Archives for posts with tag: Ignatian Immersion Course 2013


Sometimes genuine discernment is wrongly seen as a mental decision about what is good followed by an act of will to carry out that good. I would say, rather, that discernment is the awareness of centered or not-centered energy in the organism… This awareness comes from an accumulated awareness of who we fully and genuinely are. It is knowing where our center — and hence our life — resides, as well as where it does not… As life builds up more and more sense of our total selves, more and more inclusion of body, mind and emotion in our self-experience, it becomes less and less possible for us to choose against ourselves… Discernment well made — that is, experience well known — makes choice natural, even easy. Choice is that decision either to retain boundaries of judgment manifested by blocked body energies or to risk letting in everything we are… In doing so we abandon predictions of how life will turn out, judgments of what is good or bad, assessment of what does or doesn’t fit. We simply live from our center.

Benedictine Suzanne Zuercher, quoted in An Ignatian Spirituality Reader (154)


I came across this quote a couple of days back in the book mentioned above. I saw this book in the hands of several participants in the Ignatian Immersion Course last year and started reading it.

The Ignatian Immersion Course is very much like a Camino or a Cursillo: it begins once it is over. I seem to be living an on-going immersion in Ignatian Spirituality, thirsting and hungering for more. I find it a beautiful place to be and feel infinitely grateful for what I received then and have kept receiving ever since.


Photo: Camino de Santiago, Cruz de Ferro, May 2005


Ash Wednesday. The opening day of our Lenten Journey. Many of us are ready to start a pilgrimage toward Easter morning and Pentecost. Like all pilgrims, we are prepared, not so much with hiking boots and a light backpack, but with a book or two, an online retreat, favorite blogs.

This Lent, I will let silence tame me. I will let it teach me how to let go of my anxieties, prejudices, unfreedoms. I will hear its plea to ignore all the froth that comes from the media, social or not. I would like to say that I will enter silence, when in fact it is silence which needs to be allowed in.

In preparation for a retreat that some of us will be giving in a couple of weeks, I returned to notes received and taken last Spring in Manresa (IIC 2013) for our eight-day retreat. Fr. Cecil Azzopardi, SJ led it. I can read the same book several times and discover new gems every time I go back to it. It is the same with the retreat I lived several months ago. I was a different woman at the time. Like some earth turned over, I am open to thoughts that went unnoticed before.

In the silence of my being, Godde is waiting for me. She is waiting for me to show up and simultaneously to let Her in. Cecil compares each one of us to a mango seed. The mango is meant to become a mango tree. It does not make itself grow. It does it in the silence of the earth, where it becomes what Godde intended it to become. I cannot make myself grow either. What sort of a seed am I?

There is at the center of my being this energy of life which wants to unfold into its fullness, Cecil told us a little over a year ago.

Or again, We withdraw in silence from the reality around us to be able to come in contact with the reality of myself in the present unfolding of my life in me.

In my silence this morning, I opened to Godde and let Her see all of me, that of which I am aware and that which I cannot even begin to identify. My “unknown unknowns,” Bernard Lonergan would say. I lifted up my hangups, my pride, my anxieties, my lack of trust…

Each one of us is called to a different Lent. To each one of us His or Her Camino. Godde meets me wherever, whenever I am present to myself. For this I need silence.

Blessings on your own Way into Lent. Safe crossings.

Art: Montserrat Gudiol, Figura Arrodillada en el Jardin


How can we live our brokenness?  Jesus invites us to embrace our brokenness as he embraced the cross and live it as part of our mission.  He asks us not to reject our brokenness as a curse from God that reminds us of our sinfulness but to accept it and put it under God’s blessing for our purification and sanctification.  Thus our brokenness can become a gateway to new life. Henri Nouwen

I found this quote today in my inbox. Living my brokenness. I face it every day right now, a physical brokenness, from within, with a severe osteoporosis discovered these past weeks. Suddenly, life has changed, a new life which, strangely, I am welcoming.

