Archives for posts with tag: Spiritual Exercises

 The faith history exercise … offers a way of remembering the highs and lows of one’s walk through life – with the express intention of seeking God in the process. In many ways it is a kind of examen, but applied to a substantial period of time. It is best to begin the exercise by asking God to show you what God wants you to see. The purpose of the exercise is not to get a stage by stage account of your relationship with God, but rather to allow God to show you where God has been in your life. That is to say, do not worry too much about creating the most accurate account of the development of your faith, rather concentrate on the possibility of encountering God in the process of remembering.
Margaret Blackie, Rooted In Love, Kindle Location 475-480 

My plan was to review Margaret Blackie’s book in one post. There is too much good stuff there to do justice to it with just one post, however. So I expect to write several, and share some of what I have found to sustain my soul on this inner journey to which each one of us is called.

Going over one’s faith history is usually done early on in the Spiritual Exercises. It is one way of discovering Godde in the nooks and crannies of one’s life. The most thorough faith history I ever wrote was in the early days of my graduate studies in pastoral studies with LIMEX. I can remember doing another quite exhaustive one while following the Exercises in Daily Life with Creighton Onlline. Every time I do a weekend or an eight-day retreat, I return to my faith history, expecting to revisit familiar moments.

I know for instance that revisiting my early youth fills me with anxiety. A sort of marble cake when I was doing well in school, until my mother started having lovers, left us for six months, and my father warned me that he intended to abandon the three of us if she did not return. Godde was there with us though, and I did not know.

Following Margaret’s advice, I returned to my faith history. This time, as suggested, I asked Godde to show me what I should revisit. A time in my life came back to my mind, a time which weighs on my heart more than any other. So I brushed it aside. No, this does not fit in my faith history. My mind went blank for a while as I watched the turquoise ocean dancing in front of me.

I resumed the task a couple of times. The same period returned to my mind. Each time, I swept it aside. Finally, I exclaimed, Why is it the only thing coming up from the past? And the answer came, Because Godde was there. Godde was there, really? When I felt so lost, so desperate, so thirsting for an unattainable love? Doing one stupid thing after another?

The bleakness of these days came handy, however, much later, during those ten years or so that I walked with homeless men and women. I could love drug-addicts because I knew it was pure fluke that I had not been one of them. I recognized my heart in their own. I knew the love they longed for. I had lived it as well. There was a place in my heart for most of them, thanks to those years when I was a lost soul and had not yet been found.

Once I realized that Godde was with me during those dark years, once I saw that Her love was there with me every step of the way, whatever I did, wherever I was,  then the years suddenly turned luminous. They were no longer lost, but a sort of treasure, a gift, since wherever Godde is, love is.

Margaret’s book, then, has brought me, among many things, this time of healing, of reconciliation with myself, an opening of my heart to who I was and am, an opening of my heart to others as well, and a moment of loving connection with the One who is so patiently for us to understand how much we are loved, no matter what.

Thank you, Godde. Thank you, Margaret. 


2. … It is the particular calling of lay people to be immersed in the secular world and its activities; and so they have a God-given vocation to cultivate a fervent Christian spirit and to act as a yeast in the secular order. (310)

Decree on the Apostolate of Laity, Apostolicam Actuositatem — Paul VI, November 18, 1965,The Teachings of the Second Vatican Council

2. Jesuits should be more keenly aware of the importance of the state and vocation of laymen and their apostolate since in many areas of human activity and in many places the Church can be present to the world only through laymen. Let them strive not only to recognize the place which the laity have in the mission of the Church but also to promote it, and to hold in high esteem their just liberty.The laity help us to understand more fully the world and Christian truth itself, and give us a more vivid sense of our mission “for the defense and propagation of the faith.” At the same time they are a stimulus to our own continual conversion…

5. There are many ways in which we can be of assistance to the laity. It is especially necessary that we bend all our efforts to forming both youth and adults for the Christian life and apostolate so that they may be able to fulfill their mission and assume their proper responsibility according to the Church’s expectations.By means of special instruction and spiritual, direction we should communicate to those who can profit by it a fuller understanding of the evangelical life according to the Exercises of St. Ignatius, which are also very well suited to the lay state. Thus they may be able to direct all the acts of their daily professional, familial, and social life with a sincere mind and increased liberty to the greater glory of God…

Decree 33 of the Thirty-First General Congregation, 1966 — “The Relationship of the Society to the Laity and their Apostolate”

There are many books on the huge topic of Ignatian Spirituality (58 pages on, and I just would like to talk about one of them, the one shown above.

This small book was written by a lay person to introduce Ignatian Spirituality to other lay persons. The author was helped by many friends who generously commented on and contributed to it,  — mostly lay people, all thirsting for spirituality and attracted by, or well-versed in, the Ignatian kind. Very much a manual, it is meant to be placed next to the chair where you pray or taken along as a basic guide for your prayer group.

I happen to know its author quite well: he is my husband of forty-two years. Paul grew up in a Jesuit parish, attended its school, then studied at a Jesuit Prep School and a Jesuit college. He was mentored by a Jesuit priest, Fr. James B. McGoldrick, who remains a grandfatherly figure in the life of our two daughters to this day.

Time passed. About twenty years ago, Paul & I attended a weekend Ignatian retreat in French, led by Louis Christiaens, SJ. Over a coffee break, we pointed out to him that many of our English-speaking friends in the Geneva region would be interested by such an approach to prayer. One thing led to another and we helped Louis start what is now the Ignatian Way in Geneva, a series of one-day Ignatian retreats, which draws Catholics and Protestants alike.

