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 wonder at Jesus entrance into His kingly glory, that is His suffering, for me.
Text for Prayer: Lk. 19:28-44
Reflection: Today, Palm Sunday, begins in earnest our celebration of Jesus’ Passion. Jesus sets Himself with unshakeable determination toward Jerusalem, toward the ultimate purpose of His coming to earth.
Even though Jesus knows what awaits Him this week, the people of Jerusalem still do not understand. They acclaim Him as the king who will set them free, but Jesus is not the kind of Messiah they imagine. Rather, He is the meek and suffering King of Mercy who enters Jerusalem on a donkey and assumes His throne upon the Cross. All of this He does willingly, for me.
Jesus weeps over Jerusalem because she does not recognize her Savior, Who has come in a guise she least expected – come to save her from her sins, not Roman occupation. They remain blind to Jesus’ mission, yet He goes willingly and full of love to die for each of them.
Grace: to be glad and rejoice intensely because of the great joy and the glory of Christ our Lord.
Reflection: Today we begin celebrating the Resurrection of Christ Our Lord. In fact, liturgically the Church considers the entire week that follows, called the Octave of Easter, to be one prolonged Sunday. We ought to ask the Lord that our rejoicing in Him today be deep and full. His victory is final and utterly complete.
St. Ignatius had the sense that the first person to share in the joys of the Resurrection would be the one who had most loved, trusted, and served God in her earthly life – Mary. So St. Ignatius encourages us in the Spiritual Exercises to consider Jesus meeting His Mother on the Resurrection morning.
Grace: To ask for a felt knowledge of Jesus’ desire to give Himself entirely to me, in love.
Text for Prayer: John 13:1-30
Reflection: The Last Supper – this is the last great moment of intimacy of Jesus with His Apostles, and at the same time the saddest, most convoluted time of Jesus’ betrayal. It is a rich scene of thirteen friends gathered in an upper room for the Passover meal. Yet the Last Supper bears a double seal, of the most near friendship and of the most immense sadness. Imagine what might have been going through Our Lord’s mind as He prepared Himself and His Apostles for what awaited Him, knowing one of His own would betray Him.
Yet, in the midst of all this – Christ chooses to wash the feet of His Apostles. Our King is the king who came to serve. Moreover, this most humble gesture happens before Judas leaves to betray the Lord; Jesus washes the feet of Judas this very night. Yes, Jesus washes the feet of Judas himself.
Grace: To choose what is for God’s greater glory and the salvation of my soul.
Text for Prayer: Spiritual Exercises 165-168
Refection: Yesterday we considered the need to relinquish our attachments in order to follow God’s will more faithfully; today we we contemplate the choices we can make with that freedom. Jesus calls us to the front lines of the battle. Even the Apostles had to learn the hard way that there is no compromise when Jesus turns His face toward His mission, to Jerusalem and to Calvary. His way of battle is a strange way to our eyes, but His Standard is the only one that can lead to victory.
While responding to anyone else might leave us wavering, having considered just how much Christ has done for us (even in our sin!) and how good His way is – we are able to love Him rather than respond out of duty or fear. And it is only love that is willing to make real sacrifice. Nothing can replace love.
Grace: To know Christ more nearly, so as to follow Him more closely and love Him more deeply.
Text for Prayer: Luke 2:51-52
Reflection: What the Scriptures explicitly say about the life of Jesus after He is found in the Temple by Mary and Joseph but before He begins His public ministry is extremely brief. But that does not mean the Scriptures do not have very much to teach us about this part of Jesus’ life! What follow are two points with which we can spend some meditative time.
First, consider that Jesus, God Incarnate, Ruler and Creator of all that is, was obedient to human parents for about 30 years! How do we consider this extraordinary humility of Jesus? It took shape amidst the most usual tasks of day-to-day family life: the carpenter’s shop with Joseph, the home with Mary, observing the Sabbath. The majority of Jesus’ life was spent in this rhythm of every-day fidelity.
Grace: 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: In the Gospel of St. Luke, Our Lord tells the story of the persistent widow who won consideration from the judge because of her perseverance. Here in the colloquy we are called to persistence in prayer to obtain in a most particular way that grace which we desire in this First Week – to know our sins so as to reject them entirely and no longer offend God. In this prayer it is especially good to focus clearly on the grace we have been so earnestly seeking in our prayers to this point.
Certainly, prayer to Mary, Christ, or the God the Father is effective on its own; however, in combination and succession, this way of speaking with those who can most help us achieve our eternal good is especially efficacious. This is St. Ignatius’s genius.
Grace: For light to see the disorder of tepidity in my life and to be disgusted by it, to seek forgiveness for it, and the grace to amend it.
Text for Prayer: 1 John 2:1-11
Reflection: It is part of our human nature to get into habits. What exactly is a habit? A habit is an established disposition to act in a certain way by repeated choices of the will; it is a direction we freely choose by repetition. This makes habits both real work to establish and (the bad ones) difficult to break.
Our contemporary society has not lost touch with the idea of habit. Unfortunately, the negative habits we often hear about today do not touch on the most important realities. While not bad in themselves, these messages often focus on, for example, diet, exercise, or business success. True, it takes good habits to act well in these areas of life; but if it is true for them, how much more true it is for the spiritual life! I once heard someone comment, “I know people who will work harder to loose weight than to get out of their sins!” Even though this comment summarizes the culture by which we are surrounded and by which we are all affected, we can still choose to stir our generosity and reflect on habits in our spiritual life.
“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’”
So C.S. Lewis quips in The Great Divorce, neatly summarizing the determinative power of our human free will. Yet, such a choice is not one that is sorted out in just one decisive moment – at the end of time or before – but rather each at each moment of our lives. It is to an examination of the way we use our wills that we now turn.
Immediately after offering the Principle and Foundation at the opening of the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius lists the examination of conscience. Upon consideration this makes plenty of sense; only once we know the proper destination of our course of life on earth can we have a clearer understanding of what deviates us from this path. Better understanding that we are made for God calls for a response on our part! The course of life offers us choices – some of which promote our end, some of which slow us down in pursuing it, and some of which outright oppose our end. Most simply put, sin and the praise, reverence, and service of God do not coincide.