Commentary

Commentary arranged according to the structure of the Exercises

(023)

On one level, the Principle and Foundation can be seen as diagnostic. It explores whether a person has truly grasped at an interior level the experience of God’s creative and sustaining love. . . . Even those advanced in the spiritual life need to experience anew that foundational experience of God’s love before progressing further in the Exercises. Until people can claim that gift of God’s love on a personal level, they cannot hear God’s words of forgiveness or the call in freedom in the rest of the Exercises. To enter into the meditations on sin in the first week of the Exercises without a genuine experience of God’s love can be a destructive experience. A person cannot come to honest self-knowledge without first knowing they are loved.

Put another way, the Principle and Foundation explores a person’s operative image of God.

Putting on the Heart of Christ: How the Spiritual Exercises Invite Us to a Virtuous Life by Gerald M. Fagin, SJ

(023)

Just by being of the earth, then, each of us has a unique original purpose. But God is also creating each of us directly, so it is God who puts into each of us a unique original purpose. We each have a personal vocation from God. No one else can do what God calls each one of us to do, for evolution careens on through time and space.

You are unique and unrepeatable—well, what are you for? Who are you to become? These are questions of more than personal importance, for God’s hope for the world depends on your realizing God’s hopes in you.

Making Choices in Christ: The Foundations of Ignatian Spirituality by Joseph A. Tetlow, SJ

(023)

After the named things one “ought not to seek,” (health, wealth, honor) comes a fascinating phrase, “and so on in other matters.” What might the “and so ons” be for women in contemporary society? Cultural myths, certainly, including beauty, body shape, youthful appearance, dependence on external validation—especially from men—stylish dress, security and doing it “right.” Having the one making the Exercises list her own “and so ons” could prove helpful.

Desires also intimately relate to the Principle and Foundation because desires flow from a worldview and reveal how one wishes to be in relationship. Those guiding the Exercises do important work when they assist those making them to discover what they really want—their functional Principle and Foundation. Some women have little sense of the choices or options existing even within impossible situations. The difficulty might stem from a lack of imagination, but also, perhaps, from fear. “It’s risky to discover my own needs and desires because it leads me on a path away from the crowd and into the unknown” said one woman. “I will have to take responsibility for my actions, and I may fail.”

. . . Women generally put the needs and desires of families, parents, and coworkers first, leaving little room for self. In not a few cases, they face enormous conflict from spouses or partners when seeking to fulfill their God-given desires. Internalizing the core of the Principle and Foundation will give a sense of their dignity and uniqueness and elicit authentic desires and genuine indifference. One woman imaged the movement into healthy autonomy as “coming out of a coma.”

The Spiritual Exercises Reclaimed: Uncovering Liberating Possibilities for Women by Katherine Dyckman, Mary Garvin, and Elizabeth Liebert

(023)

“health more than sickness”

One might, as many who make the Exercises do, choose a situation of poverty and low esteem as being in itself a more literal imitation of Christ. Sickness would not ordinarily be chosen in this way; but one might choose a course of action or way of life in the recognition that sickness or early death would be the likely or inevitable consequence (such would be the case in the sixteenth century of the choice of a missionary life). But for some people the immediate implications of indifference may lie in other and more specific directions, and Ignatius’s reference to “everything else” should not be overlooked.

Understanding the Spiritual Exercises by Michael Ivens, SJ

(023)

The First Principle and Foundation invites us to see the world as a product of love. We have to affirm the goodness of the world. The first grace is to know that each one of us is a product of God’s love.

Discovering Your Dream: How Ignatian Spirituality Can Guide Your Life by Gerald M. Fagin, SJ

(023)

The Principle and Foundation is densely worded, but it is not meant to be an academic exercise. Consider it an invitation for you to experience more deeply how intimately related you are to God and to all of God’s creation (including persons, other creatures, and the natural world). In so doing, certain fundamental truths about our existence come alive: God creates me out of love, in a particular time and place, with particular talents and temperaments, strengths and limitations. God continues to create and to reveal who God is to me and who I am before God. God invites me to partner with God to build a more just and gentle world. I learn that the best way to praise God is to be who God made me to be and to honor the uniqueness of other creatures.

The Ignatian Adventure: Experiencing the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius in Daily Life by Kevin O’Brien

(023)

In the Principle and Foundation, Ignatius presented his view of God, world and self. An emerging new cosmology shifts the perspective on theological questions pertaining to that opening consideration. At least seven implications flow from the new cosmology in reference to the Principle and Foundation:

  • Classical dualisms are no longer tenable. The hierarchical, patriarchal dualisms of humans over earth, men over women, and spirit over matter are obsolete.
  • Human beings are radically interconnected with all other creatures. Quantum physics insists on the fundamental interrelationships of the world of matter.
  • God is not distant from the universe but a sustaining presence in all of creation. . . . The universe is pregnant with the presence of God whose creative action is at the heart of the evolutionary process.
  • A human-centered norm of progress must give way to a biocentric focus. Humans are within the cosmos, not apart from or above it.
  • Cultivating a renewed sacramental vision is the richest way of recovering both a sense of reverence for and companionship with all of creation.
  • Salvation is planetary and global as well as personal. A shift from other-worldly to this-worldly redemptive hope flows from the new paradigm. Persons no longer seek simply their own redemption but that of all creation, including the earth itself. The life and death of Jesus must be lived out salvifically by all Christians. The universe, the sacred body of God, also needs salvation (Rom. 8:18–23).
  • Humans are called not to dominate nature, but to be cocreators within the evolutionary process.
The Spiritual Exercises Reclaimed: Uncovering Liberating Possibilities for Women by Katherine Dyckman, Mary Garvin, and Elizabeth Liebert

(023)

Now the fruit of the Principle and Foundation (Exx 23) and of the First Week in general should be a certain self-esteem, the humble acknowledgment that one is loved, recognized, esteemed, created and nurtured. There should be an awareness of one’s own capacity, of the gift one is given to live upright with dignity.

As women we have a long road to travel from this point of view; we have to pay a high price for self-esteem. One need only glance into the many dark corners of our society to discover how women continue to be exploited, abused, and their rights violated. Many UNICEF reports establish that violence against women and girls is the most common breach of human rights.

“Women Helping to Give the Spiritual Exercises” by Nerea Alzola

(023)

This first principle is a disarmingly simple statement about the meaning of life, but because of this, it demands a second look. The implication, I think, is that if we are to build our lives on prayer, then this must be the principle upon which we build them. It’s straightforward enough, but it forces us to ask some basic questions: Do I live this belief? What would my life—my day-to-day choices—look like if I honestly believed this principle? If my life were really founded on the belief that I was created by God for praise, reverence, and service, then it would seem that everything I do must somehow be related to these goals. Is this the case?

The Ignatian Workout: Daily Spiritual Exercises for a Healthy Faith by Tim Muldoon

(023)

“praise, reverence and serve”

These and similar terms—“honor,” “respect,” “obedience,” and above all “giving glory”—echo the “hallowed be thy name, thy will be done” of the Lord’s Prayer, and express an attitude of radical God-centeredness, a desire simply that God be God and that his purposes be realized. The meaning of the words is not exclusively cultic. God is praised not only by formal worship, but when we so live that in our heart and behavior God is acknowledged to be God and his will is done in all things. Again, we give praise, reverence and service in becoming involved in God’s “project,” which is simultaneously the ongoing conversion of our own lives and the establishment of his reign in the world.

Understanding the Spiritual Exercises by Michael Ivens, SJ

(023)

“helps to the pursuit of this end”

The idea of creatures as “helps to an end” serves to pinpoint a basic principle of Ignatius’ “theology of the world.” In God’s creative project, there is a unity of purpose, and the key to that purpose is God’s project for humankind. In relation to the transcendent end of the human person, the world is not a neutral backdrop, still less in itself an obstacle or embarrassment. Immediate reality in a sense is the raw material of our relationship with God; it is for the most part precisely in and through our commerce with this reality that our praise, reverence and service of God come about. The idea of creatures as “helps to an end” can however convey a misleadingly utilitarian impression, and it must not be understood as denying the value of things in themselves.

Understanding the Spiritual Exercises by Michael Ivens, SJ

(023)

“to use (and avoid)”

To be human is to make constant choices of use and avoidance in regard to reality (not to take such choices is to be a victim of circumstances). The potential of reality to help towards the praise, reverence and service of God is realized to the extent to which that “end” is the criteri­on of our particular choices to use or avoid. The word “use,” like the word “things,” does not refer only to physical use, but to the entire gamut of human responses to reality—interest, love, every kind of creativity, enjoyment, together with inner responses such as the acceptance or not of situations, and the meanings we are free to confer on these, etc.

Understanding the Spiritual Exercises by Michael Ivens, SJ

(023)

Already in the “Principle and Foundation,” Ignatius presents key concepts which will function throughout the course of the Exercises and beyond: freedom and choice. The fundamental choice to be made, “to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord,” can only take place in a state of freedom.

A Generous Openness: Praying the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius by Charlotte C. Prather

(023)

The phrase “and so embrace salvation” also suggests the need to distinguish between love of self and selfishness or self-centeredness. It is right to love ourselves. We are beings of love. Truly loving ourselves is a process; it happens as we accept ourselves, say yes to our destiny, and live out the purpose of life’s journey. When we accept the pull of the Spirit and say yes to our destiny, we find meaning, we love ourselves, and we reach fulfillment. We understand ourselves as meaningful beings when we experience God filling up our emptiness. Salvation is an experience of friendship and relationship with God. It is important, therefore, to realize that this phrase—“and so embrace salvation”—in the Exercises means to find fulfillment, to come to a sense of completeness and meaningfulness in the totality of our being.

Spiritual Freedom: From an Experience of the Ignatian Exercises to the Art of Spiritual Guidance by John J. English

(023)

Many persons’ worldview remains largely unexamined, an unconscious frame of reference for living and relating to God, self and creation. Each person making the Spiritual Exercises needs to answer the implicit questions in the Principle and Foundation: How would you describe your world and how it influences you? How do you imagine God? What is your relationship to others and all of God’s creation? What is your part in creation? What are the dominant influences on your sense of God, humans, heaven and earth? What does it mean to exist in this vast unfolding universe?

The Spiritual Exercises Reclaimed: Uncovering Liberating Possibilities for Women by Katherine Dyckman, Mary Garvin, and Elizabeth Liebert

(023)

Humans have always struggled to find meaning, to locate their place in relation to others, the world and God in light of their understandings or perceptions of the world. The recognition that God creates humans moment by moment expands to include the sense that God creates everything moment by moment—suffuses the very evolutionary process—and that humans can and indeed must collaborate in that process.

The Spiritual Exercises Reclaimed: Uncovering Liberating Possibilities for Women by Katherine Dyckman, Mary Garvin, and Elizabeth Liebert

(023)

The Principle and Foundation is intended to evoke a present or remembered experience, an awareness of how God continues to create and to cherish each individual moment by moment throughout life. This realization must precede any consideration of sin, or else the First Week becomes painfully introspective. The Principle and Foundation “grounds” a person in graced self-awareness and God-awareness, which is food for the journey of life and ministry. The God of the Principle and Foundation loves women compassionately and asks them to trust themselves and act out of this deep, true sense of who they really are.

The Spiritual Exercises Reclaimed: Uncovering Liberating Possibilities for Women by Katherine Dyckman, Mary Garvin, and Elizabeth Liebert by Katherine Dyckman, Mary Garvin, and Elizabeth Liebert

(023)

Images of God as judge, tyrant, beyond caring, oppressive and domineering are common among women, particularly those who have experienced psychological, physical or sexual abuse. On the other hand, and equally unhelpful, God can also be experienced only as comforting, allowing a sort of pseudodependent, immature relationship that never challenges one to assume responsibility. Both of these unhelpful and incomplete or even destructive extremes need to be recognized and challenged. The heart of the matter is God-image.

The Spiritual Exercises Reclaimed: Uncovering Liberating Possibilities for Women by Katherine Dyckman, Mary Garvin, and Elizabeth Liebert

(023)

“indifference”

Ignatius is very straightforward and honest in his presentation of the necessity for indifference, although he can hardly have expected one who was beginning the Exercises for the first time to have already attained it. In a sense, one enters upon this path with the goal, the praise and service of God, already in view, precisely because the route one will travel is a matter of choice. At each point, a new dimension of freedom (indifference) is needed in order to be able to choose the end (love) which has been seen and embraced from the beginning (faith).

A Generous Openness: Praying the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius by Charlotte C. Prather

(023)

“subject to our free choice”

We are not asked to be—and indeed we should not be—indifferent all the time or in regard to everything. The grace of indifference is a potential, to be activated when appropriate; and explicit indifference is appropriate in times when we are seeking the will of God. When we judge that we have found it, the appropriate attitude towards the course indicated is one of commitment, controlled by integrity of intention.

Understanding the Spiritual Exercises by Michael Ivens, SJ

(023)

“indifference”

The convoluted issue around “making myself indifferent to all created things” cannot be dealt with as simply a question of will power. Indifference presumes passion. Women cannot act with indifference in any positive sense until they have identified their desires and passions. Indifference demands liberation. Detachment follows from attachment to Someone whose love empowers with blessed freedom.

The Spiritual Exercises Reclaimed: Uncovering Liberating Possibilities for Women by Katherine Dyckman, Mary Garvin, and Elizabeth Liebert

(023)

“indifference”

[W]hen we face a serious choice, we will try not to have made our minds up before we have to, even before the alternatives emerge. We will be alert to having deep-seated prejudices and to making implied or even overt demands on God that the Lord crown our own self-originated choice with grace and happiness. On the contrary, we set ourselves to live this way: We will wait when alternatives are emerging. We will try not to favor one over the other or the others until we are clear whether God is telling us something through our own desiring or through the desiring in the Church or of others.

Choosing Christ in the World: Directing the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola according to Annotations Eighteen and Nineteen by Joseph A. Tetlow, SJ

(023)

“other things”

St. Ignatius says that the “other things” that have an objective relationship to me and to God should be used or not used to the extent that they help me attain the end for which I was created. Surely, in the last analysis there is nothing that cannot be integrated into the service of God in some way, and one can say without hesitation: God grows in men to the degree that their relationship to things is a more positive one, and vice versa. This point must be emphasized because man is always tempted to consider earthly things meaningless and of little value. For our relationship to God, the “other things” are absolutely necessary—they are the place of our service and worship.

Spiritual Exercises by Karl Rahner, SJ

(023)

First, a spirituality of our later years will be a spirituality of gratitude. Gratitude remains the foundation and source of our spiritual lives. The second half of life is an especially good time to grow in awareness of the gift of life itself, of health, friends, vocation and ministry. It is a time to remember and savour all the other gifts we have received—gifts that have sustained us on the road we have taken in life. As we look back on our lives, we recognize the many times when we have taken things for granted, and claimed things as our own that were clearly gifts. Our lack of gratitude may have led us to lose touch with the Giver of all gifts. Our later years are a time to acknowledge and cherish the gifts that have been given to us, and the wonder that god has worked in and through us during our lives. It is a great temptation to devalue what we have done in life, to compare our achievements with those of others whom we admire or with the great dreams of our youth. We begin to ask questions. What difference have I made? What have I done of lasting value? How have I responded to the graces given to me? We may fail to celebrate and treasure the everyday but extraordinary moments of friendship, ministry and prayer. The second half of life calls us to true humility, and to the recognition of our gifts as gifts from the hands of a loving God.

“The Spiritual Exercises and a Spirituality for the Later Years” by Gerald M. Fagin, SJ

(024)

Listening becomes an essential skill for the one making the Exercises. She must first learn to discern and honor her own authentic inner voice. This awareness and acceptance can prove difficult, as the most familiar voices she may hear are the loud dominating voices of external authority or the strident voice of her own inner critic. Claiming the authority of her own voice becomes a prerequisite for personal authenticity and for contributing to the wisdom of the faith community. Thus, each woman’s self-identity questions relate to concepts of self-image and God-image and make up an essential dynamic of this First Week. She is encouraged to reflect on her self-image: self as personal and as public but always as relational. The Exercises assume the importance of self-definition leading to self-understanding. Each of the Weeks moves toward a greater self-reflexivity and therefore relate to the dynamic direction of human development.

The Spiritual Exercises Reclaimed: Uncovering Liberating Possibilities for Women by Katherine Marie Dyckman, Mary Garvin, and Elizabeth Liebert

(024)

Don’t try to do a postmortem on every incident and conversation, but simply notice and become aware of any specific moments that your memory sends up to your conscious mind, trusting that these prompts are coming from God, who is present and active deep in your own psyche, just as in every other created space.

Companions of Christ: Ignatian Spirituality for Everyday Living by Margaret Silf

(024)

Don’t try to do a postmortem on every incident and conversation, but simply notice and become aware of any specific moments that your memory sends up to your conscious mind, trusting that these prompts are coming from God, who is present and active deep in your own psyche, just as in every other created space.

Companions of Christ: Ignatian Spirituality for Everyday Living by Margaret Silf

(024)

What has given me life today? What has made me feel more alive, more human? These questions might then lead us on to reflect: In what ways have I been a source of life, hope, encouragement, trust or love to other people and to the rest of creation? For any ways in which I have failed, and for the many opportunities I will have missed, I confidently beg God’s forgiveness and entrust tomorrow to God’s care and keeping.