As our weeks in Manresa came to an end, it dawned on me that the Christian path was for each one of us to become Christ-like, cruciform, Christic, i.e. to follow Jesus in his self-emptying, on a day-to-day basis. As St Paul said:

Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Phil. 2:7-8

As our immersion into Ignatius’ world came to a close, I sensed, from the Mystagogy (mystical understanding) of the Spiritual Exercises to the cosmic vision revealed at the end, that “I was called to a Christic [self-emptying] pilgrimage, in the company of Ignatius, my family and friends, and Ignatian companions — with the hope of helping some souls on the way.”

During the Course, as I followed Ignatius’ life and work, I started to comprehend how he saw, experienced, and followed Christ. It became obvious that to join Christ in his building of the Kingdom, I too needed to let myself be emptied, to die to myself [however one does this]. I was to accept kenosis, the ‘self-emptying’ of one’s own will and becoming entirely receptive to God’s divine will. (Wikipedia)

A call to kenosis… I have no idea of what this call entails. Is this madness?

‘The Spirit is the vulnerability of Godde; we too are invited to be vulnerable,’ our lecturer, George, told us. I had never thought of Godde as vulnerable, but in fact this is the way She is with us, ever hoping we will turn back to her; this is the way Jesus was, going to the end of his logic of compassion and self-giving…

This vulnerability, Godde’s or ours, comes in so many flavors,  colors, shapes, and ways. Challenges at work, heartbreaks with loved ones, health issues, sudden unexpected and unwanted changes and, finally, aging.

Hasn’t Ignatius taught us to say,

“Take, Lord, and receive my liberty, my memory, my understanding and my entire will. All that I am and possess. You gave it all to me. Now I return it all to you: Do with it as you wish. Just give me your grace and your love, that is enough for me.”

Godde’s grace and love is such an enormous gift. How can anyone say, ‘Just’ give me…

Vulnerability, or brokenness, has come to me this time with a physical illness, hidden in my spine. How fortunate I am to discover this now, when there are ways of taking care of it! Still, doctors have prescribed for me to do ‘nothing.’ I find and express so much of what I am in what I do…

With every challenge comes a grace. The grace which comes immediately to my mind is the ability to notice all those around me who are suffering, often much more than I do.

I like to remember that our vulnerability, our suffering, and our brokenness are scooped up in Teilhard de Chardin’s Mass on the World:

Over every living thing which is to spring up, to grow, to flower, to ripen during this day say again the words: This is my Body. And over every death-force which waits in readiness to corrode, to wither, to cut down, speak again your commanding words which express the supreme mystery of faith: This is my Blood.

Henri Nouwen, from his own experience, tells us that our brokenness, with its purifying and sanctifying impact, can become a gateway to new life. A new life, a new understanding, a new freedom.

May it be so.

Art: Mary Southard, It Takes A Universe

In the week preceding our eight-day retreat in Manresa, we were given a sapiential [from sapientia, wisdom] reading of both Ignatius’ Autobiography and Spiritual Diary. We were to read these two documents in a contemplative manner, as archetypal stories, in which we can recognize our own.

Let us take the battle of Pamplona (30 May 1521). Iñigo de Loyola is just thirty, a brave courtier and soldier who has just convinced his captain to fight off with a few dozen men hundreds of French soldiers. He is wounded in the leg, badly. He is so courageous in the face of adversity that his enemies pay him homage and carry him back on a litter to his castle in the Basque country (it took the men two weeks to reach their goal — an agony for the young man). Inigo who had not given up his dream to be a great courtier does not like the way his leg has been set and has it broken again. Alone in his room, with nothing to do, he asks his sister-in-law, who’s been raising him from the age of 7 till 14 when he left to become a page, to give him something to read. Two books can be found in the house: one on chivalry (fiction) and a life of the saints.

What happened is well-known: he read both books, at first preferring the one on chivalry, which led him to daydream about feats and conquering the heart of a particular noble lady. Then the life of the saints appealed more to him. After a while, he found out that he felt much happier after daydreaming about becoming a saint than being a proud soldier winning his lady’s heart. [It turns out, by the way, that Inigo had been quite a ladies’ man, which he will continue to be all of his life, really. From a ladies’ man to a ladies’ spiritual guide.]