Our friend Louis did and still does believe in the involvement of lay people in Ignatian spirituality, and for the future of the Church. He trained several of us on how to present points for the times of prayer. A small core group developed over time. But life in Geneva is such that everyone moves away at one point or another. Two women who furthered their spirituality by attending St Beuno’s 30-day retreat transferred out. A religious sister returned to Sri Lanka. Paul & I started sharing our time between Geneva and Puerto Rico.

Louis and Paul realized that newcomers needed something in their hands to help them pray the Ignatian way, as much during the retreat as once they are back at home. This is how, several years ago this booklet started. (See the Table of Contents, Section I, “Basic Concepts of Ignatian Prayer”, and Section II, “Personal Spiritual Exercises”, on the Amazon link).

Later on, we became part of a prayer group and of a CLC-CVX community. From those meetings came Section III, “Ignatian Spirituality with Others” (for couples, families, prayer groups, group discernment, etc.)

I have seen this booklet used by a variety of people, whether individuals wanting to pray daily at home, attending retreats, participating in prayer groups and wanting to share the same spirituality, or again doing the Annotation 19 retreat over several months (Retreat in Daily Life).

The idea of placing this manual on Amazon came from two friends in Puerto Rico. The move to action was the result of a third friend needing many copies for a training in her Jesuit organization. The Swiss price was way too high for her budget; another way had to be found. Amazon was the answer. (In a couple of months, it will also be available in both French and Spanish.)

Finally, I want to mention that this Introduction to Ignatian Spirituality ends with additional material, such as various translations of Ignatius’ writings,  as well as other Ignatian books and websites undoubtedly familiar to many of you, — to begin exploring the vast Ignatian universe.  One never gets to the end of Ignatian spirituality, which sees life as “a continuous spiritual pilgrimage” (18).





I wish my Spanish were better and I would translate for you the many parts I love in this book, La Mistagogia de los Ejercicios, written by Javier Melloni SJ, a great ignacianista from the University of Catalunya in Barcelona and residing in Manresa. There he gives wonderful lectures to the participants of the Ignatian Immersion Course (IIC) every Spring.

Javier Melloni looks at the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola from the point of view of ‘mystagogy’:

Mystagogy is a Greek term that literally means “initiation into the mysteries.” It is composed of two roots: “Mystos”, “belonging to the mysteries” and “Agia” noun of the verb “ago”, meaning “lead”. “Mystery”, in turn, means literally “the secret, what is hidden.” It comes from the Greek verb “myo”, “keeping lips and eyes closed”. Mystagogues, in the Hellenic world, were those priests who were initiated into the mystical experience of the sacred, through very precise rites.” (p. 21)

… “Applying the term mystagogy to the Exercises. we intend to show that the act of freedom that the Exercises encourage, springs from a bottomless Depth, which does not originate in us. The Exercises free us because they transform us; and they transform us because we come in contact with the Source of our being. Being re-created, we generate new events, for participating in the Source which gives us our being. The Exercises lead to such a Source. And they show that there is much more participation with more dispossession. Such is the Mystery in which we delve: the more we lose ourselves in God, the more we meet ourselves again. “Unless a grain of wheat dies …” (Jn 12:24).” (p. 22) …

Anyway, when my Spanish improves, I’ll be able to share more of it. Until then, I am just translating the book for myself. This morning I came upon a section in chapter 2, “The Anthropological Elements in the Exercices” dealing, among many other things, with disordered attachments (76-77).

“The disorder indicates the error of the direction, which will always be a form or another of self-centeredness and of being ‘devoured’. … The attachments are driving forces that are to be integrated, not neutralized. The “ridding oneself of all disordered attachments” is not to find oneself without attachments, but to direct them to their true purpose: the God who gives himself without possessing or devouring.”

It turns out that the “Meditation on the Three Types of People” in the Exercises is “dedicated to a becoming aware of the passive force of the afecto (the affect, or attachment), illustrating three possible relationships between affect and things. The election is held on this release and transformation of the attachments.”

The three types of people show three different reactions to the same situation. Each person receives a vast sum of money. Ten million dollars are mentioned today. I find it interesting that money seems to have always been a decisive factor in showing what sort of person one is.

The first person takes the money, thanks Godde, and spends it on herself and her family. The second person takes the money, thanks Godde, and proceeds to spend the money on causes and NGOs that will contribute to the building of the Kingdom (or the Christ Project, Louis Savary would say), all the while remaining in control of the money. The third person has ‘”no inclination either to keep the acquired money or to dispose of it. Instead [she] desires to keep it or dispose of it solely according to what Godde will move her will to choose, and also according to what [she herself] will judge to be better for the service and praise of her Divine Majesty… [She] earnestly strives not to desire that money or anything else except when she is motivated solely by the service of Godde…”(Ganss, 157)

What particularly moved me in this meditation was the grace I was to ask for: i.e. “to choose that which is more to the glory of her Divine Majesty and the salvation of my soul.” … Saving my soul somehow is not so important, but pleasing Godde is…

This morning then, thanks to Javier Melloni’s book, I had a great conversation with both Godde and Ignatius. It was one of those moments when suddenly I felt thoroughly alive and involved in something I would never have imagined otherwise. I did receive some money not so long ago, and I did spend it on myself and my family. I am thus a first person type. Agh.

“No matter which of the three classes you may fall into,” writes Louis Savary in The New Spiritual Exercises in the Spirit of Teilhard de Chardin, “Godde can use whatever you do to further the Christ Project.” (109)

Javier Melloni’s book is not translated yet into English or French, which is a pity. I find that Ignatian Spirituality comes in many flavors, Anglo-Saxon, Latin American, Spanish, French, Italian… Javier Melloni seems to have fallen into Ignatius’ magic potion at birth: he lives and breathes Ignatian Spirituality as are the other lecturers we had in Manresa this Spring. Hopefully some time soon a good translator and a fine Ignatian mind will tackle Fr. Melloni’s book. Then, expect quite a treat!