Companions of Christ: Ignatian Spirituality for Everyday Living by Margaret Silf

(032)

Listening becomes an essential skill for the one making the Exercises. She must first learn to discern and honor her own authentic inner voice. This awareness and acceptance can prove difficult, as the most familiar voices she may hear are the loud dominating voices of external authority or the strident voice of her own inner critic. Claiming the authority of her own voice becomes a prerequisite for personal authenticity and for contributing to the wisdom of the faith community. Thus, each woman’s self-identity questions relate to concepts of self-image and God-image and make up an essential dynamic of this First Week. She is encouraged to reflect on her self-image: self as personal and as public but always as relational. The Exercises assume the importance of self-definition leading to self-understanding. Each of the Weeks moves toward a greater self-reflexivity and therefore relate to the dynamic direction of human development.

The Spiritual Exercises Reclaimed: Uncovering Liberating Possibilities for Women by Katherine Marie Dyckman, Mary Garvin, and Elizabeth Liebert

(033–37)

It is well know that evil strategies, complicities and collusions operate within our thought-processes without our being fully aware of what is happening, or, rather, without our being willing to admit to it. We are in need of grace if we are to have our eyes open, grace operating amid the dis-grace that cannot, thanks to the subtle work of the evil spirit, be seen clearly for what it is.

Ignatius, as we know, wants people to move out from their self-love, their self-centered desires, their self-interest (Exx 189), and to work hard at overcoming themselves and setting their lives in order, to become free of disordered affections. The aim is that we become interiorly open to love and service in every dimension of our lives, constantly moving forward in ways befitting our vocation to become the likeness of God. But there is always the risk that our freedom will be trapped subtly by the evil spirit that cannot leave our desires and actions in peace, but is always disturbing us, impeding us, paralyzing us. We are thus always having to work at discernment—discernment which inevitably involves self-examination.

“The First Method of Prayer” by Luis Raul Cruz, SJ

(043)

“first point . . . second point”

To appreciate the General Examen as a method of prayer, full weight—and time—must be given to the first two points. A common distortion of the Ignatian General Examen comes from a tendency to regard these opening points as perfunctory preliminaries. The method begins with thanksgiving for blessings, the attitude epitomized in the Contemplation to Attain Love, and which belongs to the very heart of the Ignatian spirituality of finding God in all things. With regard to the pray for “light” (point 2), while of course we need “light” to appreciate blessings, the placing of this petition immediately before the recall of one’s sins accentuates the fact that sin can be known only in the light of Christ (and not any other “light”).

Understanding the Spiritual Exercises by Michael Ivens, SJ

(043)

“third point”

Exponents of the examen today emphasize the need to ask where one has responded or failed to respond to God, rather than to look simply at right or wrong actions. Approached in this way, the examen brings the discernment of spirits into daily life. Through it one is helped to recognize the often subtle drawing of the “good” spirit, and the (again, often subtle) influences of the “bad” spirit within everyday experience; to become familiar with the processes through which these operate (cf. especially [333, 334]) While this interpretation might seem at first sight to exceed the thoughts, words and deeds of Ignatius’ text, it must be remembered that “thought” includes the “movements of the spirits.”

Understanding the Spiritual Exercises by Michael Ivens, SJ

(043)

The later years are a time to acknowledge decisions made in the past—decisions that we cannot change, and that have set a direction for our lives. Many of them may well have been wise and loving, but some decisions we may now regret, and carry as a burden. They may have harmed others, or excluded possibilities for growth in our lives. We would choose differently now, but the choices we have made cannot be erased or denied. We must come to peace with these decisions, seek forgiveness when possible, and surrender them to God.

“The Spiritual Exercises and a Spirituality for the Later Years” by Gerald M. Fagin, SJ

(043)

As we grow older . . . we must move towards forgiveness, towards letting go and accepting responsibility for our lives at the present moment. This means letting go of grudges and resentments that drag us back into the past and sap our enthusiasm for the present and future. Forgiveness and letting go free us from the endless repetition of past stories of injustice and hurt that we tell as if they were the events of yesterday.

. . . But perhaps the greatest and most difficult challenge of later life is to forgive ourselves. We are called upon to forgive our own failings and mistakes and sins, and to love ourselves as God loves us. Forgiving ourselves means letting go of our regrets, accepting our limitations, and coming to peace with the decisions and actions that we can no longer change. Forgiving ourselves is the final fruit of accepting God’s forgiveness, and the only path to peace.

“The Spiritual Exercises and a Spirituality for the Later Years” by Gerald M. Fagin, SJ

(048)

“Shame and confusion”

Both terms are relational, and together they represent a way of experiencing oneself before God’s mercy. Hence the cause of “shame and confusion” is not sin-awareness in itself, but the experience of the self as a sinner in the presence of a God who is merciful and faithful (cf. [74]). One asks that through prayer this experience be deepened and intensified so as to change the heart profoundly.

Understanding the Spiritual Exercises by Michael Ivens, SJ

(048)

Reflect on what others are already doing. Reflect on the Holy Spirit inspiring many people around the world to carry out tasks, individually and in groups, that would bring about more love, compassion, healing, and forgiveness on Earth. Think of other groups helping to make advances in biology, chemistry, genetics, medicine, surgery, pharmacology, agriculture, fuel efficiency, alternative energies, technology, communication, pure research, space exploration, undersea exploration, ecology, and so on. Give thanks for the Holy Spirit’s inspirations and blessing for all these undertakings that are helping the Christ Project. The New Spiritual Exercises: In the Spirit of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin by Louis M. Savary

(050)

“sin of the angels”

Since sin can be committed by a pure spirit, sin is not essentially tied to animal passions, the instability of the human make-up, or the dynamics of human society. The essence of sin—ours and that of the angels—is, as Ignatius here defines it: the refusal to use one’s freedom to give reverence and obedience to one’s Creator and Lord, in short the refusal to allow God to be God.

Understanding the Spiritual Exercises by Michael Ivens, SJ

(050–51)

In the First Week, Ignatius invites us first of all to reflect on the history of sin. He has us look at the fall of the angels, at the Adam and Eve story, and at our own story. He wants us to get a sense that we are not alone. We think, “I’m not the first one to sin. I didn’t make up sin. I was born into a history of sin.” There is a salvation history, but there is also a history of sinfulness that we are born into. Ignatius wants us to reflect on that and then to realize that we are a part of that history.

Discovering Your Dream: How Ignatian Spirituality Can Guide Your Life by Gerald M. Fagin, SJ

(050–51)

Social sin is systemic, that is, it is manifested and “lives” in the social structures functioning in the larger society. Jesus spent much of his public ministry stirring up awareness of some of the most hurtful social evils of his day, like religious hypocrisy among the priests and Pharisees, corrupt systems of justice perpetuated by the lawyers and scribes, unfair treatment of the poor by the rich, biased treatment of women, the social ostracism of tax collectors and the ritually impure, etc. Truly, Jesus bore the damaging effects of these social sins because he felt their evil impact daily on his own body and soul and on those around him.

He had not contributed to these social sins or tolerated them, as we have. He was like us in all things but sin. Yet these evils were laid on him. They diminished him and his ability to convert people to a change of heart. What diminished him and the people were not only the personal sins of Caiaphas, Pilate, or Judas, but also, perhaps even more powerfully, the social evils of humanity.

The New Spiritual Exercises: In the Spirit of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin by Louis M. Savary

(050–53)

Social sin and personal sin mutually reinforce each other in an interactive anti-evolutionary way. For example, these devolutionary social, cultural, political, and economic arrangements (social sins) distort our personal perceptions of reality. They often restrain our abilities to such an extent that we, individually and collectively, find it harder to choose what is good and easier to choose evil.

The New Spiritual Exercises: In the Spirit of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin by Louis M. Savary

(051)

“Sin of Adam and Eve”

Biblical scholarship has long held that the story of Adam and Eve in the book of Genesis is not history but a theological reflection by the people of Israel on the reality of good and evil. This story speaks a timeless truth known to all humanity: human beings, like the angels, enjoy the gift of freedom, yet we sometimes choose to abuse that freedom by trying to put ourselves at the center of creation and displacing God. This is the essence of original sin.

The Ignatian Adventure: Experiencing the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius in Daily Life by Kevin O’Brien, SJ

(051)

Another provocative element in the story is the theme of wanting to be like God. . . . Many young people, especially, feel invincible—we want to determine the course of our lives, and because of the world we live in today, we have much greater freedom than so many others enjoyed. It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking we are self-reliant and that we do not need God: with so many resources at our disposal, it seems easy to feed our spiritual hunger.

The Ignatian Workout by Tim Muldoon

(053)

“What have I done for Christ . . .”

Return to these questions throughout the retreat. In one sense, they are not completely answerable during the retreat itself; we often lean into the answers as we continue our normal routines. By considering the questions, we realize how practical the Exercises are. Just as our sin is reflected in concrete decisions and actions, so, too, does grace come to life in choices and deeds for the love of Christ and others. We encounter Christ not only in our prayer and in the sacraments but also in our relationships with the Body of Christ, living now as the church, the people of God.

The Ignatian Adventure by Kevin O’Brien, SJ

(053)

Christ on the cross labors and saves. Each person, created in God’s image and gifted in the mutuality of creation, is bound both by personal sin and, in some mysterious way, by the power of sin in the world. Such a realization can evoke tears, sorrow, confusion, helplessness and repentance. The God of love and mercy calls to conversion.

The Spiritual Exercises Reclaimed: Uncovering Liberating Possibilities for Women by Katherine Marie Dyckman, Mary Garvin, and Elizabeth Liebert

(053)

To know the reality of our brokenness and our separation from God, in our gut and not just in our heads, is a harrowing experience. We enter into this experience only when we know, in the same deep-felt way, God’s unconditional love for us, which holds our brokenness in gently sheltering hands.

So what went wrong? Can we be satisfied by the conventional religious language of “sin” and somehow make that cover for the inner howling that comes from the deep awareness of something badly wrong, that no amount of theology is going to cure for us?

Inner Compass: An Invitation to Ignatian Spirituality by Margaret Silf

(053)

Because social sins and personal sins are tied together so inextricably, it is inadequate to say that in his crucifixion Christ died only for our personal sins. What is much more realistic is that Jesus of Nazareth very consciously died bearing the weight of the social sins of organized society, those very sins he openly struggled to confront during his ministry. We might call them, collectively, the sins of humanity. Of course, our personal sins are bound up in those social evils and have contributed to their continued existence.

The New Spiritual Exercises: In the Spirit of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin by Louis M. Savary

(053)

There is a whole realm of resistance—I call it the Big Resistance—that works in us apart from fear, anger, pain, perception, or experience. This resistance is not forced upon us but seems to grow up within us like persistent weeds in an otherwise lovely garden. This is what theologians—and standard Christian doctrine—call sin. This resistance is our tendency to move away from God, even as our souls yearn to move closer to God.

. . . We regularly do what we know we shouldn’t do; we consistently do not live up to our own plans or proceed in the way we envision ourselves living and acting. We repeatedly set our feet upon a good path, only to resist our own steps and cause all sorts of messes.

At the heart of our resistance is ego in its multiple forms. One way or the other, we put ourselves at the center of the universe. For some of us, that means we want to be in control of our own life; we don’t want anyone telling us what to do or preventing us from doing whatever we want. We’ll listen to advice, but we don’t believe we really need help because we are smart and tough and self-sufficient.

Others of us want, ultimately, to be taken care of, to have our every need met and every desire fulfilled. Deep down we believe that we are entitled to this, and we act in quite unloving ways when our needs and desires get thwarted. Some of us want everybody to love and appreciate us. We constantly need to be recognized and adored.

And some of us must always feel significant and valuable. We push others to profess how important we are to them; we test people to see if they miss us enough when we’re gone, or we get angry when we’re not included in every discussion or decision. For this sort of person, major life changes can be hell, because she needs consistency: work that she performs well and for which she receives praise, and a stable group of people who make her feel validated and loved.

Whatever form our self-centeredness takes, it moves us to act not out of love but out of sheer need. If we need to be in control, then we push and use our power abusively. If we want to be taken care of, then we become needy and clingy, just to assure that someone will step up to the challenge. And if we must be loved and appreciated, we invent multiple ways to manipulate people into giving us what we want.

. . . We want, really, to be our own gods. Which is why, throughout history, “God” has been presented to us so often as a monstrous projection of human nature: vengeful, egotistical, controlling, demanding, and always hungry for more. Even our sacred stories have not gone untouched by our ideas of what God should be like—just a bigger, stronger, unassailable version of us.

Days of Deepening Friendship: For the Woman Who Wants Authentic Life with God by Vinita Hampton Wright

(053)

Sin is, perhaps, like holding a daffodil bulb in our hands but neglecting to plant it in our life’s soil because we refuse to believe that it contains a flower. Yet alongside all of our flat refusals to believe, the Gardener plants us nonetheless, and tends us lovingly because he knows who we are and holds everything we shall become in his gentle hands.

Inner Compass: An Invitation to Ignatian Spirituality by Margaret Silf

(053)

As we grow older . . . we must move towards forgiveness, towards letting go and accepting responsibility for our lives at the present moment. This means letting go of grudges and resentments that drag us back into the past and sap our enthusiasm for the present and future. Forgiveness and letting go free us from the endless repetition of past stories of injustice and hurt that we tell as if they were the events of yesterday.

. . . But perhaps the greatest and most difficult challenge of later life is to forgive ourselves. We are called upon to forgive our own failings and mistakes and sins, and to love ourselves as God loves us. Forgiving ourselves means letting go of our regrets, accepting our limitations, and coming to peace with the decisions and actions that we can no longer change. Forgiving ourselves is the final fruit of accepting God’s forgiveness, and the only path to peace.

“The Spiritual Exercises and a Spirituality for the Later Years” by Gerald M. Fagin, SJ

(053)

The later years are a time to acknowledge decisions made in the past—decisions that we cannot change, and that have set a direction for our lives. Many of them may well have been wise and loving, but some decisions we may now regret, and carry as a burden. They may have harmed others, or excluded possibilities for growth in our lives. We would choose differently now, but the choices we have made cannot be erased or denied. We must come to peace with these decisions, seek forgiveness when possible, and surrender them to God.

“The Spiritual Exercises and a Spirituality for the Later Years” by Gerald M. Fagin, SJ

(053)

Christ on the cross labors and saves. Each person, created in God’s image and gifted in the mutuality of creation, is bound both by personal sin and, in some mysterious way, by the power of sin in the world. Such a realization can evoke tears, sorrow, confusion, helplessness and repentance. The God of love and mercy calls to conversion. The Spiritual Exercises Reclaimed: Uncovering Liberating Possibilities for Women by Katherine Marie Dyckman, Mary Garvin, and Elizabeth Liebert

(054)

In both meditation and contemplation the “points” lead into the prayer that Ignatius describes in terms of familiar exchange and calls “colloquy.” Though given a special place at the end of prayer, it is not an appendage to prayer, but its culmination; moreover it may arise at any moment in prayer, and when it does so, it is always, in a sense, a culminating moment.

In the Exercises Ignatius presents the colloquy in various ways. Sometimes he simply invites the exercitant to “end with a colloquy,” sometimes he offers brief guidelines, while the colloquy can also be the context in which he concludes an exercise with specific content or procedures (such is the case here and in the Triple Colloquies). But in whatever form the colloquy is proposed it will always be marked by the personal and spontaneous quality of conversation between friends.

Understanding the Spiritual Exercises by Michael Ivens, SJ

(054)

In the colloquy, we speak and listen as the Spirit moves us: expressing ourselves, for example, as a friend speaks to a friend, or as a person speaks to one whom he or she has offended, or as a child speaks to a parent or mentor, or as a lover speaks to his or her beloved. Whatever the context, be “real,” speaking from the heart. As in any meaningful conversation, make sure to leave times of silence for listening.

The Ignatian Adventure: Experiencing the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius in Daily Life by Kevin O’Brien, SJ

(055)

Ignatius invites us to look at our own history of sin and evil in light of the goodness of God. Even though we reject God, he still blesses us. The saints and angels still pray for us. The earth does not swallow us up. Rather we enjoy the bounty of God’s splendid creation—“heavens, sun, moon, stars, and elements, fruits, birds, fishes, and animals.” Sin is not the breaking of a law or commandment as much as it is a lack of gratitude.

What Is Ignatian Spirituality? by David L. Fleming, SJ

(055–57)

The focus of the first exercise was on the effects of sin in the world and on the exercitant’s involvement in these. The second is concerned with the meaning of sin in itself. The exercise begins with a reality already considered obliquely, “my many sins.”

 . . . The second exercise is very much concerned, then, with the “sin within the sins,” and in insisting in the second point on the “malice and turpitude that sin has in itself even if it were not forbidden,” Ignatius is directing the exercitant to look beyond merely moral considerations to the recognition of sin in its essence.

“The First Week: Some Notes on the Text” by Michael Ivens, SJ

(055–57)

At the heart of our resistance is ego in its multiple forms. One way or the other, we put ourselves at the center of the universe. Whatever form our self-centeredness takes, it moves us to act not out of love but out of sheer need. If we need to be in control, then we push and use our power abusively. If we want to be taken care of, then we become needy and clingy, just to assure that someone will step up to the challenge. And if we must be loved and appreciated, we invent multiple ways to manipulate people into giving us what we want. . . . We want, really, to be our own gods. Which is why, throughout history, “God” has been presented to us so often as a monstrous projection of human nature: vengeful, egotistical, controlling, demanding, and always hungry for more. Even our sacred stories have not gone untouched by our ideas of what God should be like—just a bigger, stronger, unassailable version of us.

