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 11, 2014 |

Grace: To feel shame and confusion at myself because of my sins.

Text for Prayer: 1 John 1:8-2:6

Reflection: St. Ignatius of Loyola describes the point of spiritual exercises as follows: they are meant “to conquer oneself and to organize one’s life without the influence in one’s decisions by any inordinate attachment.” Just as God’s first act of creation was drawing order out of chaos, Ignatius invites us to take an unsparing look at our own lives, to see that they have an element of chaos and disorder about them, and to set to work straightening things up.

One of the first steps that we must take as we begin to put our spiritual house in order is to recognize the sheer ugliness of sin. In the City of God, St. Augustine famously describes sin as “love of oneself even to contempt of God.” It should shock us to think that we could ever reach a point where we would love and prefer ourselves so much that we hated or disregarded God. How could such a scenario possibly come to be? The way that we usually arrive at such a spiritual morass is through a slide into what theologians call venial sin, rather than through a willing rejection of God in one fell swoop.

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March 11th, 2014 | |

February 28, 2012 |

Grace: A growing intense sorrow and, if God so wishes, even tears for my sins.

Text For Prayer: Matt 25: 31-46

Reflection:  How do we treat our best friend?  For most people, a best friend is somebody that they trust and with whom they share their joys and sorrows.  The relationship, like all human relationships, requires work, though.  We understand that we must listen to our friend’s joys and sorrows.  We must call them from time to time and always on their birthday,  We don’t backstab our friend or gossip about them behind their back.  If we don’t abide by these tenets of friendship we will realize that we will soon have no friends at all.

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February 28th, 2012 | |

March 15, 2011 |

Grace: a growing intense sorrow and, if God so wishes, even tears for my sins.

Reflection: I just finished reading a fictional novel that followed the life of a college professor whose life is a series of decisions that were petty and selfish as a young man, though he grew wiser and more generous as he aged.  But even in his old age, he felt like something was always off.  He finally came to understand his life as a construction project, where builders use levels and plumb bobs to insure the project is built right and true.  In projects that are small and insignificant, carpenters can afford to be a little off with reading their level bubbles or their plumb lines — “not to worry, it’s plumb enough.”  The story is different with bigger projects, like building a life of virtue over the years.  When the small measurements at the base are off by a bit, the building rises at an angle that can be increasingly dangerous for the overall project.  What was “plumb enough” suddenly threatens the success and security of the whole project.

We have the opportunity this Lent to be like the supervisor of the construction site of our spiritual life.  Is it not salutary to stop periodically to assess how the project has been going?  To see where our measurements are off by just a hair and need correcting?  We’re not talking about major, obvious omissions, but the small day-to-day deviations that lead us away from God and set our life project off on the wrong foot.  It can be hard to face these mistakes (do I really have to do this?).  We understand these small deviations, where we are ‘plumb enough’, as venial sins.  Venial sin damages our relationship with God without destroying it.  If mortal sin is when a building collapses, destroying the whole construction project, venial sins are like when we cut corners and overlook things in our spiritual life.  By themselves, they are not entirely destructive, but taken together through time and habit, they lead to bigger problems.  Thus, they need God’s light to set them plumb and true.

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March 15th, 2011 | |

February 23, 2010 |

Grace: a growing intense sorrow and, if God so wishes, even tears for my sins.

Text for Prayer: 2 Samuel 11

Reflection: The devil is like a cunning general.  If he sees a strongly defended city, he will retreat and reorient his attack.  Inspecting the fortifications, he looks for the weak points and tries to exploit them.  Perhaps a small attack here, a sortie there, will eventually compromise the strength of the walls and weaken the resolve of the inhabitants to defend themselves.  This is a good metaphor for how human beings are led through venial sin toward a total rejection of God’s love through mortal sin.  Venial sins are like small cracks in the walls of our defenses which then become gaping cavities.

Venial sin, by definition, damages our relationship with God without destroying it.  If mortal sin destroys the grace of our salvation by willfully rejecting God’s offer of salvation, venial sin prepares the path by slowly weakening our trust in God and commitment to the life He offers us.  As one Jesuit has explained the matter: “Besides mortal sin, venial sin is the worst thing in the world you can do.”

Today we can pray with story of David and Bathsheba in 2 Sam 11.  We know where David’s sin ended: Uriah dead and Bathsheba pregnant with the king’s child.  But let’s not forget where David’s disgrace began.  Walking upon his roof in the early evening, his gaze fell upon Bathsheba and remained there.  Then he had inquiries made about her.  He sent for her.  His mind plotted.  How many small betrayals made his eventual demise possible?  At how many points could the process have been reversed?  But David carried on with tragic momentum.

Venial sins expose what St. Ignatius calls “undue attachments” to this world.  Yes, the world was made by God for His glory and our enjoyment, but always in a measure that is directed back toward God.  We are to use the world—but only in the way God wants us to use it.  We, however, become unduly attached to elements of this world and grasp them for ourselves.  We become like children with a toy, unwilling to relinquish our prized possession.  Thus, we cordon off a section of our lives from God’s influence.  During the first week of the Spiritual Exercises we want to shed light on these areas of our lives.  We want to name them and present them to Jesus who intercedes for us at the right hand of the Father.

Prayer and Questions:  Perhaps it will help your meditation upon this text by thinking of David, not in the process of gazing upon Bathsheba, but afterward.  See David as he sits alone on his roof, plotting and scheming, wrapped up inside himself.  As he builds up walls against God, he allows his walls of protection against evil to crumble.  What would you say to David in this moment? 

Turn your attention to yourself.  What areas of your life have you cordoned off against God?  If God were to ask you about some aspect of your life, would your first reaction be “Don’t go there!”  What does it feel like to stand before God in my sinfullness?  These are difficult questions, but Lent is the perfect time to ask them.

February 23rd, 2010 | |