The cannonball changed Iñigo’s life, from a valiant soldier to a limping pilgrim saint. His days at the Court became part of the past; his journey with Jesus started on his bed in Loiola and finished in the Gesu, in Rome, with thousands of miles walked back and forth up and down Europe in-between. During his weeks recovering in his father’s home, his mind went from the Court of the King to the Kingdom of Godde. Regressing to former days, progressing to where he was meant to go.

A question which was given to each one of us during our Immersion Course was: what is the cannonball which shattered my dreams? What grace came out of it? What are the old me and the new me (my words)? Am I progressing or regressing?

Ignatius’ genius is that he was able to notice Godde’s work in his life, to reflect upon it, write about it, and help others with it.

As I reflect upon my life, I notice several cannonballs really. The first one being undoubtedly my father’s death when I was 16. This drastically changed my life’s direction. Every major drama ever since did the same, till I find myself here today…

The other major dream of Ignatius was to go to Jerusalem, live where Jesus had lived, and save souls there. First, the Franciscans did not allow him to stay. Then, life put one obstacle after another on his path. But he understood his need to study to become acceptable (and less scary) to the Church authorities. After many years of studies, he reached his own Jerusalem, which turned out to be Rome, where he did save souls, there and everywhere else where he had developed friendships. He also trained companions to help souls and founded the Society of Jesus.

What is my Jerusalem? That ultimate beautiful goal that cannot be but which morphs into another goal, so different and similar to that original one.

What is your Jerusalem?

All of this just for you to ponder. As I do keep pondering…

One with you in the Risen Christ.

Photo: Ignatius at the Battle of Pamplona


You are no longer strangers and sojourners,but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets,with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone. Through him the whole structure is held together and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord; in him you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. Eph 2:19-22

This passage from Ephesians has long been a favorite of mine. Everything about it enchants me. That we are no longer strangers, but companions with the holy ones and part of Godde’s household; that the Risen Christ is the head of it all, that with him we all form a sacred temple and that in him we are made into a place where Godde in the Spirit does live.

I returned from Manresa understanding deep down that through the Risen Christ we all are interconnected, interrelated, and interdependent, not only with every human being on this planet, but with every bit of matter or Nature, on earth and in the Cosmos.

This is where St Paul, Teilhard, Richard Rohr, Sr. Ilia Delio, and so many other men and women who believe in Evolutionary Christianity, talk of the same Cosmic vision, led by the Risen One, the Cosmic Christ.

What I liked in this passage then makes so much more sense today. We are truly all brothers and sisters in the Risen Christ, working together for the coming of the Kingdom — or working against it if one cannot accept this deep connection between all of us.

The Christ project, so clearly explained by St Paul here, inspires me and invites me to get up every morning to work for it.

I found online a website created by Louis M. Savary, the author of The New Spiritual Exercises: In the Spirit of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and The Divine Milieu Explained: A Spirituality for the 21st Century. Below is a quote, from his website, Teilhard for Beginners, which adds to St Paul’s understanding:

For Teilhard, Christ today is not just Jesus of Nazareth risen from the dead, but rather a huge, continually evolving Being as big as the universe. In this colossal, almost unimaginable Being each of us lives and develops in consciousness, like living cells in a huge organism. At various times, theologians have described this great Being as the Total Christ, the Cosmic Christ, the Whole Christ, the Universal Christ or the Mystical Body of Christ. (Louis Savary, “The Divine Milieu Explained” )

I will close with another quote, this time from Sr. Ilia Delio, which reveals an angle that Ignatius himself experienced in a mystical vision by the river Cardoner in Manresa.

“God is the unbroken wholeness in movement, 
and creation is movement toward God-centered wholeness.”

We are no longer strangers and sojourners, but companions of Christ and all his saints, all evolving toward the completion of the Creation, the coming of the Kingdom. What an intoxicating reality.

Photo: Giuseppe Peppoloni, Confluence des Religions


Getting to encounter my ‘Graced Self,’ also known as ‘true self,’ was as one of the most, if not the most, important moment during my recent eight-day silent retreat in Manresa.