Days of Deepening Friendship: For the Woman Who Wants Authentic Life with God by Vinita Hampton Wright

(055–57)

To know the reality of our brokenness and our separation from God, in our gut and not just in our heads, is a harrowing experience. We enter into this experience only when we know, in the same deep-felt way, God’s unconditional love for us, which holds our brokenness in gently sheltering hands.

So what went wrong? Can we be satisfied by the conventional religious language of “sin” and somehow make that cover for the inner howling that comes from the deep awareness of something badly wrong, that no amount of theology is going to cure for us?

Inner Compass: An Invitation to Ignatian Spirituality by Margaret Silf

(055–57)

Sin is, perhaps, like holding a daffodil bulb in our hands but neglecting to plant it in our life’s soil because we refuse to believe that it contains a flower. Yet alongside all of our flat refusals to believe, the Gardener plants us nonetheless, and tends us lovingly because he knows who we are and holds everything we shall become in his gentle hands.

Inner Compass: An Invitation to Ignatian Spirituality by Margaret Silf

(055–57)

There is a whole realm of resistance—I call it the Big Resistance—that works in us apart from fear, anger, pain, perception, or experience. This resistance is not forced upon us but seems to grow up within us like persistent weeds in an otherwise lovely garden. This is what theologians—and standard Christian doctrine—call sin. This resistance is our tendency to move away from God, even as our souls yearn to move closer to God.

. . . We regularly do what we know we shouldn’t do; we consistently do not live up to our own plans or proceed in the way we envision ourselves living and acting. We repeatedly set our feet upon a good path, only to resist our own steps and cause all sorts of messes.

At the heart of our resistance is ego in its multiple forms. One way or the other, we put ourselves at the center of the universe. For some of us, that means we want to be in control of our own life; we don’t want anyone telling us what to do or preventing us from doing whatever we want. We’ll listen to advice, but we don’t believe we really need help because we are smart and tough and self-sufficient.

Others of us want, ultimately, to be taken care of, to have our every need met and every desire fulfilled. Deep down we believe that we are entitled to this, and we act in quite unloving ways when our needs and desires get thwarted. Some of us want everybody to love and appreciate us. We constantly need to be recognized and adored.

And some of us must always feel significant and valuable. We push others to profess how important we are to them; we test people to see if they miss us enough when we’re gone, or we get angry when we’re not included in every discussion or decision. For this sort of person, major life changes can be hell, because she needs consistency: work that she performs well and for which she receives praise, and a stable group of people who make her feel validated and loved.

Whatever form our self-centeredness takes, it moves us to act not out of love but out of sheer need. If we need to be in control, then we push and use our power abusively. If we want to be taken care of, then we become needy and clingy, just to assure that someone will step up to the challenge. And if we must be loved and appreciated, we invent multiple ways to manipulate people into giving us what we want.

. . . We want, really, to be our own gods. Which is why, throughout history, “God” has been presented to us so often as a monstrous projection of human nature: vengeful, egotistical, controlling, demanding, and always hungry for more. Even our sacred stories have not gone untouched by our ideas of what God should be like—just a bigger, stronger, unassailable version of us.

Days of Deepening Friendship: For the Woman Who Wants Authentic Life with God by Vinita Hampton Wright

(055–58)

The second exercise invites the one making the Exercises to move from observer to participant. She takes center stage in her own dramatic struggle to choose the direction of her life through memories of her personal “sin stories.”

The Spiritual Exercises Reclaimed: Uncovering Liberating Possibilities for Women by Katherine Marie Dyckman, Mary Garvin, and Elizabeth Liebert

(055–61)

When the woman making the Exercises perceives God primarily as Patriarchal King, Lord and Judge, she may base her sense of sin largely on submission and judgment. . . . “Contemplating my many sins” may be exactly what a given woman should not do until she broadens her sense of sin and interprets it in light of a loving God. Perhaps an authentic conversion in the First Week reveals an inner experience of knowing oneself as loved by God and rejecting any internalized self-hatred. Conversion may uniquely relate to ordinary events of daily life and its missed possibilities for growth.

The Spiritual Exercises Reclaimed: Uncovering Liberating Possibilities for Women by Katherine Marie Dyckman, Mary Garvin, and Elizabeth Liebert

(055–61)

One woman said tellingly, “I grew up thinking and feeling that almost everything was a sin, venial or mortal, especially mortal if it looked, sounded, smelled or felt good. Now I realize that this belief was the sin I committed against myself.”

The Spiritual Exercises Reclaimed: Uncovering Liberating Possibilities for Women by Katherine Marie Dyckman, Mary Garvin, and Elizabeth Liebert

(055–61)

By pondering her culpability rather than exclusively contemplating her “many sins,” the seeker can more productively reflect upon the First Week. Such consciousness asks each person to develop a true sense of sin and self before the reality of a living, loving, relational God. Each woman needs to let God reveal where she refuses love.

The Spiritual Exercises Reclaimed: Uncovering Liberating Possibilities for Women by Katherine Marie Dyckman, Mary Garvin, and Elizabeth Liebert

(055–61)

Following the work of Saiving, feminist thinker Judith Plaskow challenges the assumption that equates sin with pride and egoistic self-assertion, suggesting that this norm better describes the experience of men. She notes the impact of cultural expectations in defining “the feminine”: “The ‘sin’ which the feminine role in modern society creates and encourages in women, is not illegitimate self-centeredness but failure to center the self, the failure to take responsibility for one’s own life” (Plaskow 1980, 92).

The Spiritual Exercises Reclaimed: Uncovering Liberating Possibilities for Women by Katherine Marie Dyckman, Mary Garvin, and Elizabeth Liebert

(055–61)

Theologian Anne Carr (1996) points out the need to reinterpret Christian categories of sin in light of the experience of women. She concludes that women’s sin manifests itself in a lack of self-assertion in the face of society and culture’s expectations. A woman’s sin often consists not of what she does, but of what she fails to do, such as failing to assume responsibility for choices and naming her own values and gifts (8). Carr reiterates that a male theological perspective has dominated the definition of sin as pride and rebellion and has failed to pay attention to the sin “of those who are powerless, who lack agency, selfhood, and responsibility, and who have suffered violence and abuse” (186).

The Spiritual Exercises Reclaimed: Uncovering Liberating Possibilities for Women by Katherine Marie Dyckman, Mary Garvin, and Elizabeth Liebert

(055–61)

Women often identify themselves not first as sinners but as victims of sin and oppression. This self-identification leads to a personal form of prayer, lament. In lament one names her suffering, caused by injustice, evil and pain, and cries out for God’s help. Naming the trouble begins the healing; turning to God in faith and hope opens one to grace. . . . Therefore, a prayer of lament may prove a more appropriate starting point for the First Week of the Exercises than a prayer of contrition.

. . . Today’s suffering women more typically cry out against the evil that has touched their lives, acknowledging and naming their grief, sorrow, pain and oppression. From here they can move to a freer, deeper and more authentic awareness of personal sin.

The Spiritual Exercises Reclaimed: Uncovering Liberating Possibilities for Women by Katherine Marie Dyckman, Mary Garvin, and Elizabeth Liebert

(056)

Try to be very concrete. Note specific actions or patterns of acting that are sinful, and then go beneath actions or habits to discern the attitudes, tendencies, and intentions that cause them. We aim for a graced understanding that cuts to the heart.

 . . . We aim for our understanding of sin to be heartfelt because conversion involves a change in thinking and feeling, in choosing and desiring. With this deepening understanding may come strong reactions, including sorrow for sins and gratitude for God’s mercy.

. . . This taking stock is not easy, but awareness is a grace when it leads us to freedom from a self-centered isolation and freedom for loving service of God and others.

The Ignatian Adventure: Experiencing the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius in Daily Life by Kevin O’Brien, SJ

(056)

I see myself as a person that is somehow closed off from God, that did not have enough love, that did not have enough courage to let himself go, that did not break loose to find God. Perhaps I can then get a clear picture of my sins: a picture of acts that should not have taken place and that I alone am responsible for. These are truly my sins; I am the one who has become this man. And these sins are still with me, at least as forgiven sins. Perhaps the man that is looking at me from out of my past, is the same man that I am today. Who knows whether or not I have found God’s mercy, whether or not I am near God in the depths of my being—or whether or not I have already begun to be lost? Who knows?

Spiritual Exercises by Karl Rahner, SJ

(056)

The later years are a time to acknowledge decisions made in the past—decisions that we cannot change, and that have set a direction for our lives. Many of them may well have been wise and loving, but some decisions we may now regret, and carry as a burden. They may have harmed others, or excluded possibilities for growth in our lives. We would choose differently now, but the choices we have made cannot be erased or denied. We must come to peace with these decisions, seek forgiveness when possible, and surrender them to God.

“The Spiritual Exercises and a Spirituality for the Later Years” by Gerald M. Fagin, SJ

(056)

As we grow older . . . we must move towards forgiveness, towards letting go and accepting responsibility for our lives at the present moment. This means letting go of grudges and resentments that drag us back into the past and sap our enthusiasm for the present and future. Forgiveness and letting go free us from the endless repetition of past stories of injustice and hurt that we tell as if they were the events of yesterday.

. . . But perhaps the greatest and most difficult challenge of later life is to forgive ourselves. We are called upon to forgive our own failings and mistakes and sins, and to love ourselves as God loves us. Forgiving ourselves means letting go of our regrets, accepting our limitations, and coming to peace with the decisions and actions that we can no longer change. Forgiving ourselves is the final fruit of accepting God’s forgiveness, and the only path to peace.

“The Spiritual Exercises and a Spirituality for the Later Years” by Gerald M. Fagin, SJ

(057)

As we grow older . . . we must move towards forgiveness, towards letting go and accepting responsibility for our lives at the present moment. This means letting go of grudges and resentments that drag us back into the past and sap our enthusiasm for the present and future. Forgiveness and letting go free us from the endless repetition of past stories of injustice and hurt that we tell as if they were the events of yesterday.

. . . But perhaps the greatest and most difficult challenge of later life is to forgive ourselves. We are called upon to forgive our own failings and mistakes and sins, and to love ourselves as God loves us. Forgiving ourselves means letting go of our regrets, accepting our limitations, and coming to peace with the decisions and actions that we can no longer change. Forgiving ourselves is the final fruit of accepting God’s forgiveness, and the only path to peace.

“The Spiritual Exercises and a Spirituality for the Later Years” by Gerald M. Fagin, SJ

(057)

The later years are a time to acknowledge decisions made in the past—decisions that we cannot change, and that have set a direction for our lives. Many of them may well have been wise and loving, but some decisions we may now regret, and carry as a burden. They may have harmed others, or excluded possibilities for growth in our lives. We would choose differently now, but the choices we have made cannot be erased or denied. We must come to peace with these decisions, seek forgiveness when possible, and surrender them to God.

“The Spiritual Exercises and a Spirituality for the Later Years” by Gerald M. Fagin, SJ

(058)

Consider the following questions:

1. Who am I compared to all the other people in the world? I am one small person in a world of billions.

2. Who am I compared to all the good men and women who have gone before me: my ancestors, whose hope was that their descendants, like me, might live in happiness; the heroes and heroines who fought in many ways to secure my freedom, my right to autonomy; the holy people who died to pass on the faith that I have received as gift?

3. Who am I in the context of the whole of creation? One person on one small planet in one small solar system on the outskirts of an ocean of millions of galaxies. I am less than a speck of dust; I barely merit being identified as a single atom in a speck of dust.

4. Who am I compared to God? One small atom on one speck of dust in the midst of the whole of creation that God made. What can I be apart from God? Why has God chosen to care for me?

The Ignatian Workout by Tim Muldoon

(059)

Remember that we do this heavy lifting in the context of having experienced ourselves as sinners who are loved. God seeks to free us from everything that gets in the way of loving ourselves, others, and God. The focus is not simply naming our sins, which can itself become a form of self-preoccupation. Instead, we focus on who God is and who we are before God. With this orientation, we discover the source of our liberation: the boundless mercy of God. We begin to see how sin has distorted our relationships. Recognizing how generous and faithful God is, we become dissatisfied with our meager, self-directed responses. We naturally want to reorder our values and make tangible changes. We do this not out of duty or obligation, but out of love for Someone greater than ourselves.

The Ignatian Adventure: Experiencing the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius in Daily Life by Kevin O’Brien, SJ

(059–61)

Ignatius’s worldview did not include an awareness of social sin. He did not identify the unjust structures of society as embodiments of sin nor did he think of sin in communal or relational terms. Ignatius’s understanding of sin would have been more individual and act-oriented. His own battles with scrupulosity taught him that obsessing with particular actions did not lead to peace or bring him closer to God. Ignatius is more concerned with the graces and desires of our hearts than with our individual sins. More important for him is the call to gratitude and freedom that focuses our hearts on God and God’s goodness. The more contemporary approach to sin can, however, further expand and enrich Ignatius’s sixteenth-century understanding of sin. Reflection on social sin is an essential adaptation of the Exercises in today’s context.

Putting on the Heart of Christ: How the Spiritual Exercises Invite Us to a Virtuous Life by Gerald M. Fagin, SJ

(059–61)

Within your growing awareness of sin, something profoundly personal and hopeful is at work. The fire of God’s love is inviting you insistently into the deep glow of peace and the radiant energy of salvation in Christ Jesus. Your own memory and willpower cannot produce this revelation. Without a lively sense of God’s love, this revelation of sin is not possible. In that situation the problem lies not with God but with your complacent sense of the Creator’s immediate, intimate love.

Stretched for Greater Glory: What to Expect from the Spiritual Exercises by George A. Aschenbrenner, SJ

(059–61)

The loved sinner stands at the center of the First Week of the Spiritual Exercises. Although sin provides the focus, the First Week really dwells on love, God’s love, which is greater than human sin. This Week moves from awareness of and responsibility for sin to awareness of God’s gracious love, a love that forgives sin and welcomes the sinner.

The Spiritual Exercises Reclaimed: Uncovering Liberating Possibilities for Women by Katherine Marie Dyckman, Mary Garvin, and Elizabeth Liebert

(060)

At this point, St. Ignatius once again mentions the history of salvation and how it embraces all visible things, the saints and the angels—all from Christ and toward Christ. I stand somewhere in this salvation history as a sinner. And the bolt of divine justice and retaliation is still restrained. The world, as it were, holds its breath and waits.

Spiritual Exercises by Karl Rahner, SJ

(061)

When, however we are pierced by sorrow because we have received the grace to see our own sinfulness against the horizon of the Infinity of God, something different happens. This is no longer an experience in which the powers of reason and will can be applied first to judge the consequences of our actions and then to resolve to amend them. Rather, it is a gift which alters from within—instantly, deeply, and wholly mysteriously. Above all, it is not an experience of agonizing remorse but rather one of unimaginable love.

A Generous Openness: Praying the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius by Charlotte C. Prather

(061)

As we grow older . . . we must move towards forgiveness, towards letting go and accepting responsibility for our lives at the present moment. This means letting go of grudges and resentments that drag us back into the past and sap our enthusiasm for the present and future. Forgiveness and letting go free us from the endless repetition of past stories of injustice and hurt that we tell as if they were the events of yesterday.

. . . But perhaps the greatest and most difficult challenge of later life is to forgive ourselves. We are called upon to forgive our own failings and mistakes and sins, and to love ourselves as God loves us. Forgiving ourselves means letting go of our regrets, accepting our limitations, and coming to peace with the decisions and actions that we can no longer change. Forgiving ourselves is the final fruit of accepting God’s forgiveness, and the only path to peace.

“The Spiritual Exercises and a Spirituality for the Later Years” by Gerald M. Fagin, SJ

(061)

The later years are a time to acknowledge decisions made in the past—decisions that we cannot change, and that have set a direction for our lives. Many of them may well have been wise and loving, but some decisions we may now regret, and carry as a burden. They may have harmed others, or excluded possibilities for growth in our lives. We would choose differently now, but the choices we have made cannot be erased or denied. We must come to peace with these decisions, seek forgiveness when possible, and surrender them to God.

“The Spiritual Exercises and a Spirituality for the Later Years” by Gerald M. Fagin, SJ

(062)

The Ignatian prayer of repetition is to be understood in relation to two inseparable processes: the gradual assimilation of the given material, and the development of prayer towards the simple, receptive and personal quality of contemplation. Repetition does not mean making an exercise over again. Though in the repetition one might replay some detail, or even pick up on a point previously overlooked or not reached, repetition is essentially concerned not with the material given, but with one’s own significant responses to it, whether positive or negative. It is a selective and subjective prayer, spacious and unhurried, typified by the “pause,” by staying put where “I find what I want.”

Understanding the Spiritual Exercises by Michael Ivens, SJ

(063)

The first request should be directed to our Lady. We are with her in the communion of saints and of prayer—the Mystical Body of Christ. Mary has a very special place and function in this body. Prayer to Mary is a part of Christian piety. St. Ignatius is a witness to that here with his triple colloquy, in a simple but theologically relevant way.

Then we should say: “Soul of Christ, sanctify me . . . ,” turning to our Mediator, the Incarnate Word who affirms in Himself before God the present world-structure. He is the Lord, the Victor over the world. He has given to everyone who does not belong to the “world” the power to become a child of God.

