Thursday, March 09, 2006

St. Ignatius and the Spiritual Exercises

If you have read on the life of our founder, St. Ignatius of Loyola, you already know the significance of the time stretching from his convalescence after his injury at the battle of Pamplona, up to his months of prayer in the cave at Manresa on the other side of Spain. During these months, Ignatius noticed how God led him to pay attention to the diverse "voices" inside of him -- to the movements of consolation and desolation in his heart and spirit. Furthermore, he gradually learned to discern the sources of these desires, thoughts and movements of the heart and spirit: which of them came from God and which of them drew him away from God -- and, perhaps most importantly, which of them he should act upon. Throughout this time, Ignatius learned how important it is to look for God in the stuff of his everyday experience; he learned that God was shaping and forming him to be a companion of Jesus. The fruit of these months of prayer and reflection is contained in his Spiritual Exercises. If there is any genius to the Society of Jesus, it lies in this little treatise on prayer written over 450 years ago. The method of prayer outlined in that book helps each Jesuit to follow Jesus and seek God's will in any circumstances, from the most mundane day of teaching, administrating or writing, to a particularly trying experience of walking with people experiencing grave suffering or social injustice.