This was an enormous challenge for me, to the point that I felt that I was going to stay stuck at this place the whole retreat: it took me two or three days to get through this particular exercise. Had it been the case, I would have spent the eight days working on the First Week. This would have been OK, if necessary, but I couldn’t help feeling thoroughly deflated at the idea.

How did I get to this encounter?

It may well start with the reality that Godde loves each one of us unconditionally. This, we know. How often have we experienced Her love, if ever, is another question.

Our retreat leader, Fr. Cecil Azzopardi, SJ, took us back to Genesis, where Godde created Adam and Eve, in Her image, i.e. perfect. The snake, however, came and convinced both of them that they would be like Godde if they ate of the Tree of Knowledge. The snake’s trick worked: Adam and Eve did not understand they were perfect as Godde was, and ate the apple.

The story of Adam and Eve is a creation myth, of course. Still, it serves well to explain how the doubt created by the snake regarding Adam and Eve’s imperfection translates in my life into the imperfect, unlovable me, or the ‘false self.’

Cecil explained that any time we feel inferior, unworthy, naughty, stupid, etc., we build a wall in our heart around the graced self, making it easier and easier for the false self to make us feel unlovable and to take control of the situation. Another of Cecil’s points was that we have to stop blaming whomever instilled in us those negative feelings about ourselves. Dwelling on who’s to blame for my being the way I am is an obstacle to my connecting with my ‘graced self.’

How to reconnect with my ‘graced self’ then?

Cecil suggested the following exercise:

~ Disposing Myself to receive the gift of Love  ~

I recall moments when someone has expressed to me his/her love or acceptance.

Now I relive in my imagination one of these moments.

I become aware what I am feeling in my heart just now as I relive this experience.

I enter in contact with what I now feel within my heart, and from that contact within me I hear that person tell me,“I love you…” “I accept you…” “You are … for me”.

Then while remaining in contact with the feelings that are in my heart, I will say to myself, “I am someone loved”. “I am someone accepted”. “I am someone ……..”.

From the depth of the same sentiments within my heart I then hear God telling me, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.” “You are precious in my eyes.”

It may seem quite easy to go through the exercise given above. We have all known moments of feeling love and accepted by someone. To move from this memory to the connection with Godde’s love then naturally follows.

Well, somehow, this was not my case at all. I reconnected to the little girl in me who had been left by her mother when I was nine, and I simply got stuck there. I just could not remember a moment when I had been unconditionally loved. My little girl had turned wooden, deadened.

One meeting with my director lasted over an hour (it was meant to be thirty minutes, I found out later). Back in my room, I prayed, I begged, I asked for the grace to feel that love that had to have been there at some point in my life.

Why is it that I didn’t remember those times with my husband, children, grandfather, brother or good friends? I could not say. The memory, to me, had to come from my early childhood, and it just would not show up.

The thought then came to listen to music, especially to Chopin. When I was four years old, Chopin always made me cry. I can remember my father playing Chopin when I grew up. This is when I started listening to Arthur Rubinstein on iTunes. Sure enough, the music took me back to when I was a child. Memories of my father and mother resurrected and had me in tears.

I remembered the time when I was taken to the train station to say goodbye to my parents going to Paris for a weekend. I accompanied my parents to their compartment with the lady who used to take care of my siblings and me. When she got off the train, I sensed that I should follow her down. My parents, however, told me there was time. Time. The train started and I panicked, until I noticed my parents’ eyes and their smile. And it dawned on me: for the first time, they were not leaving me behind; they were taking me along with them. Tears welled up in my eyes, and everyone else in the compartment got teary. Today still, I can feel the stinging of the tears just thinking of that moment.

This was the break-through. I could suddenly remember how it felt to be loved, accepted, cherished. My heart suddenly was able to receive Godde’s love, to experience it.

I also found out that, as I continued listening to Chopin, Godde herself flowed in me through the music. First had come the pain of memories, then the joy of Godde coming to meet me in the music.