Finally, I should direct myself to the Father Who has loved us so much that He sent His dearly beloved Son into the darkness, the emptiness, and the sin of this world.

He alone is the all-holy One, the Lord, the Judge, the absolute center, according to Whom everything else must pattern itself. In His deep, un-searchable designs, He must have mercy on us so that we can know Christ and learn to love Him in grace. When we have been caught up in His mercy, we no longer belong to the “world,” and the struggle with venial sin has become nothing but a valid following of Christ.

The Spiritual Exercises by Karl Rahner, SJ

(063)

“Abhorrence”

Perhaps the only jarring note the modern reader will find in the text is the notion of “abhorrence,” used in each of the colloquies to designate the affective response for which the exercitant is required to pray. Since inevitably the word is liable to conjure up pictures of the more morbid aspects of religious conversion (such as self-loathing or the hatred of the world), it is important to be clear that it is sin and not self that is the object of abhorrence and that abhorrence for the sinfulness of the world must be understood in the light of Ignatius’s positive theology of creation.

“The First Week: Some Notes on the Text” by Michael Ivens, SJ

(063)

“A knowledge of the world”

The concept “world” is very ambiguous. Here it means just what Scripture says of it: It is not an imaginary picture dreamed up by illusionary ascetics, but it is the world of scandals on which the Lord called down His terrible “woes”; the world of darkness into which the light came and was not received; the world which cannot receive the spirit of truth, which, according to St. Paul, has a wisdom all its own that is not our wisdom; the world which does not know Christ, which hates Him and His, but which has already been conquered by the Lord.

Spiritual Exercises by Karl Rahner, SJ

(063)

A contemporary worldview can open up a deeper realization about the interdependence of all creation and foster the basic recognition that she is not god. This assent leads to a growing sense of truth about self and God in light of the “creation and fall.”

The Spiritual Exercises Reclaimed: Uncovering Liberating Possibilities for Women by Katherine Marie Dyckman, Mary Garvin, and Elizabeth Liebert

(063)

We may be willing to admit sin intellectually, but to experience it as part of who we are, at the core of our being, is another matter. To grasp it, to hold it in our hands, to bring it into the presence of another person, to expose it to the light of God in Christ requires a willingness to be naked, which is quite terrifying. Thus, like Adam and Eve, we take cover under the trees of denial and repression and persuade ourselves that to hide from the face of God is less painful than to experience our shame.

A Generous Openness: Praying the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius by Charlotte C. Prather

(063)

Today, perhaps the best we can do immediately is resist, as Jesus did, in those few areas where we recognize injustice and can do something about it. We can also choose to become agents of change for organizations that try to address and improve certain obvious injustices. The challenge always is to turn a structure that is currently devolutionary into one that is evolutionary, one that is more fitting for the development of the Body of Christ.

The New Spiritual Exercises: In the Spirit of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin by Louis M. Savary

(063)

It is well know that evil strategies, complicities and collusions operate within our thought-processes without our being fully aware of what is happening, or, rather, without our being willing to admit to it. We are in need of grace if we are to have our eyes open, grace operating amid the dis-grace that cannot, thanks to the subtle work of the evil spirit, be seen clearly for what it is.

Ignatius, as we know, wants people to move out from their self-love, their self-centred desires, their self-interest (Exx 189), and to work hard at overcoming themselves and setting their lives in order, to become free of disordered affections. The aim is that we become interiorly open to love and service in every dimension of our lives, constantly moving forward in ways befitting our vocation to become the likeness of God. But there is always the risk that our freedom will be trapped subtly by the evil spirit that cannot leave our desires and actions in peace, but is always disturbing us, impeding us, paralyzing us. We are thus always having to work at discernment—discernment which inevitably involves self-examination.

“The First Method of Prayer” by Luis Raul Cruz, SJ

(065)

The subject of the final meditation is one which needs to be present to the consciousness of the free person, who is invited to choose life but is capable of choosing death.” But in the First Week of the Exercises the meditation on Hell is not for Ignatius the starting-point of conversion, but a confirmation. It comes after the exercitant has had the experience of God’s merciful love. Made in a climate of trust in that love, it is made too in the awareness that we are capable of refusing love. Though the petition is for the grace of fear, the meditation ends on a note of thanksgiving for God’s loving mercy, and implicit in the thanksgiving for the past is trust for the future, yet a trust which must never degenerate into presumption or complacency.

Understanding the Spiritual Exercises by Michael Ivens, SJ

(065)

To suffer the dreadful absence of God is a genuine experience of the effects of sin, for the disorientation, unrest, and despair caused by sin is exactly the experience of having lost the center of our lives, that which gives us meaning, peace, and joy. To feel the sense of loss of God in prayer is a very precious experience, for in it we learn that we would rather suffer any other loss. To know, love, and delight in the Lord becomes something we begin to value more. This is grace.

A Generous Openness: Praying the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius by Charlotte C. Prather

(065)

Imagine you are somewhere above Earth . . . looking down and seeing the network of sinful social structures keeping people from living full human lives and hindering the development of the Christ Project. You can see dominator people trying publicly to deny the harm these evil structures are doing to the human race and to nature itself. You can see others observing the destruction, yet doing nothing, or perhaps looking for someone to blame in order to absolve themselves. Still others, perhaps, feel helpless or too cowardly to say or do anything to make a difference. Others are resisting one specific social evil but without a true change of heart, and so end up, perhaps unwittingly, supporting different social evils: for example, some may condemn abortion, yet support the death penalty.

The New Spiritual Exercises: In the Spirit of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin by Louis M. Savary

(065–71)

St. Paul speaks of our being able to grasp the breadth and length and height and depth of Christ’s love and experiencing this love which surpasses all knowledge (Eph. 3:18–19). At its opposite pole, I try to experience the breadth and length and height and depth of hell—the despair of facing a cross with no one on it, the turning out upon a world which has no God, the total emptiness of living without purpose, an environment pervasive with hatred and self-seeking, a living death.

I bring the whole of my being into the vividness of this experience. I let all the horror of sin which has been the fruit of my previous prayer periods wash over me in an enveloping flood. In many ways, this setting is the most passive of prayer experiences; it is not a matter of thinking new thoughts or even of looking for new images, but rather entering fully into the felt experience of sin which has been building up from all my past prayer periods.

It is akin to the passive way that my senses take in sights, smells, sounds, tastes, and touches as an automatic datum for my attention. I know that the total felt-environment of sin, in whatever ways it can be most vividly mine, is the setting for this prayer period.

Colloquy: Once I have let the awfulness of this experience sink deep within me, I begin to talk to Christ our Lord about it. I talk to him about all the people who have lived—the many who lived before his coming and who deliberately closed in upon themselves and chose such a hell for all eternity, the many who walked with him in his own country and who rejected his call to love, the many who still keep rejecting the call to love and remain locked in their own chosen hell.

I give thanks to Jesus that he has not allowed me to fall into any of these groups, thus ending my life. All I can do is give thanks to him that up to this moment he has shown himself so loving and merciful to me.

Then I close with an Our Father.

Draw Me into Your Friendship by David L. Fleming, SJ

(101)

“Contemplation”

Ignatius presents two ways of imagining in the Spiritual Exercises. The first way is demonstrated in a meditation on the mystery of the Incarnation in the second week of the exercises. He asks us to “enter into the vision of God.” God is looking down on our turbulent world. We imagine God’s concern for the world. We see God intervening by sending Jesus into the maelstrom of life. This type of imagining helps us see things from God’s perspective and take on God’s qualities of love, compassion, and understanding.

The second method of imagining is to place ourselves fully within a story from the Gospels. We become onlooker-participants and give full rein to our imagination. Jesus is speaking to a blind man at the side of the road. We feel the hot Mediterranean sun beating down. We smell the dust kicked up by the passersby. We feel the itchy clothing we’re wearing, the sweat rolling down our brow, a rumble of hunger. We see the desperation in the blind man’s face and hear the wail of hope in his words. We note the irritation of the disciples. Above all we watch Jesus—the way he walks, his gestures, the look in his eyes, the expression on his face. We hear him speak the words that are recorded in the Gospel. We go on to imagine other words he might have spoken and other deeds he might have done.

What Is Ignatian Spirituality? by David A. Fleming, SJ

(101–134)

The Exercises do not merely confront the retreatant with the saving truths of the gospel. They light up and evoke and make explicit what the retreatant already in some dim way knows and lives, something repressed perhaps that underlies all ordinary experiences. Every human being is now Christ-oriented in the very depths of his or her being, whether this is realized or not. What the contemplations of the Spiritual Exercises do is to make the retreatant more and more aware of this Christ-orientation in life. If this Christ-orientation were not an already present reality in the life of the person, contemplating the mysteries of Christ’s life would have no power to affect, transform or bring about an identification with Christ. As it is, the retreatant begins to experience God, the world, other people, and the self in the way that Christ experienced all these.

“The Dynamic of the Second Week” by William Broderick, SJ

(101–134)

The Infancy Contemplations introduce a number of basic themes.

First, the opening contemplation establishes the Trinitarian context crucial to understanding everything that follows. Christ’s mission is the work of the Trinity. It proceeds from and expresses the love of the Trinitarian God for the world and the unconditional commitment of the Divine Persons to the world’s redemption.

Second, within this Trinitarian context attention is centered on an implication of the Incarnation—childhood—which needs to become personally real for the exercitant if he or she is to appreciate the Incarnation for what it is. That the Word became human means that the Word became a child. The exercitant who does not encounter the human reality of Jesus’ childhood lacks something essential to their knowledge and love of “the Lord made human for me” [104]. Thus in these first days of the Second Week, the Trinitarian prayer of the exercitant takes the form of contemplating, with the complete realism characteristic of the imaginative method, the historical childhood of Jesus.

Third, the contemplation of the child and his entourage is permeated by the idea of fidelity to God’s word and will. From the moment of his conception, Jesus exists wholly for the mission given by the Trinity [104]; in the Temple incident he responds consciously and explicitly to the Father’s overriding claims [134, 272]; at Nazareth he is subject to his parents [134, 27l]; Mary’s “Fiat” exemplifies supremely the grace of “prompt and diligent response to God’s call”[ 262 (cf. 91)]. The Flight into Egypt is an act of obedience, and obedience is a detectable note in the Presentation.

Fourth, Ignatius proposes the Infancy Contemplations in a way that accentuates the themes of poverty and humiliation introduced in the Kingdom Exercise and presented now not as abstractions, but as embodied in the persons of Jesus and his parents, and in their hard and precarious circumstances. In these circumstances the exercitant is invited to see the first steps of a descending journey of love which begins in the heart of the Trinity and will conclude on the Cross (cf. [116]).

Understanding the Spiritual Exercises by Michael Ivens, SJ

(102)

Let the exercitant take note: I belong to this world; it is my framework of existence; I am buried in its confusing multiplicity and in its apparently inescapable problematic. In my own constantly changing situation . . . I am experiencing just a small portion of the problem of existence of all mankind. By being involved in the ups and downs of international life, of my own country and culture, and by trying to take an active part in these things, I really become more interiorly aware of myself and acquire more control over myself. God wanted to enter into this world where apparently everything is mixed up, where each thing only seems to appear so that it can fall back again into black chaos, where there is so much pride and baseness, where the heroism that does occur is so surrounded with banality that it usually remains at best doubtful, where everything seems to be locked eternally within itself, where there are very few ears to listen to the transcendent God. God Himself wanted to participate in this world.

Spiritual Exercises by Karl Rahner, SJ

(106)

“draw profit”

With variants this expression will recur frequently in the Second and Third Weeks, and it also appears in the Contemplation to Attain Love. The words are to be understood in the context of contemplation. In this context reflection is the reflective process that opens the word of God to personal discovery. The word “profit” refers to the initiative of God in acting in the exercitant: giving light or insight or “the intimate feeling and relish of things” granting especially requested graces, and here the grace of a deepening knowledge and love of Christ [104]. But profit may also be the perception of some particular life-response called forth by the Gospel; and in many cases, the profit sought in contemplation will take the form especially of clarification regarding the discernment of God’s will in the exercitant’s election. On the side of the exercitant drawing profit consists in appropriation of God’s action in oneself, letting oneself, through contemplation, be touched, enlightened, changed.

Understanding the Spiritual Exercises by Michael Ivens, SJ

(106–107)

In the contemplation on the Incarnation our concern is not simply with the fact in faith. Ignatius’s narration of the history reveals that his chief concern is with the how and why details which personalize the Trinity’s decision, in the face of our human blindness and sinfulness, to “work the redemption of the human race” (Exx 107). All the following contemplations in the Exercises spring from and reveal further this one, radical—this paschal decision in the heart of the Trinity.

“Becoming Whom We Contemplate” by by George Aschenbrenner, SJ

(121–126)

Application of Senses

A different kind of repetition—application of the five senses. In our contemplations thus far, we have been imagining the Gospel scenes, immersing ourselves in the details of Jesus’ life. Here, Ignatius invites us to deepen our prayer. We become less active: we are more about being than doing. We do less thinking than in our meditations and less imagining than in our contemplations. We become more still, savoring the graces and resting in the presence of God. You may quietly review with Jesus your prayer over several days, or rest in one particular scene or conversation that meant something to you in your prayer.

We let go. We let the story of Jesus become a part of us. In the same way that our bodily senses take in the data of daily life, we let the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and feelings of our contemplations wash over us, and we allow whatever insights, images, desires, or emotions that remain to take root in us.

The Ignatian Adventure: Experiencing the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius in Daily Life by Kevin O’Brien, SJ

(121–126)

Application of Senses

The exercise which culminates the contemplative day is characterized by a concentrated sense-presence with a minimum of discursive thinking. The sensing is bodily/imaginative and its immediate object is the physical realities of persons and things. But these are perceived not only as objects of the imaginative bodily senses, but as containing the mystery of the divine as touched by grace [124], as invested with faith-meanings already discovered in prayer (cf. [2]); and to this level one is present by an inner sensing of the mind and heart which comes about in and through the immediate imaginative sensing. It need hardly be added that the personal quality of the exercitant’s prayer at this stage will depend primarily not on following a prayer method, but on his or her overall dispositions and the action of the Holy Spirit.

Understanding the Spiritual Exercises by Michael Ivens, SJ

(135)

The typical but not the only “election” an exercitant might have made in Ignatius’s time was concerned with the two classic “ways” of Christian life: the “way of perfection,” virtually corresponding to canonical religious life, and ordinary Christian life, known as the “way of the commandments.” With regard to this distinction, the point to be noticed here is Ignatius’s insistence that since each way is modeled by Christ himself, either might prove to be God’s will for the exercitant, and hence the way in which he or she is to seek personal perfection (or holiness).

Understanding the Spiritual Exercises by Michael Ivens, SJ

(136)

“Deadly Enemy of our Human Nature”

Although we tend to put humanity and divinity in separate categories, Jesus shows us that they are one. Remember one of the central insights of the Second Week: the path to divinity is through our humanity, not around it. In the Meditation on Two Standards, Ignatius refers to Satan as the “enemy of our human nature.” The enemy wants to dehumanize and devalue us. In contrast, Jesus empowers us to embrace our humanity in all of its beautiful complexity. The more we express our humanity in loving, healing, forgiving, serving, and rejoicing, the more our divinity or holiness is revealed.

The Ignatian Adventure: Experiencing the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius in Daily Life by Kevin O’Brien, SJ

(136–148)

This image has a pre-historical origin. It is constantly used in Scripture and tradition (for example, Jerusalem-Babylon; the City of God and the City of Satan). But while tradition, at least since the time of St. Augustine, draws a clear line between the fronts of the two kingdoms—the Church here and the kingdom of Satan over there—Ignatius emphasizes the mutual penetration of both kingdoms. According to St. Ignatius, there are no static front lines between the two, but only swift emissaries who are sent to all parts of the globe. The meaning here is not that the Church is on one side and all those who are not visibly in the Church are on the other side. The kingdoms of Christ and Satan as described by St. Ignatius both embrace the whole world. Lucifer also expands his power inside the Church, for there we find pride, greed for wealth, and power. The Church is also the Church of sinners and not just the Church of saints! On the other hand, God seeks to win over men who do not yet belong to the community of the Church in a visible way, as it were officially, through the reception of baptism. . . . [T]he banner of Christ cannot be simply identified with the Church, nor can the banner of Satan be simply identified with the world outside of the Church.

Spiritual Exercises by Karl Rahner, SJ

(136–148)

[T]he vision is dominated by a reality that profoundly affected Ignatius’ outlook: the reality of spiritual powers in radical opposition, yet present and at work throughout the world. However, here these are presented not in their obvious ways of working, but in their subtleties. Thus the power of evil is shown as operating plausibly yet destructively, through the appeal of objectively legitimate riches and honors. And life in Christ is not just a morally correct life, but one that values the paradoxes of spiritual and actual poverty. The horizon (again as in the Kingdom Exercise) is that of the world: the minions of evil and the missionaries of Christ build respectively the worlds of Babylon and Jerusalem. But the emphasis is on the negative and positive individual qualities that place a person in one camp or the other, and on the desire, that lead to these. These qualities are on the one side pride, to which the Evil One leads us through cupidity, and on the other humility, to which Christ leads us through the desire to follow in ways other than those of instinct and convention.

