Grace: To have a growing intense sorrow and, if God so wishes, even tears for my sins.
Text for Prayer: The Third Exercise of the First Week, Spiritual Exercises no. 62-63
Reflection: Why three colloquies? Every time that St. Ignatius calls for the triple colloquy is one that can be very emotional, and one where significant decisions and commitments are called for. Whenever I was little and very upset, I would run to my mother and tell her the whole story, typically in a very quick and jumbled way. My mother (like most mothers) would tell me to calm down and repeat myself. When I did, things usually became clearer for both of us. In making the colloquy three times, we are given a chance to sort out what it is we are saying. The full meaning of what we are asking can become clearer. We can make connections that we hadn’t made before. Implications to what we are asking can arise that hadn’t occurred to us before, and the gravity of what we are asking has a chance to sink in.
In addition, making three colloquies allows for a surer response. A lot can come up in each of these prayers and potentially overwhelm us. The Evil Spirit is accustomed to extracting promises from us at times when we are emotional and not thinking clearly only to then tell us that we cannot go back. God, on the other hand, allows time for clarity to set in. In making the colloquy three times, we have a chance to obtain that clarity and become more confident in what we are asking, relying less on emotions that are more liable to change. This, in turn, provides a safeguard against the temptations from the Evil Spirit that what we asked for or decided was a hasty decision made in the heat of the moment. If those temptations arise, we can remind ourselves that it was not just a quickly made decision, but one that we were asked to confirm ourselves in by making the colloquy two additional times.
So, Ignatius tells us first to go to Mary and ask for
1. A deep knowledge of my sins and a feeling of abhorrence for them;
2. An understanding of the disorder of my actions, that filled with horror, I may amend my life and put it in order;
3. A knowledge of the world, that filled with horror, I may put away from me all that is worldly and vain. Then I will say a Hail Mary. (SpEx 63)
We first go to Mary. Especially with prayers such as the Memorare, Salve Regina, and Hail Mary, Christians have had a long tradition of going to Mary in sorrowful recognition of the fact that we are sinners. It is a tradition that continues to this day. Vatican II says that “the faithful still desire to conquer sin and grow in holiness. And so they turn their eyes to Mary who shines out to the whole community of the elect as the model of virtues” (Lumen Gentium, 65). Because Mary is the only human who isn’t also God to live her life totally free from sin, she is the greatest human example of the attitude towards sin that we are asking her to obtain for us from her Son.
We then turn to Jesus, Whom we saw in the first meditation on sin nailed to the Cross for our own sins. He is the ultimate reason that we are able to attain the graces we are asking for. So we go to our Redeemer and ask for a true knowledge and disgust for our sins and their sources in order to become free from them.
Finally, we turn to the Father, the One we have offended more than any other by our sins, Who sent His Son to Earth to re-unite us with Himself. We go to the One who desires this reunion more than anything else, and we ask again to understand how we came to be separated from Him and how we were influenced to make those choices in order that we never be separated from Him again.
Questions: How do I fit into the whole history of sin? How are my sins like that of Satan? How are my sins like that of Adam and Eve? How are my sins like that of the believer who went to Hell for one mortal sin?