Ignatius’ goal in writing his Spiritual Exercises was not to provide people with a nice retreat experience, a chance to get away from their normal lives and relax a bit with God so that they could go back to live the lives they lived before their retreat. Rather, his aim was precisely that sought by Jesus Christ – a transformation of who we are into the world. The purpose of the Spiritual Exercises – indeed all of Ignatian spirituality – is (in Joseph Tetlow’s words) “to help us find how we are to work along with God to bring the reign of Christ to human life and good order to the natural world – to the everyday world as it now is.”
That is precisely what many people who make the Exercises experience. Shannon Rupp Barnes writes in her contribution to A New Introduction to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, “Most people who have made the Exercises see more deeply with the ‘eyes’ of faith, develop a fuller appreciation of on-going discernment, and acquire the gift of a discerning heart. In everyday, ordinary life their questions are ‘What is the most loving thing to do? How does Jesus want me to be in this situation?’”
One woman I directed making the Exercises said that the Exercises gave her “greater confidence to live from a center of faith and commitment within a very secular society.”
We are not even midway through the summer, but if you have been reading these posts in celebration of the Ignatian Year (and plan to continue doing so) and have not yet made the Exercises (in one form or another) this is a good time to think about doing so, perhaps starting this fall. There are so many opportunities to do so. In my own parish in St. Paul (St. Thomas More), we offer the individually directed 19th Annotation (meeting weekly with a director), an 8-month group experience (meeting every other week), as well as shorter versions in Advent and Lent. And there are other Jesuit parishes and retreat houses that have numerous offerings.
So consider taking some time prayerfully considering a deeper dive into Ignatius and his Exercises.
Note that this is a the fifteenth in a series of posts in celebration of the Ignatian Year, which began on May 20 of this year.