Understanding the Spiritual Exercises by Michael Ivens, SJ

(136–148)

The goal of the exercise—the graced attraction of the exercitant to Christ and his way as being best—must be kept clearly in mind. Brilliant analyses of how the contemporary world, secular and ecclesiastical, is being duped by satanic illusions may simply lead the exercitant into “head-tripping.” The Exercises are all about desires: the desires of God to liberate us by drawing us to his Son, and the ambiguous desires in our hearts both for God and for what the world holds as important. The exercitant needs to acknowledge the deceptive attractiveness of the latter, and be encouraged to pray intensely that his/her graced desire for God be strengthened, so that the desires come more and more into harmony with God’s desires.

“Presenting the Two Standards” by Brian Grogan, SJ

(136–148)

Behind this meditation is a practical theory of vice and virtue. Good and evil aren’t abstractions. They show themselves in concrete actions in the real world. Note a couple of significant details in the meditation. First, the contest between Christ and Satan takes place in this world, not in some spiritual realm. As far as we’re concerned, the power of evil is centered on earth, not in hell, and God’s kingdom is in this world, not in heaven. Note also that both Christ and Satan work through agents. Satan sends out demons; Christ works through apostles, disciples, and other emissaries. Another detail: no part of the earth is left out. “No province, no place, no state of life, no individual is overlooked.” You don’t get a pass if you’re a priest or nun, come from a religious family, or live in a nation with a strong Christian culture. Everybody’s in this battle and must choose a side.

Even more interesting is Ignatius’s idea of how virtue and vice develop. One thing leads to another. You slide down the slope to vice or you ascend the heights to virtue. . . . It’s a progression: “From these three steps the evil one leads to all the other vices.”

Christ also starts with riches, but he goes in the other direction . . . first poverty, then obscurity, finally humility. “From these three steps, let them lead men to all the other virtues,” Ignatius says.

God Finds Us by Jim Manney

(142)

The problem with Lucifer’s program is that riches, honor, and pride subtly lead us away from the truth that everything is a gift from God. These values delude us about the true nature of things. They focus our attention on ourselves rather than God. We come to think that the wealth we have acquired—whatever we identify as our “riches”—is our accomplishment. The honor we receive is the well-deserved acknowledgment of our importance or our accomplishments. Ultimately, the governing value is pride. We come to believe that we are in charge, that the almighty self takes pride of place.

What Is Ignatian Spirituality? by David A. Fleming, SJ

(142)

“covet”

The strategy is not concerned with the possession of wealth in itself, or even with every kind of desire to gain or keep a possession (such a desire can be given by God). The desire described here is covetous desire or “cupidity,” the craving for wealth when we lack it, and the possessive clinging to it when we have it; it is the attitude that regards whatever we want as ours by right, the attitude of persons who “put their trust in riches.”

Understanding the Spiritual Exercises by Michael Ivens, SJ

(142)

“riches/honor”

Taken literally the words refer to material possessions, and social and ecclesiastical status, but while this literal sense has relevance for every one in every age (and crucial implications for our own age), the terms also admit of wider application. In the wider sense, riches and honor can be anything at all that meets the inherent human need for identity, security, esteem, love. The particular significance we attach to the things, situations or relationships that for us meet these needs, the quality of our desire for these, our criteria for seeking or accepting them—all this raises the basic issue of the kind of persons we are and want to be in relation to God and others.

Understanding the Spiritual Exercises by Michael Ivens, SJ

(142)

“pride”

A stance in relation to God, consisting in the refusal to give praise and reverence, and hence a tendency, in however subtle away, to try to establish oneself as absolute. When understood thus, pride is clearly linked with cupidity: pride needs the things that build and affirm the self, and needing them for self-absolutization has to detach them from the praise, reverence and service of God. Once so detached, they will be easily captured by the isolated (or “proud”) me.

Understanding the Spiritual Exercises by Michael Ivens, SJ

(146)

The values of Jesus lead us back to the fundamental truth that everything is a gift from God. The value of poverty reminds us that we have nothing in ourselves but only as a gift from God. Embracing powerlessness acknowledges that God is our strength. Humility is the expression of the reality of the self before God. It recognizes that we are first and foremost sons and daughters of God, children who call him Father. The perfect embodiment of these values is Jesus himself. The Father exalted the Son because the Son emptied himself in perfect humility by becoming incarnate (a human being). That is why we, in our following of Christ, strive to live by the values of poverty, powerlessness, and humility.

What Is Ignatian Spirituality? by David A. Fleming, SJ

(146)

“Spiritual poverty”

Poverty here means the ability to leave things—a certain abandonment to trust in God. First of all, naturally, Ignatius is speaking of actual poverty. Something like insults and contempt is the natural result of detachment from worldly possessions (we are not just speaking of material goods, but also of spiritual values such as a career, a reputation, and so forth), even if it is not always expressed in the form of open ridicule. The person whose whole life is truly centered in God and who does not give himself completely to the things of this world, is, in the eyes of the world, stupid, backward, cowardly, and useless. The man who stays his distance from worldly goods and does not attach himself perfectly to them in the battleground of this world is always at a disadvantage to those who identify themselves completely with the weapons of this world. Certainly good people and pious people are often more stupid than they should be; they are often less adroit and less competent than they should be. But a universally valid and necessary characteristic of the following of Christ is that those who take their Christianity seriously cannot be first in the race for worldly possessions.

Spiritual Exercises by Karl Rahner, SJ

(146)

“Actual poverty”

Like wealth and honor these terms are to be understood in an extended as well as in a literal sense. Here they should be taken as denoting the general characteristics of a way of life antithetical to the pursuit of wealth and status, the way of life lived out and commended by Jesus, and modeled in many different ways by his followers. Note however that actual poverty and humiliation are desired conditionally (should He deign to choose them for it).

Understanding the Spiritual Exercises by Michael Ivens, SJ

(146)

“insults or contempt as opposed to the honor of this world”

[Ignatius writing to Isabel Roser, 1532] [Y]ou speak of the enmities, the intrigues, the untruths which have been circulated about you. I am not at all surprised at this, not even if it were worse than it is. For just as soon as you determined to bend every effort to secure the praise, honor and service of God our Lord, you declared war against the world, and raised your standard in its face, and got ready to reject what is lofty by embracing what is lowly, to accept indifferently honor and dishonor, riches and poverty, affection and hatred, welcome and repulse, in a word, the glory of the world or all the wrongs it could inflict on you.

If we wish absolutely to live in honor and to be held in esteem by our neighbors, we can never be solidly rooted in God our Lord, and it will be impossible for us to remain unscathed when we meet with affronts.

Letters of St. Ignatius of Loyola by edited by William J. Young, SJ

(149–157)

The Three Classes meditation invites us to examine our desires and attachments. More than any other exercise so far, it gets at what Ignatius said was the purpose of the Spiritual Exercises: “making ourselves ready to get rid of disordered affections.” In the Three Classes exercise, we take a close look at what this really means.

The Three Classes exercise is a thought-experiment. It puts people in an extreme situation and looks at how they would respond. Ignatius isn’t moralizing, saying what we should do, or labeling some behaviors good and others bad. Everyone in the exercise is trying to do the right thing. Think of them as people who’ve read the meditation on the Two Standards and taken to heart the message that riches can lead to ruin.

 . . . Let’s be clear: The problem isn’t the fortune; it’s your attraction to the fortune. The exercise doesn’t assume that God wants you to give the thing up. It may well be that God wants you to have it. The issue is your freedom to make a decision. The attitude we strive for is complete openness to whatever God wants. The attraction may not go away.

In fact, we should assume that it won’t. All our lives we will have many likes and dislikes, strong reactions to the things people do and don’t do, passionate attraction to some possibilities and sharp revulsion to others. The challenge is to find a way to stand aside from these passions when important decisions are at hand so that we can hear God tell us what he wants.

God Finds Us by Jim Manney

(154)

Let us watch the response of the second class of men. They, too, are weighed down by their attachment to the sum of money; they would like to be rid of this feeling of attachment but they want to hold on to the money. They compromise; they try to manipulate God into fitting into their plans (which includes retaining the money); they are trying to “subject and fit the end to the means” rather than “the means to the end” (169). These people have a particular attachment which they are unwilling to release. Whatever is the object of this inordinate attachment has become for them an idol, a god of their own making. They have lost sight of the God who is beyond themselves and his purpose in creating them. They are unwilling to confront that most painful law of human existence, that every choice I make necessarily involves some exclusion. Man is a being of infinite desire who resents limitation inherent in every choice. Unlike the first group, these people do make decisions, they do things; but all the time they are trying to bend God’s will to fit their own designs. It is not surprising that they, too, fail to find God; instead they find only themselves and their own will.

“To Find God in Peace” by by Laurence J. Murphy, SJ

(155)

Note where the third person begins: she is not sure whether or not God is asking her to give up the possession; she simply desires to be free to do what God wants her to do. So she begins by asking God what she should do. She is open to how God directs her through her prayer, her experience, her reasoning through different options, her discernment of consolations and desolations, and the wise counsel of others.

The truly free person checks her motivations, which are often mixed. She tries to choose from a desire to better serve God and others. The third person may feel some attachment to the possession and does not mind waiting to make a decision. But she does not procrastinate. She does make a timely decision (acknowledging that we rarely reach complete indifference).

The Ignatian Adventure: Experiencing the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius in Daily Life by Kevin O’Brien, SJ

(155)

The third class seeks to love God in the way that He wants to be loved. The men of this class do not prefer to keep or to give up those things that are to be integrated into their lives. Certainly, this form of the love of God is most difficult, and it requires great effort to put it in practice. Those in this group want Him to have the complete disposition of themselves. Because this is what the man of the third class wants, he first of all struggles against his own inner attachment to things in the spirit of the Kingdom of Christ and the Two Standards. Then he begs God actually to take these things away from him so that he can be ruled by God alone and His love. From this angle, the possibility of giving something up does not seem so terrifying. God alone is the source of all movement; now the Kingdom of God is really close, is contained either in giving up or in keeping, in life and in death. Now a man has really become a child who does not die of fright when God approaches either in the one garment or the other.

Spiritual Exercises by Karl Rahner, SJ

(157)

The note added to this exercise by St. Ignatius is central to his spirituality. He is teaching us how to cope with our feelings of attachment opposed to actual poverty, or what to do when we discover that we are not indifferent as we know we need to be. What he advises us to do here is the Ignatian pedagogical technique of agere contra—“acting against their sensuality and carnal and worldly love” (97). Correctly understood in the Ignatian schema of discernment, with the help of a spiritual director, the agere contra is intended to restore and maintain the necessary balance between sensuality, affectivity and reason.

“To Find God in Peace” by Laurence J. Murphy, SJ

(157)

“attachment”

As the relevance of the three stories is borne in on them, the exercitant may become acutely aware of attachments to his or her own riches and to the fact that indifference in regard to these does not come easily. The present note is addressed to people in this situation. To avoid misunderstanding it must be stressed that the recommended response cannot be engineered by will power, but comes about through the Spirit (and in the Spirit’s time) and from a motivation of love and trust.

Understanding the Spiritual Exercises by Michael Ivens, SJ

(165)

Ignatius gives a positive definition, “fidelity to the law of God,” backed up by a negative definition, “not for anything would I deliberately commit mortal sin.” The first is plainly wider than the second, but the negative definition, making explicit the concrete implications of fidelity to the law of God, is a criterion enabling us to judge our real sincerity. The first mode of humility, if sincere, is not something to be disparaged, but consisting as it does in fidelity to obligations, it is not by itself an adequate attitude in which to make an election, because election is the search for the “better for me” in a situation where obligations do not apply.

Understanding the Spiritual Exercises by Michael Ivens, SJ

(165–168)

St. Ignatius is concerned here with the three degrees of the love of God, but he uses the word “love” only sparingly, and generally speaks of “humility”—the generous service of God. He feels that the essence of love does not consist of words, but of service and deeds.

It should be mentioned right in the beginning that the kinds of humility under consideration are of a positive nature. They cannot be distinguished clearly from one another. They are rather three sides of the one Christian approach to the service of God. Therefore, it is better to speak of three degrees of humility rather than three kinds or types.

Spiritual Exercises by Karl Rahner, SJ

(165–168)

Obviously we have more than three choices about how closely we want to identify with Jesus. There is a continuum of humility. Between the minimum and the maximum are many degrees of acceptance of a life being modeled on the life of the poor Jesus. We move along the spectrum in successive stages. Every day we are presented with new opportunities to grow closer to Jesus, or to draw away from him.

Ignatius wants us to know that we have a choice. The meditation on the three kinds of humility reminds us of what the choice is. Jesus had nothing of his own. He has no words except the words that the Father gives him to speak. He does no deeds on his own. He does only what his Father would have him do. He is the one who has been “sent.” As he says to Philip, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.”

Perfect humility would have us be able to say the same things about ourselves. We would be poor as Jesus is poor. We have nothing of our own, only what God gives us. We want to speak Jesus’ words and do Jesus’ deeds. Our whole identity would be summed up in the phrase “son or daughter of God.”

Paradoxically, then, we are truly rich, rich with an identity that only God can give and no one can take from us.

What Is Ignatian Spirituality? by David A. Fleming, SJ

(165–168)

The Three Kinds of Humility exercise asks, “What are your non-negotiables?” You say your deepest desire is to choose what brings you closer to God, but what limits do you place on how that will happen? Perhaps you see yourself as a leader, giving direction and setting the pace, or perhaps you see yourself as a follower, serving humbly on a team. Maybe you need to accomplish something noteworthy. Perhaps financial security comes first. Perhaps it’s a certain style of service—a desk job, hands-on work, the life of the mind. The exercise asks you to look honestly at these deeply-held ideas of the kind of person you are and what you need to have.

by Jim Manney

(166)

The essential difference between this and the first kind of humility consists not in the rejection of venial as well as mortal sin, but in the total readiness to carry out the perceived desires of God even in matters where no (objective) obligation obtains.

Understanding the Spiritual Exercises by Michael Ivens, SJ

(167)

In this third way of loving, we pray for the desire to experience in our life what Jesus experienced in his. We do not seek poverty, contempt, or foolishness for its own sake but to become more united with Jesus Christ, whom we love. Out of love, we desire so much to be with Christ and to live according to his values (his “standard”) that we accept whatever comes with our commitment. We become indifferent to results as the world judges them. The third kind of humility reminds us how countercultural the gospel can be. Loving in any of these ways—but especially in the third, wholeheartedly—is a gift from God.

The Ignatian Adventure: Experiencing the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius in Daily Life by Kevin O’Brien, SJ

(167)

The third kind of humility is distinguished from the second by positive preference: I want and choose. Moreover, preference is not only for poverty and contempt but for being reputed worthless and a fool, rather than wise and prudent in this world. The third kind of humility is the disposition of the person for whom it is more desirable to lack, rather than to possess, riches and worldly honor; and to be accounted by the world as foolish and of little worth rather than as wise and prudent.

Understanding the Spiritual Exercises by Michael Ivens, SJ

(167)

The Third Kind does not imply the distorted belief that the harder thing is the better thing. Nor does it glorify self-victimization which encourages one to place on oneself, through many and varied justifications, the contempt and non-acceptance of others. Ignatius’ assumption behind the Third Kind is expressed in this desire of the heart: I experience such love that I want to be with my lover in all the aspects of my experience; if he/she is poor, then I want to be poor; if he/she is insulted, then I want to be insulted! It is the language of love and it flows from the rationale of the heart. 

“Three Key Exercises and the Decision-Making Dynamic” by John Veltri, SJ

(167)

We make choices throughout our lives that make us confront the divisions within ourselves. Needing money for very legitimate life purposes always means that we will experience tension, for it is always possible to want more money than we actually need. Do we choose to take a vacation or to help the starving poor in Sudan? Do we choose to buy new clothes or donate to the Red Cross? Do we buy a great cappuccino or give our spare change to a homeless person? The point is that money and power always face us with conflicts. There are two extremes: the first is to avoid them altogether by taking a radical approach to humility and never enjoying money or power. The second is to ignore the conflict and simply enjoy money and power all the time, like the first type of person, the postponer. Most of us are caught in the middle—we experience the tension. But experiencing this tension, wrestling with it constantly, is attending to God’s will. The tension itself is good; it is a sign that we care about what God is calling us to do.

The Ignatian Workout: Daily Spiritual Exercises for a Healthy Faith by Tim Muldoon

(168)

We can gather from the words of St. Ignatius that the third degree is dependent on certain conditions, and therefore cannot be put into practice at all times and in all places. All of us cannot indulge in the folly of Christianity in the way that many saints of the past have done. We may not deliberately make a fool out of ourselves in the eyes of the world for the sake of Christ. No one can act in this way without being called to it. Conduct of this kind always demands the corresponding interior growth and disposition—the necessary external circumstances are not enough. Obviously, we should not look down on such extreme forms of the following of Christ as we find in the lives of certain people, for example in a Matt Talbot. But we should never forget that these things can only be done discreetly—no matter how odd they may seem.

Spiritual Exercises by Karl Rahner, SJ

(169)

Making an election, as with discernment of spirits, is more an art than a science. It takes practice. Choosing between two or more good options is difficult. Ignatius’s rules for discernment and the methods of election can help us make decisions that lead to greater faith, hope, and love. In a culture that often runs from commitment and puts off decisions, we pray for wisdom, prudence, and courage in making choices. Although it is wise to take time to make a good decision, we should not delay decisions so much that we miss opportunities for growth. God will be with us, whatever course we take.