Why did it take me so long to connect with this love, to connect with this part of me which is graced by love? I could not say. What is sure, however, is that connecting with this part of me has not ceased to help me. Why? Because I can now sense when I act from my ‘false’, insecure, feeling unloved part of me and when my ‘graced self’ is triggered. Strangely also, my own heart can tell me when something reinforces my ‘graced self,’ what is good for me and what is not. A way of encountering Godde’s presence in my life.

In very simple terms, if you have read TA for Tots to your children, your graced self is a Prinze(s), and your false self is a Frozz. Can it be that easy? In a way, yes.

The day after the retreat, I remember sitting at lunch with Cecil and a few others. I turned to him and said that the discovery of my ‘graced self,’ was one of the most important moments of the retreat. “Ah, my dear,” he exclaimed, “encountering your graced self is most important for your spiritual life!”

When I sit in my red chair and want to connect with the Risen One, I connect my graced self’s heart to His own heart and I remain in His presence for a while. Encountering the Risen One is a Mystery, a Mystery that the Spiritual Exercises guide us into. But this will be for another post.

In the joy of being one with you in the Risen Christ.

Photo: The Brooklyn Paper


At this moment thousands of pilgrims are walking to Santiago de Compostela, having started from hundreds of different places, with as many reasons for walking as there are pilgrims. Their path is holy because they see it as holy, as millions have before, for hundreds of years.

It does not look like this year I will walk the Way again. But then these past two years, we started and both time had to stop earlier than we wanted, as if some part of us was saying, Enough already.

Nearly three months ago, when I reached Manresa and began reading Ignatius’ autobiography under the guidance of our lecturer, and in company of the other participants, I re-discovered that Ignatius called himself “the pilgrim.”

After his being wounded at the battle of Pamplona in 1521 and while recovering from his wound in his family’s home, he started dreaming of becoming a great saint, walking to and settling in Jerusalem, where he would help souls. The Franciscan authorities in the place did not allow him to stay in Jerusalem and sent him packing back home. His pilgrimage had him walk back and forth between Spain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, England even, Venice and finally Rome. He walked thousands of miles, limping and begging. When he finally settled in Rome, he kept seeing himself as a pilgrim, even though by then he was the one sending others on mission, all over the planet.

Ignatius was a saintly pilgrim; I’m just a regular one. I can’t help being a pilgrim, possibly because of all the highs I experienced while walking. The highs and lows, ecstasy and dark moments of desolation…

In Manresa then, I felt that it might be time for me to become an Ignatian pilgrim, hanging my long-distance walking staff hanging on the side of a bookshelf, and walking with Ignatius. This felt good enough. I would walk in places where Godde wants me to be, at a pace my body allows, and will converse with whomever comes along and wants to talk.

I was settling down with this prospect, when along came a lecturer who presented side by side Ignatius’ mystical vision by the Cardoner river in Manresa and Teilhard’s cosmic vision in Manchuria and everywhere else he lived before and after. Both men being called to develop a ‘Christ-consciousness’, Sr. Ilia Delio would say.

Through Godde, with the Cosmic Christ, in the Holy Spirit, being called to be co-creators of the Kingdom, laboring alongside the Risen Christ to help make a better world. A world which now encompasses the whole Cosmos.

An invitation sent out two thousand years ago, by Paul, to live and die in Jesus;  to empty ourselves as Jesus did, followed soon after by Paul himself, and a multitude of others since then.

My life, like yours I suspect, is a holy walk through events and encounters where Godde every day is waiting for me to notice Her, not only in the e-mail or the phone call I receive, in the birds that keep chirping praises all day, in the green leaves glowing in the afternoon sun, but also in the persons I meet, my old neighbor, my grocer, the child next door. We  are walking our lives together, hoping to create more good than bad, to bring about more joy than sadness, to invite in more than to select out.

We all are cosmic Johnny-Appleseeds, cosmic pilgrims. And the sky’s the limit, with that brilliant Omega Point for all eyes to see, shimmering in the distance.


Art: Fr. McNichols, St Ignatius of Loyola

 If you have not read Phil Cousineau’s The Art of Pilgrimage: The Secret Guide to Making Travel Sacred,  do. It is an inspired book, about pilgrimage, of course, but also about how to mae one’s life sacred, whether one walks thousands of miles or just a few blocks to the local park. You won’t regret it.


