Last night was the first evening of a monthly program I am offering with Christine Luna Munger at St Catherine University titled Now What? Deepening Your Ignatian Retreat Experience. The progam series is aimed at people who have had some experience of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius – through a preached weekend retreat, a parish retreat in daily living, an online retreat or otherwise. The goal is to help people deepen their experience, to make it part of their reality. As I quipped to participants last night, St. Ignatius’ interest was not in providing people with fantastic retreat experiences, but in transformation, in inviting them into a new way of life.
The topic of our first session was desire, or, as we titled it What Do You Want? Getting in Touch with Our Deepest Desire. Although many people are suspicious of desire – thinking of desires only in terms of surface or sexual desires, desire is what motivates us. Ignatius believed that our deepest desires, the desires that lead us to become who we truly are, God’s desire for us. That at the deepest levels, our desires and God’s desires are the same. And that makes desire a key way God’s voice is heard in our lives, an important way that God leads us to discover who we are and what we are meant to do. As James Martin writes in his most recent book, Jesus: A Pilgrimage,
Once we scrape off any surface selfishness, our deepest longings and holy desires are uncovered: the desire for friendship, the desire for love, the desire for meaningful work, and often the desire for healing. Ultimately, or course, our deepest longing is for God. And it is God who places these desires within us. This is one way God calls us to himself. We desire God because God desires us.
People often need to be encouraged to recognize these deep longings, which can help guide their lives, especially if they have been told to ignore or eradicate their desires. Once they do so, they discover a fundamental truth: desire is one of the engines of a person’s vocation.
In my talk, I spoke about the distinction between surface desires and our deepest desires and about what Ignatius might call disordered desires or attachments and we spent some time with Ignatius’ Principle and Foundation. After my talk, Christine instructed the group in the prayer exercise she had prepared for them and after a period of silent reflection, we ended with small group sharing and a larger group discussion.
It was a great kickoff to the series and I will be looking forward to future sessions. For those in the Twin Cities: You can find more information about the program here. Each session is a stand-alone topic so you can feel free to attend as may or as few as work with your schedule. So join us even if you missed the first session!