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: Gratitude for the many graces and blessings received, and the desire to reciprocate God’s generosity in loving service to Christ the Risen King.
Text for Prayer: Spiritual Exercises no. 230-237
Reflection: At the conclusion of Lent and the Spiritual Exercises, we have so much to be grateful for. Let us recall with gratitude the ways we have experienced the Trinity’s Love for us throughout the Four Weeks:
Grace: To ask for sorrow with Christ in sorrow, anguish with Christ in anguish, and interior grief because of the great sufferings Christ endures for me.
Text: Matthew 26:36-46
Reflection: Stay awake with Jesus.
“My heart is nearly broken with sorrow” (Matt. 26:38). Jesus is experiencing deep inner turmoil as His hour approaches. From a human standpoint Jesus’ ministry appears to end in failure. The Jewish leaders reject Him as the Messiah, the disciples seem clueless and the masses will consent to His crucifixion. Despite this, Jesus seeks to fulfill the Father’s Will. Jesus’ interior suffering was also reflected in His physical suffering. (more…)
Grace: To grow in an intimate knowledge of the Lord, allowing the Beatitudes to be a way to love and to follow Christ.
Text: Mt. 5: 1-12
Reflection: We are all looking for the secret on how to “make it” in this world. We want lasting happiness and the feeling of accomplishment. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus begins with the Beatitudes, which provide a straightforward path on how to live a blessed and happy life.
If we have been freely given the secret to happiness, then why aren’t people ending their chase for fleeting passions to pursue what can only make them truly happy? Because being poor in spirit, mourning, pure of heart, etc. seem contradictory to being happy. The world tells us we need ambition and greed in order to be happy, not poverty of spirit. Reality TV shows dictate that we need constant drama to have a meaningful life, not peacemaking. The media explicitly expresses that we cannot live without sex, and purity of heart and intention is folly. Wall Street upholds that the hard-boiled are blessed, not the meek. Thus, the world sees no value in the Beatitudes. (more…)
Grace: To know and imitate Jesus in His unwavering focus on His Mission in order to love and follow Him more closely.
Text: Matthew 4:1-11
Reflection: Let’s do a quick recap: Jesus was previously at the Jordan River, seeking to be baptized by his cousin. John is perplexed by Jesus’ desire to be baptized and informed Him that it is He who ought to be baptizing him. While Jesus was in the Jordan, the Holy Spirit descended upon Him, the heavens opened and a voice proclaimed, “This is My beloved son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). God the Father revealed the true identity of Jesus. This is a major place of consolation.
The same Spirit that descended upon Jesus in the Jordan led Him to the desert. Jesus had been led from a place of deep consolation to a place of intense purification, fasting for forty days and nights. In His humanity, Jesus became physically, mentally and psychologically weak. At this point, Jesus appears alone, tired and hungry. (more…)
Grace: To distinguish between the deceitful tactics of the enemy of our human nature and the gentle mastery of Christ our King, and to desire to imitate Christ.
Text for Prayer: Please briefly read Spiritual Exercises 136-147 before reviewing the Reflection below. After reading the Reflection, please review the text from the Exercises, and feel free to repeat this exercise as long as you are drawing fruit from it.
Reflection: What do we mean by the term “standard?” In medieval battle scenes, the two dueling kingdoms would raise their respective standard or banner (flag), representing each kingdom. This was particularly important because in the midst of a heated battle, a soldier would often rely on the positioning of the standard to help gauge if he is amidst his comrades-in-arms or if he has drifted far into the enemy’s camp, with the possibility of having little or no support from his own camp as well as the likelihood of becoming a prisoner of war.
At this point in the Spiritual Exercises, we have consented to desire to know, love and follow Christ more closely. Thus, we are not being called to simply choose Christ’s standard over Satan’s standard, but to remain under Christ’s standard. Everyday we are spiritually in combat. While we seek and desire to follow Christ, we may often drift, as in a canoe or a small boat in the sea, by not recognizing and combating Satan’s current. (more…)
Grace: Not to be deaf to the Lord’s call, but prompt and diligent to accomplish His most holy will.
Text: Please briefly read Spiritual Exercises 91-98 before reviewing the Reflection below. After reading the Reflection, please review the text from the Exercises, and feel free to repeat this exercise as long as you are drawing fruit from it.
Reflection: St. Ignatius is first calling us to imagine being exhorted by an earthly king to follow him so that we may thereby better recognize Jesus as our Eternal King and hear His call. But unless you live in Downton Abbey, it might be hard to imagine what it would be like to hear the call of an earthly king.
What do you think of when you hear the word king? Does Aragorn from The Lord of the Rings come to mind, or another fictional character? Since we do not live in a medieval age, the notion of kings and knights might be foreign to us. In this contemplation, it is completely appropriate to utilize an imaginary king or leader as from a novel or a fairy tale since few of us may have had any lived experience of an earthly king. (more…)
Grace: To desire to reform my life and renew my relationship with Christ, recognizing that life is short and I will be judged by the Lord after death.
Text for Prayer: Luke 12:16-21
Reflection: Benjamin Franklin once wrote to Jean-Baptiste LeRoy, a prominent scientist during Enlightenment France, “Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”
Since the tax return deadline, April 15, is still a ways out, let us leave taxes on the sidelines and ponder the certainty of death.
During the past few days, we have been reflecting on the nature of sin: the sin of the angels, the sin of Adam and Eve, mortal and venial sin, the influence of tepidity, and our own sinfulness. One of the consequences of sin is the certainty of death for all living creatures. “The Lord God gave the man this order: ‘You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and evil. From that tree you shall not eat; when you eat from it you shall die’” (Gen. 2:16-17). The disobedience of Adam and Eve resulted in the consequence of death.
Grace: To love and serve God with an undivided heart, and to value all created things inasmuch as they lead me to God.
Text for Prayer: Romans 1:20
Reflection: God does not do anything by accident; “coincidence” is not in His vocabulary.
“Yet just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to the one who sows and bread to the one who eats, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but shall do what pleases me, achieving the end for which I sent it.” (Is. 55:10)
Each one of us and all created things, living and non-living, have been purposefully formed according to God’s plan.
St. Ignatius is calling each one of us to praise, reverence and serve God our Lord not solely in a vertical experience of personal prayer but in the midst of our world and in the presence of all of creation. The people we interact with on a daily basis, the buildings and streets we pass, the conversations and topics we engage in, and even the technology we constantly use are all avenues to become aware of the Trinity closely accompanying us. This felt-awareness permits us to respond with generosity, modeled in particular ways of praising, reverencing and serving the Trinity. (more…)