St. Ignatius believes that we human beings pray with our entire selves, body and soul. Nothing is left behind. Mindful of that “nothing left behind” mentality, let’s look at Annotation #5 of the Exercises where St. Ignatius says that we will gain more fruit if we enter into retreats with great “courage and generosity.” Do you often associate the virtues of courage and generosity with retreats? St. Ignatius thinks you should. Risk everything, body and soul, and you will gain everything God offers.
Regarding the body, St. Ignatius says to choose whatever prayer posture and location works best in finding God. Kneel, sit, stand, lie prostrate on the ground—whatever helps prayer become most vivid. Also, do not be afraid to fast and deny yourself (in proper measure) in order to obtain God’s graces. Create a prayer space that matches the subject upon which you are praying. If sin, darken the room and undergo discomfort. If resurrection, place yourself in the most beautiful place you know—anything to enhance the atmosphere of the meditation.
Regarding our interior being, St. Ignatius says to use the “three powers” of the soul: memory, intellect, and will. Each of these three powers has been weakened through sin. By turning their focus upon Christ in the Spiritual Exercises, we are engaged in a process of healing what has been wounded.
First, the memory is used to store up the images, stories, and truths of the Scripture and Tradition of the Church. Consider how many terrible images and lies are stored up in our memories. How can these not have an effect upon our attitude and action? By turning the memory toward the things of God, we are building a new foundation for our future consciousness. Ignatius recommends that we begin our meditation through bringing up the relevant subject matter within our memory. This way, it will gain a deeper hold within us.
Second, we should use our intellects to think about the subject matter of the meditation and learn what truth God is trying to teach us through it. We want to understand what God has revealed to us through Christ and the Church.
Third, we should allow the meditation to affect our wills. At the level of the emotions, the images and truths we contemplate will elicit different responses. This is a level which is somewhat out of our control. But we should nevertheless be conscious of what our emotional responses are to the different meditations. We can then go deeper to the level of our own conscious choices. Is the meditation calling me to make some kind of resolution or change in my life?
Body and soul, we are one human person. Therefore, be generous in offering your entire being in order to know God’s will and accomplish it.