and of the end of man—of the reason for man’s existence and the ultimate goal of his life. In this way, we start the retreat with a consideration of both the beginning and the end of man. However, Ignatius is not speaking about only the first man, Adam, who fell. Instead, he is speaking of every single human person; he is saying that we all have the same origin and the same goal. We are all from God and are all meant for God, and that is what he wants us to know—and to know deeply—as we begin these Lenten Exercises.

It might be helpful to consider first how God creates. God creates man out of nothing and continues to create him every day, his whole life long. This is not merely a moment of invention, when a switch is flipped on man’s back before he is left to run his course. Instead, God’s hand is always at work in His creation, forming and guiding it, even when He does this through His creature’s freedom. This is a rather spectacular fact, if for no other reason than that man cannot create a single speck. The whole of the universe—from the greatest galaxy to the most evasive sub-atomic particle—is not created by anyone but God. Human beings might change some part of that universe, might subdue the earth in order to make it more livable, for instance; but these changes always depend utterly upon all that God continues to do for us in continuously creating the world.

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March 9th, 2011 | |

February 17, 2010 |

Grace: to gain a clearer understanding of the personal relationship that God created me to have with Him.

Text for Prayer: Gn. 1-2

Reflection: “Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save his soul.”

-St. Ignatius Loyola, Spiritual Exercises no. 23

St. Ignatius does not begin the Spiritual Exercises by talking about God.  Instead, he begins by talking about the relationship we are meant to have with God.  What is presented is meant to be considered, prayed over, and “savored interiorly” (cf SpEx 2) in order to help us deepen our relationship with Jesus of Nazareth.  Our ongoing relationship with God is always the key in every reflection given and every prayer made.

It is also important to note that St. Ignatius does not say that “man was created”, but that “man is created”.  Present tense.  God’s creation of us is not some obscure act in the far-distant past.  Fr. Joe Tetlow, S.J. uses a great image to describe God’s ongoing creation: that of a light bulb.  The electricity must always be present right there in the bulb.  The instant that the electricity is taken out of the picture, the light is gone.  Similarly, God is always present with us, giving us life and being, even during the worst things we do.

God is not just always with us in the way that an interested spectator is with a beloved sports team.  Our God and Father is with us as a parent is with a child.  Sometimes this involves doing things for the child, and at others it involves letting the child stand and walk on its own two feet- with all the scrapes and falls this involves.  But our Creator and Father is always shaping us and helping us grow.

In the First Principle and Foundation, St. Ignatius lays out the reason that we are created, and he realized that our purpose in life could not be understood without reference to the Creator of life.  So why does God create us?  Meister Eckhart says that “God enjoys Himself, and wants us to join Him.”  In Genesis 1, as God is creating, establishing order in the chaotic waters, and decorating the order with all sorts of things and creatures, He declares each thing to be good.  But it isn’t until God creates human beings, a creature in His image and likeness who can share in the joy of the Trinity, that God declares creation to be “very good”.

Genesis also tells us that God was accustomed to walking in the Garden of Eden “at the breezy time of day”, after the midday heat had died down, and everything was cool and pleasant; and that He was also accustomed to walking with Adam and Eve.  This is what we are made for: to enjoy God’s company and friendship as we walk through the Garden with Him.

While we are no longer in Eden, we do have a means of returning: “to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord”.  By means of these three things: the praise, reverence, and service of God our Lord, we will save our souls, which is to say that we will finally and fully have the relationship with God we were meant to, and walk with God through Eden in the breezy time of day.

Questions: What is the relationship you have with God now?  How does it play out in the day-to-day activity of your life?  What is the relationship you would like to have with God?  Talk to the Father or Jesus about this.

February 17th, 2010 | |