In the end, we make a decision in hope. If we made a good discernment and receive confirmation, then we can trust that this is the way that God asks us to use our freedom here and now. Something may happen in the future that requires us to make another discernment, but such events should not undermine our confidence in the initial discernment.

Once a choice is made, there are no guarantees that we will be successful (as the cross teaches us) or actually be able to do what we want (Ignatius was convinced that he was to spend his life in the Holy Land, but on his first try he was ordered to leave, and later, with his companions, he was not able to find safe passage there). We do our best to follow God’s lead, and then we trust that God is with us in our decision making and will lead us where we need to go, even if by a circuitous route.

The Ignatian Adventure: Experiencing the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius in Daily Life by Kevin O’Brien, SJ

(169)

There are two basic exaggerations in the way with which people make their decisions. Some people put closure on the decision-making process too quickly; others keep avoiding to place closure on the decision-making. The first group is made up of “closure artists” who appear to enjoy the making of decisions. They make decisions quickly. They easily come to closure on what-should-I-do or what-needs-to-be-done questions. However, they are inordinately eager to cut off the considerations of some variables. After all, too many variables would make their decision-making more difficult and their lives too ambiguous! The second group is made up of “avoiders” who appear to avoid conscious decision-making until the circumstances force them to act. They often fear the burden of responsibility for mistakes because they do not want to face the fact that, as humans, we are never cognizant of all the variables.

People who are affected by these exaggerations need to appreciate several truths in human decision-making:

1. Our decisions always rest on partial understanding. Only God is in touch with the whole of God’s self and all the possibilities of any situation. As humans, our knowledge is never complete because we live our lives through units of time.

2. Decision-making is always limited by time and space. Mistaken decisions are inevitable. It is better to take a risk of being mistaken than it is to give up our right to decide.

3. God adapts God’s saving and redeeming work to the vagaries of human choices.

4. Not to make a decision is a decision.

5. We live our lives between two unknowns, the unknown of self and the unknown of God. Yet we are invited to make responsible choices, all the variables behind which we can never know.

“Decision-Making and the Five Steps” by John Veltri, SJ

(169)

One of the themes of the Spiritual Exercises consists in a distinctive and systematically worked-out doctrine on the subject of decision-making. Basic to it is a concept of decision as relational. That is to say, a decision is seen as answering not just the question: “What is the right thing to do?” but the question, “What course is more pleasing to God?” and it is made not through our own resources alone, but through the working together of Creator and creature. Understanding the Spiritual Exercises by Michael Ivens, SJ

(172)

“With regard to an unchangeable choice . . .”

Perhaps I was reasonably balanced emotionally and I freely chose—but I just chose badly. Marrying someone for money is a bad motive for marrying. Freely accepting ordination to please a parent is a bad reason for be­coming a priest. Are the Ignatian Exercises a good context to review those decisions and decide whether to withdraw the original permanent commitment? Probably not, judging from experience. Those who begin the Exercises determined to decide whether to honor a permanent commitment that they made validly but badly seem almost without exception to withdraw the commitment.

Rather when I find I have made a permanent commitment for poor motives, I would do well to proceed this way. Going against my culture (which feels terror when faced with permanent commitments), I recommit myself, hoping to grow into better motives. I show my sorrow and repentance to the Lord for having made a permanent commitment for a poor reason. I plan ways to make amends to God and to others to whom I may owe them. And then I set myself to live out my permanent commitment. Since I am aware that I have chosen on my own when I was unbalanced and prejudiced, I know that I will have to live close to God.

Finding Christ in the World by Joseph A. Tetlow, SJ

(175)

In connection with this definition certain points should be noted. First, there is no explicit mention of consolation. Second, the fact that the genuine First Time experience leaves no room for doubt does not mean that every experience which does not contain doubt is inspired by God; and hence the third characteristic does not rule out the need for reflection on one’s experience, or for discernment on the part of the director. Nor does the fourth characteristic imply that the experience is necessarily of the dramatic quality of the Damascus road. But if the definition is vulnerable to interpretations beyond its strict content, and if the content itself leaves unanswered questions, the definition nevertheless makes clear the essential quality of the First Time and its distinctiveness in relation to the other times: it is a situation in which the evidence consists in being shown, decisively and unambiguously, the course to follow, and the response is one of simple assent. 

Understanding the Spiritual Exercises by Michael Ivens, SJ

(176)

Most of the time we are conflicted when faced with an important choice. One alternative seems attractive, but then we have doubts about it, and another alternative seems better. Misgivings creep in, and we decide that the first choice was better after all. But we’re not sure. We are pulled back and forth.

Ignatius thought that this movement back and forth between consolation and desolation was the usual condition in the heart of a person trying to make a significant decision. When the matter is an important one, it stands to reason that the struggle in our conflicted hearts would intensify. The good spirit and the evil spirit are active, and their work shows up in the unrest deep in our hearts. This is normal. In fact, Ignatius told spiritual directors to worry only when nothing seems to be going on in the heart of someone facing an important decision.

Usually something is going on. This is where the rules for discernment come into play.

What’s Your Decision? by J. Michael Sparough, SJ, Jim Manney, and Tim Hipskind, SJ

(176)

The Second Time is a process not a single event. Ultimately the decision is made on the criterion of tested consolation, but the process can be a difficult and stressful one.

Ignatius’ concern at this point is to define the Second Time rather than give advice about it. But elsewhere he has plenty to offer the director in the way of principles and practical suggestions. The Autograph Directory suggests two procedures: to note in prayer the respective attractions which arise out of consolation and desolation; and to offer alternative possible decisions, “noting in which direction God our Lord gives a greater indication of his divine will.” In the Exercises themselves the director’s primary resource is of course the Rules for Discernment, but he or she should also keep in mind Annotation 16 and the cautionary advice contained in Annotation 14.

It must be noted however that the essence of the Second Time is discernment and that discernment can never be reduced to the application of guidelines or methods. And to guide another person in a Second-Time discernment requires on the part of directors themselves a discernment grounded in experience, empathy, and wisdom.

Understanding the Spiritual Exercises by Michael Ivens, SJ

(177)

In the Third Time the evidence consists not in feelings, but in the stronger rational case; and the movement and enlightenment, which in the Second Time enter consciousness, are now not conscious or hardly so. The process is not totally rational in the sense that every rational person would see the case in the same way; we are still concerned with finding the best way for an individual, and there is a personal intuitive element in one’s very assessment of the more reasonable case. Nevertheless the criterion is not movement of the spirit, but reason. The Third Time establishes a basic principle: our rational faculties, converted and graced, are capable by themselves of finding God’s will, and that to do this it is not absolutely necessary to experience movements of the Spirit.

Understanding the Spiritual Exercises by Michael Ivens, SJ

(181)

“to consider and reason over [weigh the matter]”

Many factors may be taken into account at this time, including the very down-to-earth ones, and an honesty in looking at all relevant considerations is crucial to the process, especially when the decision­making methods of the Exercises are applied to the often complicated decisions of daily life. But whatever considerations come into play, the criterion by which to assess an advantage or disadvantage is solely for the praise of God our Lord and the good of my soul

Understanding the Spiritual Exercises by Michael Ivens, SJ

(183)

“accept and confirm”

We pray for confirmation in order to be as sure of doing God’s will as it is given us to be; and to counter the tendency in us to opt for hasty closure.

We are not told here what confirmation might mean. It is often taken to refer to an experience of consolation, and many commentators understand confirmation in this sense. Indeed such confirmation is probably frequent, and at all events it would always seem good to ask for it. Confirming consolation is not, however, necessary for the validity of the Third Time method. If misunderstood, Ignatius’ insistence on confirmation could play into a person’s need for security, or into tendencies to lay down terms to God. We must ask for confirmation, but we must be content with the confirmation given us, and this may in the end be simply the negative confirmation that nothing comes up to call our decision into question.

Understanding the Spiritual Exercises by Michael Ivens, SJ

(184–188)

The second way in the Third Time is not a method of obtaining evidence of God’s will, but rather a way of testing the quality of a felt inclination that moves us to a particular choice. . . . [T]he method envisages a situation in which either in the course of the deliberation or as a result of it, the exercitant has moved beyond indifference and feels himself drawn to one of the alternatives of choice, but without being sure whether the motive is the love of God or a rationalization of hidden “sensuality.” The Second Way (or method), if applied with strict honesty, enables the person either to sense that the love that moves one is indeed “from above,” or sensing that it is not, to regain the objectivity necessary for a consideration of advantages and disadvantages for the service of God.

Understanding the Spiritual Exercises by Michael Ivens, SJ

(190)

“from Bethany to Jerusalem”

The formula from/to employed throughout the Third Week in the titles of the contemplations, accentuates the concept of the Passion as a journey, an extended way of the Cross which the exercitant is to walk step by step with Christ.

Understanding the Spiritual Exercises by Michael Ivens, SJ

(190–208)

Contemplation on the passion of Jesus challenges us to insert ourselves into the salvific plan of Jesus. We are called to be personally integrated into the Paschal Mystery and to accept a more conscious participation in the building up of God’s Kingdom. To enter into the dying of Jesus, we must give up attachments that divide our hearts. We must let go of egoism and individualism, of prejudices and biases, and of insensitivity to the suffering of the world around us. We begin to understand the cross of Christ only when we participate in it in our everyday lives.

Putting on the Heart of Christ: How the Spiritual Exercises Invite Us to a Virtuous Life by Gerald M. Fagin, SJ

(190–208)

When making the Exercises of the third week, I often had to pray for the grace even to want to experience them. Although on a conscious level I felt committed to this process and did in fact desire a closer union with Christ, what went on at other levels amounted at time to mutiny. My body would either refuse to sit still or else it would fall soundly asleep. My mind wandered freely. At times my brain felt like a badly tuned radio which was receiving at least three channels at once.

A Generous Openness: Praying the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius by Charlotte C. Prather

(190–208)

Our third week meditations also teach us how difficult acceptance is. When we cannot change a situation, we are tempted to walk away from it. We might literally walk away; we are too busy to sit with a suffering friend. Or we walk away emotionally; we harden ourselves and maintain an emotional distance. We might react to the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ passion and death this way. They describe something terrible and horribly painful, yet we might shield ourselves from the pain. We know the story of the Passion. Ignatius wants us to experience it as something fresh and immediate. We learn to suffer with Jesus, and thus learn to suffer with the people in our lives.

In the end, we learn that Ignatian compassion is essentially our loving presence. There is nothing we can do. There is little we can say. But we can be there.

What Is Ignatian Spirituality? by David L. Fleming, SJ

(190–208)

In the Third Week, Christ is seen most clearly as a human being. He shares all our limitations, all our imperfections, “like his brothers and sisters in every respect” (Heb. 2:17), “tested as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). Jesus knows fear, perhaps deeper fear than we do, because he has actually protected us from the object of that fear. Moreover, strange as it may seem, we have experienced the Resurrection and Jesus had not. Jesus had not yet passed through death, but in baptism we have passed through it already.

Spiritual Freedom by John J. English, SJ

(190–208)

The Third Week is also what Ignatius calls a time of confirmation. You made a decision in the Second Week about how you are going to follow Jesus. Now Ignatius invites you to take that decision before Christ on the cross, to stand before the crucified Christ and say, “This is my decision.” You stand at the foot of the cross and ask, “Can I be, am I going to be, a suffering servant the way Jesus is a suffering servant?”

Discovering Your Dream: How Ignatian Spirituality Can Guide Your Life by Gerald M. Fagin, SJ

(190–208)

Women’s voices also emerge in the passion story. The maid of the high priest serves as a foil to Peter. Her probing questions demand a truthful answer and stand in sharp contrast to Peter’s denial. Pilate’s wife, a woman of power because of her husband, pays attention to the warning in her dream. Yet her warning, spoken on behalf of Jesus, was ignored. The daughters of Jerusalem, weeping and crying out, elicit attention for suffering women and children. The “voiceless” women in the passion narrative communicate eloquently by their faithful presence at the death and burial of Jesus. They remain nameless except for three: Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and Salome. Luke also adds Joanna to the list of women present at the cross. The Fourth Gospel vividly portrays Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the beloved disciple standing beneath the cross, exemplifying discipleship as a relationship transcending bloodlines. Jesus’ words in death give life to a new community of mutuality and care, which finds its fulfillment in Pentecost.

The Spiritual Exercises Reclaimed: Uncovering Liberating Possibilities for Women by Katherine Dyckman, Mary Garvin, and Elizabeth Liebert

(193)

“compassion”

In the case of the Third Week, this more intimate and participatory grace is commonly designated by the word compassion (literally, “suffering with”). . . . Compassion consists in a certain spiritual empathy, such that the contemplation of the Passion is itself a passion for the one contemplating, a suffering which is ours but in and through which Christ makes us sharers in his own. It can exist only as a mode of intense love. It transforms one’s perception of every meaning of the Passion and the quality of every response to it, and it is the key to the contemplative union-in-action by which through his apostles Christ continues to labor and suffer in the mission of the Church in the world.

Understanding the Spiritual Exercises by Michael Ivens, SJ

(194)

In the Third Week, the persons can profit the exercitant in two ways: they embody in various forms the response of compassion, or they reflect the potential in every human being to evade Jesus or to betray him. Thus consideration of the persons sharpens the sense of crisis engendered by contemplation of the Passion.

Understanding the Spiritual Exercises by Michael Ivens, SJ

(197)

“what I myself ought to do and suffer”

To the “do for Christ” of the First Week is now added “suffer”; to act and suffer for Christ: both must be the disciple’s lifelong response to the Cross. By the Third Week, this response has acquired a certain specific content. “Doing and suffering” recall now Christ’s summons to his followers to labor with him and to share in the sufferings inseparable from his own conflict with the world’s opposition to the reign of God.

Understanding the Spiritual Exercises by Michael Ivens, SJ

(197)

Jesus does not suffer or willingly undergo suffering merely for the sake of suffering. We have no example of Jesus during his life consciously and freely inflicting pain or suffering on himself as a form of prayer or devotion to God. Jesus did not approve of suffering for the sake of suffering.

Across the board, Jesus is not in favor of suffering, whether physical, mental, or emotional. Whenever he saw pain or suffering in those who came to him, he tried to heal it or relieve it, not prolong it or tell someone suffering was good for them. His healing miracles tell us that he relieved pain and suffering whenever possible. He relieved even the pangs of normal hunger in the feeding of the five thousand.

The New Spiritual Exercises: In the Spirit of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin by Louis M. Savary

(203)

The focus is not on your suffering but on that of your beloved. A great emptiness of self and ego is required if this grace is to be effective. Such a grace is never easy, especially in our twenty-first-century American culture of self-absorption. As you prepare to ask for the grace suggested, you should appreciate, as much as you can, what it is you are asking of God. The consolation you seek comes from entering the suffering of Jesus. This ability to get out of your own suffering and to enter his teaches a very important lesson: to enter the suffering of other people you must get free of the all-absorbing clutches of your own.

Stretched for Greater Glory: What to Expect from the Spiritual Exercises by George Aschenbrenner, SJ

(203)

The contemplations of the Third Week are quite different from the colloquy of the First Exercise of the First Week, where we are with Jesus on the cross. In that colloquy, those making the Exercises were sinners seeking sorrow and forgiveness for their sins. In the Third Week they seek to be sorrowful with Christ in sorrow. They hope to join Christ in saying yes to God and to complete “what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” (Col. 1:24).

Spiritual Freedom by John J. English, SJ

(206)

“I shall make no attempt to evoke joyful thoughts”

The knowledge of the Resurrection, without which the Passion could not be contemplated in its Christian meaning, should not issue in thoughts or feelings that at this moment could soften the stark reality of the Cross. The exercitant will pray, certainly, to share in some way in Jesus’ own reaching out to the Father in hope and trust within his suffering. But he or she must not step out of the process of journeying towards Easter with the suffering Christ in order to contemplate the Passion in a mood of Easter joy.

Understanding the Spiritual Exercises by Michael Ivens, SJ

(208)

To [meditate on our Lord’s death on the cross], all we really have to do is to repeat what the entire Exercises say about Christ crucified. The whole meditation can be summed up in the already-quoted words of St. Paul: “. . . the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18). We can take this thought or the one that closely follows it in the same letter: “. . . but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:23–24), as the leitmotiv of our meditation. According to St. Paul, the true philosophy is the love of God’s wisdom which is offered to the world in Christ crucified. The cross of the Lord is and remains the fork in the road of world history.

Spiritual Exercises by Karl Rahner, SJ

(208)

Finally, you must let him breathe his last and be gone. You must walk around in the hollowness of this loss. The Resurrection is no miraculous afterthought. It grows from a tree planted on Calvary. To see the light dawning on the horizon of a sky marked by three crosses gives intimations of victory, glory, peace. The Pietà’s image of a faithful mother treasuring in her grief the broken body of her son provides transition and gives birth to a hope, fragile and yet sturdy enough for victory.

Stretched for Greater Glory: What to Expect from the Spiritual Exercises by George Aschenbrenner, SJ

(208)

To be present and attentive before the cross of Jesus is an experience of prayer which may yield its graces over some length of time. The truth which becomes visible in that place, about who the Lord is and about who I am, is water from a very deep well. One may return to drink from it again and again.