My blog on blogger has been hacked. The Apple technician, with a tendinitis, cannot help me at the moment. So I will attempt to post here and see how it goes.

Paul and I are just back from six weeks in Manresa, Spain, where we were invited to go deeper into Ignatius’ autobiography and spiritual diaries, the sources of his Spiritual Exercises and how they developed over his lifetime; some of his letters; the origins and foundation of the Society of Jesus; its first Companions; its voluminous archives (Monumenta); its Constitutions; and, finally, Ignatian spirituality for today. Add to this daily morning prayers and evening masses, an eight-day silent retreat the second week, and a walking tour of Manresa where Ignatius lived nine months in 1522-23 (there he prayed, fasted, worked, meditated, had visions, and fell sick…), and trips to Montserrat, Loyola, Javier, and Barcelona.

We were thirty-five participants from fourteen different countries (with large contingents from India, the Philippines, Australia, and the U.S.). Our youngest member turned 32 during the Course and the older participant was 76. A majority of men and Jesuits, some religious sisters, a few laypeople and just one couple, Paul and me.

The Course was made of seven modules, the second one being the silent retreat, with one transition day in-between each. Those days were meant to help us process all that had been given to us (e.g. the medieval origins of the Autobiography, connecting the Spiritual Exercises with mysteries in our faith; the personalities of Ignatius’ first companions; the importance of Juan de Polanco in the creation of the Society of Jesus, his importance as well in the writing of the Constitutions and Ignatius’ very unique style of participative management. Finally, the new cosmic theology and new ways of looking at Jesus’ teachings (e.g. table fellowship, inclusiveness and openness to sinners and marginalized folks).

Our lecturers are all University teachers, whether at the University of Barcelona, Javier Melloni SJ (a scholar and writer of many books, involved in inter-denominational dialogues); Jose García de Castro, from Comillas University in Madrid, with an insatiable love for archives and books, able to pass on his passion for old papers and the first Jesuits; Carlos Coupeau, SJ, from both Boston U. and the Gregorian University in Rome, who helped us understand the composition and intent of the Constitutions; and finally George Pattery SJ, from Jnana-Deepa Vidyapeeth in Pune, India, who introduced us to a cosmic vision of the Spiritual Exercises, bringing together Ignatius’s cosmic experience on the banks of the river Cardoner with Teilhard de Chardin’s very own understanding.

This time out-of-time was made possible thanks to the support and care of Josep Sugranyes SJ, the Director of the Course, Joachi Salord SJ a wonderful patient and ever smiling shepherd to us all, and Asun Puche, the Course’s feminine smile and intelligent presence.

Dear to everyone of us, as well,  were the women in the kitchen who fixed three meals a day and two snacks, making sure we could sustain those brains of ours so heavily taxed at times. Teams of us worked along them, clearing and setting tables, and drying dishes. Our Spanish improved at their side; we even caught a couple of Catalan words.

I come back with my head filled with images of young noble men giving up their wealth and station in life to walk thousands of miles across Europe, begging on the way, their hearts filled with love for Godde and her creation. Finding Godde in all things…

I think of the many women who helped Ignatius all throughout his life, the very first persons who were guided by him through his Spiritual Exercises, those who cared for him when he was on death’s doorsteps, who paid for his studies and his many journeys, many of these women asking him to become a Jesuit themselves.

My heart is filled with the graces of many moments, looking out to the mountains of Montserrat, inspired with a Spirit of openness, adventure, and longing. I catch myself humming songs sung every day or for special moments. I remember holding Ignatius’ begging bowl…

We drove home with boxes of books to read and a list of more to buy, papers and lectures to process and digest, a longing for prayer, quiet times, long walks, and notes to write.

Many times in Manresa I wondered what I had done to deserve such a blessing and grace to be there in the very place where he had prayed, met Mary and Jesus or understood the Trinity. I hope to share some insights received here, because I cannot stand the idea of keeping all this to myself.

Blessings and joy.

Photo: Statue of in Loyola, Ignatius wounded in the Battle of Pamplona, 

30 May 1521.