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 choose what is for God’s greater glory and the salvation of my soul.
Text for Prayer: Lk. 12:35-48
Reflection: Yesterday’s meditation on the Two Standards had us consider what it means to be a follower of Christ, and in this way it gave us a sense of the direction and goal of our entire lives. You might say that the Two Standards is a macro meditation while the meditation for today on the Three Classes is more micro: it deals with the sort of particular choices that we might make in the course of an ordinary day.
Say, for instance, that I come into a fairly large sum of money today. Like most people, I might be very happy to have made this money for myself, and so I might set about thinking through some of the ways in which I could spend it. I might also wonder about what God would have me do with the money and so consider the possibility of giving it to the poor or to the Church. Now, giving the money away might be a good thing to do, and these causes are both worthy of my financial support. But the question remains: Which of these is the one God wants me to help? Or does God want me to save the money? Or invest the money so as to make more money that could help more people? We are not talking about which of these objectively has the most merit (if such a determination were even possible). Instead, we are considering which of these is the particular will of God for me at this moment. How do I come to know God’s will in the midst of this decision-making process?
Grace: To know and be able choose how to draw closer to the Lord, to do what is most in line with His plan for humanity and most conducive to my own happiness.
Text for Prayer: Mark 10: 32-34
Reflection: Once we pass the half-way point of Lent, we start to think more and more of Easter, and how it will mean a return to the normal days when we can regularly enjoy the forbidden food or drink that we gave up for Lent. But in the Gospels, as Jesus approaches Easter—and his coming death and resurrection—He begins to remind his followers what it truly means to follow Him and the sacrifices they will be required to make if they are to continue along the path that He has set.
St. Ignatius, in the Spiritual Exercises, places one of the meditations on following Jesus in the second week of the Exercises and calls it a meditation on three types of men. This is an appropriate mediation to consider within the context of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem, if we imagine a long line of Jesus’ followers split into three separate groups, with Jesus at the head of the line, leading the way.
Grace: To choose what is more for the glory of God and the salvation of my soul.
Text: SpEx #149-157
Reflection: The Exercises are fundamentally geared toward helping us make good decisions, to bring us to that point at which we are properly disposed and can choose the same thing that God himself has already chosen for us. This especially applies to the question about our “state of life,” or in more common language our vocation. What is the Lord asking of me? How am I to serve to him in my own life?
We are coming to the point of the retreat when these sorts of questions come into focus. And it would be good to ask yourself: what is the Lord asking me to discern in the context of this retreat? To come to a final “election” (choice) about your state of life, you’ll want to make the full Exercises with an individual director. But in the context of this retreat, you can certainly begin to ask the question in a serious and structured way, reflecting on what the Lord has been saying to you as you have prayed through these Lenten exercises. For those for whom the question of vocation is already settled or seems still on the distant horizon, the Lord may be inviting you to consider how to reform your life. If this seems to be instead what the Lord is asking you to discern, pay attention to that as we continue with the retreat. In either case, there is a decision to be made. (more…)
Grace: To deepen the sense of my “open-handedness” and generosity with what the Lord has given me.
Text for prayer: Lk. 12:35-48
Reflection: Still in the context of a kind of pause within the Exercises wherein we consider the state of life that the Lord calls us to and in the immediate wake of the meditation on the Two Standards, we continue the reflection on what it means to follow Christ. What kind of a person does it take? What are we in for in casting our lot with Him. At this point, St. Ignatius proposes a consideration of what he calls the three classes, or kinds of people. This consideration is an aide for our own self-understanding and should be a prompting forward for us to engage head-on where it is that we need conversion in our own lives so that we might be able to follow Christ more freely and whole-heartedly.
The image that St. Ignatius uses to illustrate these three classes of people is that each has acquired great wealth and each knows that he or she must get rid of the money in order to do God’s will. This meditation is not so much about the need to get rid of money, but the money is a simple sign which points to whatever it is that we cling to in our lives which takes our affections away from the Lord who loves us.
The first “class” is comprised of those who postpone, even until death, what they know the call of the Lord to be. They know they must become free of the attachment. They want to become free, but they “never take the means” to accomplish that freedom. They remain attached and bound to what keeps them from the Lord.
The second type of persons to consider is the kind who compromise on what they know to be the desire of the Lord for them. They act in a kind of partial response, but they still hold back something for themselves. Perhaps they will do something good with what they’re attached to and in that sense, might be somehow “of God”, but still, the bottom line is that they cannot let go of what they are attached to and they are implicitly insisting that “God must come to where this person desires” and not the other way around. There is still disorder here, even though some efforts in a good direction are made.
Finally, the third class is made up of those who have become utterly free to respond to the call of the Lord. Characteristic of this group is that “indifference” St. Ignatius described at the beginning of the Exercises in the “Principle and Foundation.” Interestingly enough, this type in St. Ignatius’ illustration doesn’t necessarily get rid of the money. Instead, they are free enough to either keep it or get rid of it, but their attention has shifted entirely to what God wants, and not what he or she wants. They are in a position of receptivity here as to what God desires and they have made their own desire only that which greater serves the Divine Majesty.
Questions for reflection: What might I “let go” of in my life for the sake of greater freedom in following Jesus? What am I clinging to that prevents me from being free and happy in the Lord’s sight? What are the compromises I am currently making in this regard?