A Generous Openness: Praying the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius by Charlotte C. Prather

(209)

The approaches to contemplating the Passion indicated in this Note differ in two ways in particular from the method and structure of the Second Week. First, repetitions are no longer an integral part of the contemplative day; one may wish now to follow the earlier pattern or one may not. Second, considerable value is set upon the contemplation of the Passion as a whole, an exercise to which there is no equivalent in the Second Week. Both features can be explained by the importance attached to the unity of the Passion, which makes the various episodes so many points of entry into the single mystery of the suffering and death of God in the humanity of Christ.

The note respects the variety of ways people may be led to pray the Passion in the Third Week, and for this reason the alternatives proposed here should not be thought of as closing off other possibilities.

Understanding the Spiritual Exercises by Michael Ivens, SJ

(210–217)

[The] curious inclusion of these Rules in the Third Week is explained by the opening contemplation of Jesus at Supper [214]. In practice, whether and at what point they are to be given is left to the judgment of the director, who might also modify them in form. Their general purpose is clear: to set the uses of food and drink in relation to the overall objective of the Exercises (cf. [1] and [23]), and more specifically to the norms of the Foundation; and to promote a contemplative attitude towards the satisfaction of a readily abused appetite. Hence the Rules can and do speak to exercitants today not only about the uses of food, but about other appetites, too, and other socially accepted forms of body abuse.

Understanding the Spiritual Exercises by Michael Ivens, SJ

(218–237)

In the Fourth Week we ask to share in the joy and peace of the risen Christ. This joy, like any grace we pray for, is a gift from God; we cannot earn or force it. We simply try to be open to receiving Easter joy by contemplating Christ as he shares the joy of the Resurrection with others.

 . . . We are not contemplating the actual resurrection event, which is a mystery, beyond time and space. Resurrection refers to the event of God’s transformation of life, making all things new, as in a new creation. Resurrection is a conquering of sin and death, once and for all. Instead of being distracted by the mechanics of the Resurrection or what a resurrected body looks like, we simply contemplate the risen Christ consoling others. We notice how his friends both recognize and fail to recognize the One they have followed and loved. We marvel at how Jesus in the resurrected life—where his divinity is no longer hidden—does very human things: eating, talking, consoling, teaching, and enjoying the company of others. As with the mystery of the Incarnation, we see in the Resurrection how our divinity and humanity are not opposed but are an integral part of each other.

The Ignatian Adventure: Experiencing the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius in Daily Life by Kevin O’Brien, SJ

(218–237)

In its fullness, Fourth Week joy engages the whole person, penetrates everyday experience, enhances and is supported by the ordinary joys of life, but its authenticity must always be measured in terms of depth and strength rather than emotional exhilaration.  Even in the Exercises themselves it may function as it frequently does in daily life, as a leaven-like experience, subtly permeating a sorrow or heaviness which for the moment has to be borne. Yet if even in the Exercises, the uncomplicated plenitude of paschal joy may be slow to come, one prays for it with confidence, and does everything on one’s own side to dispose oneself to receive it.

Understanding the Spiritual Exercises by Michael Ivens, SJ

(218–237)

Certain dispositions of contemporary women can raise obstacles to the liberating effect of the Fourth Week. Fear can paralyze women today, just as it did the women in Mark’s Gospel (16:8) who fled from the resurrection. Change in their relational world challenges women’s self-identity. Commitment can generate fear, for success and joy in one’s accomplishments demands a response. Becoming an active player in the resurrection drama of daily life promises further engagement with the unknown. Often women desire to cling to the familiar, but the grace of the Fourth Week asks women to move out into the unfamiliar role of witness and public mission. In discovering God at work in the world, women must embrace all aspects of it.

The Spiritual Exercises Reclaimed: Uncovering Liberating Possibilities for Women by Katherine Dyckman, Mary Garvin, and Elizabeth Liebert

(221)

“To be glad and to rejoice intensely” is the keynote of Ignatian grace. Gladness and joy seem easy graces because our hearts yearn so much for them. But the grace here is not easy because it involves a persistent emptying of self. The motive for joy here springs from a desire to be identified with the Beloved. Your gladness and joy are “because of the great glory and joy of Christ our Lord.” The spotlight is not on your joy and gladness but on his.

 . . . Contemplative faith, here in the Fourth Week and in daily life after retreat, helps you to find the extraordinary divinity of Jesus in very ordinary human interactions. Finding the extraordinary in the ordinary is part of the Fourth Week grace, initiated by your searching for and finding the hidden divinity of Jesus in his suffering.

Stretched for Greater Glory: What to Expect from the Spiritual Exercises by George A. Aschenbrenner, SJ

(224)

The Fifth Point highlights the heart of the ministry of the risen Jesus. The risen Jesus comes to console. Most of the Resurrection appearances have a pattern of movement from sadness and fear to joy and peace. From Mary Magdalene being present at the tomb of Jesus, to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, and the disciples huddled in the upper room—in each case people have lost heart and are unsure of their future. They are afraid and deeply saddened by what has happened and are unclear where to turn. Yet in each case, Jesus appears and dispels the sadness, filling them with hope and giving comfort. Jesus gives them the promised gift of the Holy Spirit. The gift of the Holy Spirit lifts their hearts and assures them of God’s fidelity to God’s promises. Ignatius invites us to notice Jesus doing this in all the Resurrection appearances that we will consider during the Fourth Week. This is how the risen Jesus relates to us as well. It opens our hearts to Jesus’ consoling ministry toward us.

Putting on the Heart of Christ: How the Spiritual Exercises Invite Us to the Virtuous Life by Gerald M. Fagin, SJ,

(226)

“[A]ll the mysteries from the Resurrection to the Ascension inclusive are to be gone through”
<p>Now, in the Easter-risen life, the body of Jesus becomes a universal body that incorporates all of us within it. It is no longer a finite, limited body; it is cosmic-sized. It is present everywhere in the universe. It is a divine milieu. You and I no longer simply observe Jesus from the outside, as the disciples did. You and I live in Christ. We experience Christ from inside him, which is where we live (Col. 1:18&ndash;20). For us, the guarantee of the resurrection generates in us the spiritual energy of joy. Despite our many disappointments and failures, joy and hope are always available when we recognize that we are living, moving, and enjoying life within the great Christ Body (Col. 2:6&ndash;7).</p> The New Spiritual Exercises: In the Spirit of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin by Louis M. Savary

(230 )

“Love ought to manifest itself in deeds rather than in words”

There’s a touch of hyperbole there; words have a place in every loving relationship. But deeds have primacy of place. When we’re talking about love, we’re talking primarily about deeds of love.

God Finds Us: An Experience of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola by Jim Manney

(230–231)

In contemplating the love of God, we ask for the grace to love as God loves. To this end, Ignatius offers two critical insights:

 1. “Love ought to manifest itself more by deeds than by words” [230]. Love must be put into action; words are not enough. Having been schooled as disciples these many weeks, we must now do something. Ignatian spirituality is one of mission.

 2. “Love consists in a mutual communication between the two persons”        [231]. Just as the love between two persons is marked by giving and receiving, the love we share with God enjoys a certain mutuality. God wants our friendship. God wants to be known by us. These divine desires are the source of our desire to know, love, and serve God.

The Ignatian Adventure: Experiencing the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius in Daily Life by Kevin O’Brien, SJ

(230–237)

The purpose of the Contemplation for attaining Love is developmental. It immediately aims at an elevation of consciousness, a growth in awareness, that kind of total human perception and experience which Ignatius called “interior knowledge,” which caught up understanding, sensibility and feeling. One is called to a meaning that is radically dynamic and invitational. A man grasps this meaning only when he himself is grasped by what he knows, when he possesses a knowledge from within.

Unlike erudition, learning, or science, this knowledge was profoundly personal in its subjective participation and comprehensive in its penetration of human sensibility. It was knowledge, but felt knowledge, one that identified with life itself and whose experience could only be compared with taste and sensation. The Contemplation aims at this kind of sensitive, unifying consciousness in which a man deeply becomes what he knows.

“The Contemplation to Attain Love” by Michael Buckley, SJ.

(230–237)

The dynamic of the exercise turns on the two meanings of the love of God—God’s love for us and ours for God; and on the integration of these loves into the exercitant’s uses and experience of immediate reality. God’s love for us is the subject of the four points. Our love for God is the love we seek to attain [230], and which we request as grace in the petition [233] and in the prayer of radical self-offering, Take and receive [234]. Though of course always imperfect, this love resembles God’s own love. The grace of the exercise is to grow in loving in the way God himself loves.

Understanding the Spiritual Exercises by Michael Ivens, SJ

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Ignatius’s method for loving God is really very simple. Of course, it is dependent on grace: “Here it will be to ask for an intimate knowledge of all the many blessings received, that filled with gratitude for all, I may in all things love and serve the Divine Majesty” (SE 233). The method itself involves simply deepening our appreciation of the gifts God has given to us. If we have a deeply felt appreciation for God’s goodness to us, this gratitude is already an expression of love. As we ponder the events of our lives, we become conscious, like Paul, that all of life is a gift (cf. 1 Cor. 4:7; Eph. 2:4–6). But the petition moves beyond thanksgiving to thankfully giving ourselves in return—to serve, to love. We should move from an attitude of thanks to one of welcome, saying. “For all that has been, thank you, God. For all that will be, yes!”

Spiritual Freedom: From an Experience of the Ignatian Exercises to the Art of Spiritual Guidance by John J. English, SJ,

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Our response to God’s generosity is to give him the only things he doesn’t already have: our freedom, our will, our memories, our entire selves. God has given us these things, and he has told us we’re free to do whatever we want with them, no strings attached. Now, because we love God and he loves us, we freely give our entire selves back to him. This is a prayer of total self-offering.

God Finds Us: An Experience of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola by Jim Manney

(234)

The Take, Lord, Receive prayer is an offering made in freedom. We have been praying for indifference throughout the retreat: to become free of disordered loves. Now we focus on why this freedom is necessary: we become free from excessive attachments so that we can love and serve God and others more. Basking in the love of God, we are empowered to love as God loves.

The Ignatian Adventure: Experiencing the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius in Daily Life by Kevin O’Brien, SJ

(234)

“Take, Lord, and receive . . .”

On the face of it, expressing requests like these in prayer is either a sign of exaggerated asceticism, that negates much of what it means to be human, and devalues our autonomy, or it is the kind of “I wish” prayer of surrender that we might speak with our lips but refuse to engage with in our hearts. I suggest Inigo’s prayer (called the Suscipe prayer, from its first word in Latin) is neither of these things. Rather, it is an invitation to peel the onion, or unwrap the parcel, recognizing that this is the only way to discover the hidden treasure at the heart of things. In other words, we cannot discover the “more” until, and unless, we are prepared to let go of the “less.” It is a profound and extremely challenging prayer. If we enter into it sincerely, it draws us into an examination of what exactly the “less” is, that is wrapped around the “more.”

Companions of Christ: Ignatian Spirituality for Everyday Living by Margaret Silf

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God is not static. God—revealed to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—is dynamic, alive, always stirring, and always laboring to bring life to God’s beloved creation. God is love overflowing. In your prayer, consider the activity of God in your life and your world. Marvel at how God creates in, through, and with us. Can you see and hear God laboring in the world around you? Can you appreciate how God has “labored” specifically in and through you? Can you recognize how the labor of others supports you in your living?

The Ignatian Adventure: Experiencing the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius in Daily Life by Kevin O’Brien, SJ

(236)

[T]he word here translated as “work” carries an over­tone of “toil,” even suffering. Thus, the God who works and labors in nature is also the God who carries out the work of the Kingdom in the face of all that opposes it, in a toil and labor in which in a sense Christ suffers throughout history.

Understanding the Spiritual Exercises by Michael Ivens, SJ

(237)

The fourth point, in which attention concentrates on God as Source, raises the exercise to a further contemplative level of awareness, and expands the vision of God in relation to all reality to a universal scale. Whereas in points two and three, God is “in” his gifts, here the gifts point to God in himself, the “above” from which their goodness descends.

 . . . rays . . . from the sun, . . . waters from a fountain. The language has strong Trinitarian associations. sun recalls the Father of Light from whom all good things descend. rays from the sun will remind those familiar with Ignatius’ Autobiography of the second of the Manresa illuminations—the vision of the creation of the world under the particular form of the creation of light, and also of Ignatius’ claim frequently to have seen Christ “as the sun.” In Scripture and in much spiritual tradition, and at least implicitly in Ignatius’ own writings, water is a symbol of the Spirit

Understanding the Spiritual Exercises by Michael Ivens, SJ

(237)

Everything should be attributed to God in a song of praise. Whoever can do that, whoever can say the “Suscipe” with his whole heart and soul and mean every word of it, whoever is capable of that because he is free from sin and has broken away from himself in the following of Christ, he has arrived at that point where St. Ignatius wants him to be at the end of the spiritual Exercises. He is the kind of person St. Ignatius can send back into the world of daily life so that he can find the living God of love there in his work, in his destiny, in his gifts and sufferings, in life and death, in using and leaving the things of this earth. If he truly attains such love, he will possess God, not in opposition to the world, but as the only One who gives value and dignity to the world. 

Spiritual Exercises by Karl Rahner, SJ

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At the end of his book, Ignatius writes that “we should value above everything else the great service which is given to God because of pure love.” For him, love was the proper response of the human being in gratefulness to God for creation itself. This love, he held, was manifested not only in emotion or pious language but in the kinds of choices people make by their living. A lover gives to the beloved what he or she has; and in return, the beloved does the same. The contemplation on love is about envisioning how we choose to love the God who loves us. If God is the divine lover, we as the beloved must look at what God has given us in order that we may freely offer it back to God. Recall the parable of the talents: the good servant is the one who takes what the master has given, cultivates it, and gives it back to the master. 

The Ignatian Workout: Daily Spiritual Exercises for a Healthy Faith by Tim Muldoon

(313–336)

Discernment is the art of appreciating the gifts that God has given us and discovering how we might best respond to that love in daily life. It is a process of finding one’s own way of discipleship in a particular set of circumstances; a means of responding to the call of Christian love and truth in a situation where there are often conflicting interests and values, and choices have to be made. It is the gift by which we are able to observe and assess the different factors in a particular situation, and to choose that course of action which most authentically answers our desire to live by the gospel.

“Discernment of Spirits” An Ignatian Spirituality Reader by David Lonsdale

(313–336)

As we pray through the Exercises and rely on the Examen, we become more sensitive to what Ignatius calls the “motions of the soul.” These interior movements consist of thoughts, imaginings, emotions, inclinations, desires, feelings, repulsions, and attractions. . . .

Ignatius believed that these interior movements were the result of “good spirits” and “evil spirits.” Spiritual discernment involves reflecting on interior movements to determine where they come from and where they lead us. We try to understand whether a good spirit or evil spirit is acting on us so that we can make good decisions, following the action of a good spirit and rejecting the action of an evil spirit. Discernment of spirits is a means through which we come to understand God’s will or desire for us.

Talk of good and evil spirits may seem foreign to modern pray-ers. Psychology gives us other names for what Ignatius called good and evil spirits. We know much more than Ignatius did about human motivations and the influence of culture and groups on an individual psyche. I use Ignatius’s language of good and evil spirits, for it recognizes that evil exists today in many forms. Evil is part of who we are, yet greater than who we are. But remember: just as evil is larger than life, so is God’s goodness. . . .

 

Discernment requires affective maturity, inner quiet, and an ability to attend to one’s interior life. Discernment takes practice, and we learn to “discern the spirits” by trial and error. The Examen is the daily practice of discernment and should be incorporated regularly in your retreat. Discernment is also an art. Ignatius provides wise and specific rules for discernment, but often we have to improvise and adjust because God works in each of us so uniquely. A wise spiritual guide or companion can help you sift through strong interior movements.

The Ignatian Adventure: Experiencing the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius in Daily Life by Kevin O’Brien, SJ

(313–336)

The discernment of the spirits rests on the belief that the human heart is a battleground where God and the evil one struggle for mastery. Jesus of Nazareth himself believed this. In the desert he had been tempted by the evil one masquerading as an angel of light. If these were real temptations, then he, like us, had to discern the movements inspired by God from those inspired by the evil one. He, too, had to make an act of faith in who God really is, based on his experiences and his knowledge of the Scriptures of his people. Jesus came to recognize who the real enemy of God’s rule is. He cast out demons, and equated his power over the demons as a sign of God’s coming to rule: “But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” The majority party of the Pharisees and most Jews of the time saw the real enemy of Israel, and therefore of God, as the pagans, and especially the Roman occupiers. Over and over again Jesus warned his hearers that the real enemy was Satan.

“Discernment of Spirits as an Act of Faith” An Ignatian Spirituality Reader by William A. Barry, SJ

(314)

Let me explain what Ignatius says about the different ways God’s Spirit and the evil spirit operate with those who have deliberately and seriously turned away from God. The evil spirit tries to get such people to rationalize their behavior and attitudes: “I’m not such a bad guy. I may steal money, but it’s only what I deserve for all that I have done for this company.” “Compared to Helen, I’m a saint.” “I take care of my wife and kids; my affair with Jane doesn’t hurt them because they don’t know.” In other words, the evil spirit tries to douse the conscience pangs of anyone who is acting contrary to what is right. The pangs of conscience, on the other hand, come from God’s Spirit. They do not attack us, but rather raise questions about our behavior: “Are you really happy acting this way?” “Don’t you feel a twinge of regret when you come home to your wife and family after an evening with your mistress?”

A Friendship Like No Other: Experiencing God’s Amazing Embrace by William A. Barry, SJ

(315)

Now let’s take up the orientation of most of us, who are trying to live honestly and uprightly to the best of our ability. In this case, Ignatius says, the good and bad spirits act in ways opposite to how they act with those turned away from God’s path. The bad spirit raises doubts and questions that cause inner turmoil and self-­absorption, while the good spirit tries to encourage us and to increase our peace, joy, faith, hope, and love.

If you are trying to live as a good Christian, you might have thoughts like these: “Who do you think you are—some kind of saint?” “Everyone else cuts corners in this office. What’s the matter with you? Are you ­holier-than-thou?” “God doesn’t have time for the likes of you.” “Most people, even if they believe in God, don’t try to live the way you do.” Such questions and thoughts have only one aim, to trouble your spirit and keep you troubled and questioning. Moreover, you will notice that all the questions and doubts focus on you, not on God or God’s people.

The good spirit, on the other hand, might inspire thoughts like these: “I’m genuinely happy with my decision to make amends with my estranged sister.” “I wish that I had stopped drinking a long time ago. I’m much happier and healthier now, and easier to live with.” “God seems so much closer to me since I began to take some time every day for prayer, and I feel less anxious and insecure.” I hope you can see in your own experience how these two spirits have led you.

A Friendship Like No Other: Experiencing God’s Amazing Embrace by William A. Barry, SJ

(316)

Ignatius does not give a snappy, simple definition of consolation. Since it is an inner psychic experience, he gives what might be called a phenomenological description: a variety of human inner experiences, each of which in its own way exemplifies the reality of consolation. Though it registers in you as a psychic reality, consolation always involves an interpretation in faith. In this way consolation is not simply a dictionary term for Ignatius; it is a spiritual reality with relationship in faith to God’s love. In his Autobiography he speaks of the great consolation he received during his convalescence in Loyola from looking at the stars. The effect was explicitly spiritual: “When doing so he felt within himself a powerful urge to be serving our Lord,” This stirring is different from the professional awe and wonder of an astronomer. Consolation in discernment of spirits is always a spontaneous inner human experience as interpreted spiritually and with spiritual effects.

Stretched for Greater Glory: What to Expect from the Spiritual Exercises by George A. Aschenbrenner, SJ

(316–317)

[S]piritual consolation does not always mean happiness, and spiritual desolation does not always mean sadness. Sometimes an experience of sadness, loneliness, or restlessness is a moment of conversion and intimacy with God and others. Times of human suffering can be moments of grace. For example, accompanying my father as he died was very sad, but I also experienced a profound sense of peace in the intimacy I found with him and my family at that time. Moreover, my remorse over hurting someone can ultimately lead to the joy that comes with reconciliation. In contrast, peace or happiness can be illusory or a form of self-deceit if these feelings are merely covering over issues we need to address. I can feel perfectly happy when I am caught up in a familiar pattern of sin, the effects of which I am blind to. I think, for example, about how easy it is to numb myself with overwork or mindless entertainments or to settle for being content while avoiding a difficult conversation with someone I love. Again the key question is, Where is the movement coming from, and where is it leading me?

The Ignatian Adventure: Experiencing the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius in Daily Life by Kevin O’Brien, SJ

(317)

Continuing his phenomenological approach, Ignatius uses qualities for desolation that are contrary to those of consolation. An obtuseness or gloominess of soul and impulsive movement to low and earthly things contrast with the lightness and attraction of the heavenly things of consolation. A desolate disquiet and restlessness that contrast with consolation’s tranquility and peace, must be distinguished from a consoling apostolic zeal. The desolate restlessness is stirred by temptations and inner agitations that subtly ferment a sense of distrust of God without much hope and love. Desolation is not usually a loss of intellectual belief in God’s providence; rather, as something much more subtle, the temptations tend toward a distrust of God that can take the heart out of hope and love. Apostolic zeal, however, is born in a flaming realization of God’s love.

Stretched for Greater Glory: What to Expect from the Spiritual Exercises by George A. Aschenbrenner, SJ

(318)

An assumed counsel in rule 5 is this: Be explicitly aware of what is going on when you are in spiritual desolation. Name it to yourself. Recall its source and tendency. It will help here to be aware of a general principle about human psychology—that reflectively attending to our own affective experiences tends to weaken their hold on us, while attending to the object of affective acts or the ground of affective feelings tends to strengthen them. Thus, attending to the objects of anger or lust tends to intensify them; reflectively attending to the affections themselves tends to weaken them.

Spirit of Light or Darkness? A Casebook for Studying Discernment of Spirits by Jules J. Toner, SJ

(319)

The counsel in rule 6 is this: Take initiative; change yourself intensely in ways contrary to desolation. What can be spoken about as the counterattack principle (agere contra) is a general Ignatian principle for meeting negative influences on our spiritual life. This principle underlies the counsel given in rule 6 on responding to spiritual desolation. When applied to spiritual desolation, the principle calls for such responses as increased prayer (petition), meditation, examination, and penance. An added way of counteracting desolation that is not mentioned by Ignatius is generous active service for God and neighbor.

Spirit of Light or Darkness? A Casebook for Studying Discernment of Spirits by Jules J. Toner, SJ

(320)

Rule 7: We’re not on our own. God is always with us.

In desolation we feel alone. It feels like God has departed on a long vacation. We feel miserable and unworthy, so we isolate ourselves from others and are not inclined to bother God with our prayers. Worst of all, we think that we’re on our own. If anything is to be done about our situation, it’s up to us to do it, and we don’t have any idea what to do.

Ignatius reminds us that God is always there for us, even when we don’t feel a divine presence. It’s like the gospel story of the storm at sea while Jesus is asleep in the back of the boat. The disciples panic and fear that they are sinking. When Jesus is awakened, he calms the storm and rebukes them for forgetting that he was always there.

When our storms rage, we need to remind ourselves that God is with us. We’re well advised to seek out others who will remind us of that too.

What’s Your Decision? How to Make Choices with Confidence and Clarity by J. Michael Sparough, SJ, Jim Manney, and Tim Hipskind, SJ

(321)

Rule 8: Be patient; desolation will pass.

Another key virtue in desolation is patience. This may be the most important attitude of all. Desolation is not forever (even though, in our lethargy, it seems like a permanent state). Ignatius counsels us to “wait upon the Lord.” The storms will eventually blow themselves out. While they are raging, we can patiently wait for a change while we are staying active, praying more, serving other people, and doing all the other things that foster a healthy spiritual life.

What’s Your Decision? How to Make Choices with Confidence and Clarity by J. Michael Sparough, SJ, Jim Manney, and Tim Hipskind, SJ

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Rule 9: Identify the cause of desolation.

Sometimes desolation seems to come from nowhere. It comes suddenly, as if someone pulled down the window shades on a sunny afternoon. But sometimes desolation has a cause. We can learn something important by examining the cause of desolation.

Ignatius suggests three reasons. First, we might have done something to bring it on. Perhaps we neglected some important responsibilities—gave into a selfish desire, indulged the fault of someone else, grew weak and tepid in our spiritual life. If so, we can learn to do things differently.

Second, God might be allowing the desolation as a trial so that we can grow in virtue and learn to love him in bad times as well as good. Consider the virtues suggested by Ignatius in the earlier rules: patience, trust, increased prayer, more service to others. If desolation causes us to grow in these ways, it’s an opportunity not to be missed.

Finally, desolation may come on us to remind us of a spiritual truth that is very easy to forget—that God is the source of everything. All is gift. We want consolation, and we will have it in due course. But we need to understand that we are not entitled to consolation and we cannot obtain it through our own efforts. So we open our hands to receive whatever God gives us in the moment.

What’s Your Decision? How to Make Choices with Confidence and Clarity by J. Michael Sparough, SJ, Jim Manney, and Tim Hipskind, SJ

(323)

Three points can be drawn out of rule 10: (1) Remember that desolation will follow consolation, (2) consider how to respond when the desolation comes, and (3) prepare for it now, renew strength to meet it. A comment on these three points. As regards the first, just as in desolation we tend to feel we shall never have consolation again and need to be told that it will come soon (rule 8), so also in consolation we tend to forget past desolation and feel that we shall never be desolate again. How, we think, can anyone ever be down and discouraged when we believe that God is so good and loving and has promised us his help, that he is with us always, to bring us on to everlasting life? In both consolation and desolation, we need to hold on to the truth that our affective life is up and down, like a wave motion. If I anticipate desolation, then it is not such a shock when it comes, and I am not taken off guard and harmed before I can get hold of the situation.

Regarding the second and third points, how can we go about preparing for desolation as Ignatius urges us to do? It seems that rules 5 and 6, about what to do when desolation has come, can tell us also what to do when preparing for it. We need to pray for help, putting our trust in God; we need to meditate and contemplate in order to build up our conviction of God’s faithful love; we need to have a plan on how to act when desolation does come.

Spirit of Light or Darkness? A Casebook for Studying Discernment of Spirits by Jules J. Toner, SJ

(325–326)

The comparisons in Rules 12 and 13 are intended to draw on the less pleasing traits of men and women respectively. But each contains an image of women which will not meet with general acceptance today; and as in the case of the Kingdom exercise, obsolete analogies should not be allowed to impede the insights they once served to illustrate. These two rules are not about the behavior of men and women but about two guises under which we experience temptation: aggressive on the one side, devious and ingratiating on the other, and about corresponding ways of dealing with temptation.

Understanding the Spiritual Exercises by Michael Ivens, SJ

(327)

This time the image comes from Ignatius’s military background. A trained military commander surveys the battle scene carefully and plans an attack at the weakest point. The enemy’s attack on you is just as intentionally fitted to your central weakness. The heart of a decisive response to the onslaught of the enemy is an honest awareness and active acknowledgment of your cardinal weakness.

Humility, rather than being weak and defenseless, is the power­ful counterattack to the enemy. In the secular ideal of strength and self-sufficiency, to have a weakness, much less to acknowledge it as such, is contrary to maturity. But in the warfare of spiritual matu­rity, humility is the strongest weapon in your arsenal. To acknowl­edge to yourself, to keep before the eyes of your heart, the area that is your central weakness requires great spiritual strength and the insight of humility. Some people discover that one of the seven capital impulses to sin is their capital weakness, the breeding ground of many subtle insidious temptations. It is the area in which they cannot trust themselves. In fact, sometimes the weak­ness cuts so deeply that they will never be able to trust themselves in that one area. The mature ideal in this instance is not trusting yourself but in humble honesty living your weakness in a way that entrusts you to God’s power and love.

Stretched for Greater Glory: What to Expect from the Spiritual Exercises by George A. Aschenbrenner, SJ

(328–336)

On the Second Set of Rules for Discernment of Spirits

We need Ignatius’s first set of rules for discernment because desolation is a common experience. We need his second set because of another unwelcome fact: consolation isn’t always what it seems. Sometimes it’s false consolation that the evil spirit uses to deceive us. False consolation can blind us to things that need to change; it can lead us to make bad decisions. That’s so, writes Ignatius, because “it is a mark of the evil spirit to appear as an angel of light.”

This shouldn’t be surprising. The enemy of our human nature isn’t stupid. If you’ve been sincerely trying to lead a virtuous life for a while, you’re not likely to be fooled by a temptation to do something blatantly wrong. To throw you off track, the evil spirit has to disguise things. You’ll find credible explanations for bad behavior. (I was tired. That’s the way she is. He had to get it out of his system). You’ll find plausible excuses for dangerous complacency. (I need a break. I can handle this. I’ll get to that some other time.) You’ll find reasons to keep silent when you should speak up, and reasons to intervene when you shouldn’t. You might make bad decisions because you’re excited, and you think the excitement comes from God.

Ignatius puts it this way: “It is characteristic of the evil one to fight against [true] happiness and consolation by proposing fallacious reasonings, subtleties, and continual deceptions.” The evil spirit produces false consolations, not the real thing. The devil may be smart, but he’s wicked too; he can’t give us a genuine consolation. Only God can do that. Counterfeit money is never perfect; a close look can always find the forgery. The second set of rules for discernment is the close look at consolation. It’s all about exposing counterfeit consolation for what it is.

God Finds Us: An Experience of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola by Jim Manney

(328–336)

In the rules for the Second Week the evil tactics of the enemy present themselves under the appearance of good. At first glance they seem wise and trustworthy. Ignatius here takes an even more sensitive look at spiritual consolation than in the first set of rules. These rules are concerned more with a specially sensitive enlightenment of heart needed to distinguish true from false consolation.

For instance, in his Autobiography, Ignatius describes two spontaneous inner experiences that appeared to be holy and good but required a more sensitive discernment. In his daily routine at Manresa, which was filled with prayer and penance, the time he had set aside for sleep was being invaded with “great illuminations and spiritual consolation”; these experiences “made him lose much of the time he had set aside for sleep.” Later in his life, after his return from the Holy Land, when God’s will that he do more study had become clear, he experienced “new light on spiritual things and new delights” that were so strong that he could not do the necessary memorization of Latin grammar. In both these instances, through some prayerful reflection, he realized that these apparently good spontaneous experiences were actually tempta­tions luring him away from following what clearly was God’s will for him.

Stretched for Greater Glory: What to Expect from the Spiritual Exercises by George A. Aschenbrenner, SJ

(330)

Two main questions are posed by this rule [consolation without preceding cause]: first, what kind of experience does it describe? and second, does the experience fall within the range of the ordinary, or is it of its nature an extraordinary phenomenon?

In answer to the first question, basically the rule refers to a particular spiritual experience, which in the case of a person moving from good to better, Ignatius holds to be an unambiguous sign of God’s leading.

  • the experience is one of consolation;
  • there is no preceding cause;
  • the person affected is drawn entirely into love of the Divine Majesty

There is nothing about emotional vehemence, and it is not claimed that the experience always communicates a specific conceptual content, a God-given insight, or “message” or “call.” There may be such a content or there may not be.

 . . . It should be noted that neither the absence of cause nor the characteristic love-quality of this consolation are amenable to precise objective verification. Both are recognized by a spiritually self-aware person in the experience itself; moreover a person unversed in matters of the spirit might easily mistake for such consolation a spiritual experience of a far more ordinary and more ambiguous kind. On the director’s side, in order to sense these qualities in an exercitant, a director will draw not only on definitions, but on his or her own experience and discerning sense.

Understanding the Spiritual Exercises by Michael Ivens, SJ

(333)

Fifth rule. This rule applies to ordinary consolation the principle that a spirit is recognized by its fruits. But the fruits can take time to appear. At first the real quality of an underlying motivation, masked by thoughts in themselves “good and holy,” may be imperceptible. Where deception exists, then, it is identified not in the thoughts we start with, but in a declining process. The process is described in terms of both thoughts and feelings. Thus the influence of the bad spirit can be identified when over a continuous sequence:

(1) thoughts seemingly tending towards what is wholly right, lead on to other thoughts tending towards the bad, or distracting or less good;

(2) what initially gave rise to feelings of peace, tranquility, and quiet, now gives rise to being weakened, upset or distressed.

Understanding the Spiritual Exercises by Michael Ivens, SJ

(334)

Once you perceive and recognize the serpentine poison, then much can be learned by carefully retracing the development of this consolation from the end back to its beginning. In this way you can sort out the good and evil spirits from within the whole developing process. This reminds you that discernment is not like a catechism of questions and answers to be memorized; it is an art that you will always be learning. The art of discernment and holiness will familiarize you over time with patterns of God’s love and of demonic selfish love and how they differently mark and stain your lived experience.

Stretched for Greater Glory: What to Expect from the Spiritual Exercises by George A. Aschenbrenner, SJ

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Rule 7: The “feeling” of the consolation is a key to its source.

The good spirit is gentle as God is gentle; the evil spirit is noisy and disturbing. Ignatius uses images to explain. The action of the Holy Spirit is like a drop of water hitting a sponge or walking through an open door into our house. Our hearts are the sponge and the house. They are ready to receive God’s grace, which enters peacefully. By contrast, the work of the evil one is like a drop of water hitting a stone or someone banging on a locked door trying to get into the house. It’s disruptive, harsh, and loud.

Look at the tone and feeling of a spiritual movement. If it’s an appealing idea that leads to turmoil and anxiety, it may not be from God. If it’s an idea that fills one with tranquility, it may be in God’s Holy Spirit.

What’s Your Decision? How to Make Choices with Confidence and Clarity by J. Michael Sparough, SJ, Jim Manney, and Tim Hipskind, SJ

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Ignatius thinks that neither consolation without previous cause nor deceptive thoughts and attractions integral with it can be prompted by the evil spirit. Both the consolation and the thoughts or attractions are from God. The main point of rule 8 is the necessity of discerning the precise time of the actual consolation without previous cause as distinct from the following time of afterglow. For during that afterglow plans or reasoning can occur to us that we think are integral with the actual consolation and therefore certainly from God. The truth is that such thoughts need prolonged and careful critical examination. We have a principle that applies to all experiences of consolation accompanied by attractions to or plans for ways of acting: Never act on these without first subjecting the experiences to critical examination.

Spirit of Light or Darkness? A Casebook for Studying Discernment of Spirits by Jules J. Toner, SJ

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