This week, The Jesuit Post features excerpts from Fr. Kevin O'Brien's upcoming book, The Ignatian Adventure, published by Loyola Press:

Spiritual Exercises

Ignatius gave the church the Spiritual Exercises as a testament to God’s gentle, persistent laboring in his life. Over his lifetime, Ignatius became convinced that the Exercises could help other people draw closer to God and discern God’s call in their lives, much as they had helped him.

The Exercises have never been for Jesuits alone. Ignatius crafted the Exercises as a layman, and he intended them to benefit the entire church. He honed them as he offered the Exercises to a variety of people. Inspired by the Second Vatican Council, the Society of Jesus has continued to offer the Exercises in varied and creative ways to ever-increasing numbers of people…

Thus, the purpose of the Exercises is very practical: to grow in union with God, who frees us to make good decisions about our lives and to “help souls.” Ignatius invites us into an intimate encounter with God, revealed in Jesus Christ, so that we can learn to think and act more like Christ. The Exercises help us grow in interior freedom from sin and disordered loves so that we can respond more generously to God’s call in our life (SE 2, 21). The Exercises demand much of us, engaging our intellect and emotions, our memory and will. Making the Exercises can be both exhilarating and exhausting; it’s no wonder that Ignatius com- pared making the Spiritual Exercises to doing physical exercise, such as “taking a walk, traveling on foot, and running” (SE 1).

The Exercises are a school of prayer. The two primary forms of praying taught in the Exercises are meditation and contemplation. In meditation, we use our intellect to wrestle with basic principles that guide our life. Reading Scripture, we pray over words, images, and ideas. We engage our memory to appreciate the activity of God in our life. Such insights into who God is and who we are before God allow our hearts to be moved.

Contemplation is more about feeling than thinking. Contemplation often stirs the emotions and inspires deep, God- given desires. In contemplation, we rely on our imaginations to place ourselves in a setting from the Gospels or in a scene pro- posed by Ignatius. Scripture has a central place in the Exercises because it is the revelation of who God is, particularly in Jesus Christ, and of what God does in our world. In the Exercises, we pray with Scripture; we do not study it. Although Scripture study is central to any believer’s faith, we leave for another time extended biblical exegesis and theological investigation.

Read the rest here. And find additional excerpts here.

Tim Reidy

Comments

JANICE JOHNSON | 3/23/2012 - 2:09am
David:  well, you certainly do have me pegged right!  I do take the magazine and read the blogs primarily for the articles on spirituality and culture (the arts, music, etc type of culture, that is.) and Bill Van Ornum's blog on faith and psychology.  In fact, I am enormously grateful to Fr. Jim for his writings and for Bill Van Ornum's generous advoccy for our families. 

Recently, Fr. Jim's writings on suffering and the presence of God helped me get through an ordeal.  During the night of Jan. 20th, I awoke in the ICU of a nearby hospital having an episode of congestive heart failure.  My autistic daughter had the presence of mind to call 911 as I was slipping into unconsciousness.  The call, the paramedics and the trauma team at the hospital saved my life.  I was in the ICU for six days and spent another three days on the "transplant floor".  I got through that time by meditating on Fr. Jim's writings and finding the presence of God in all the hospital staff members who helped me get well. I was discharged with a combo pacemaker- defibrillator implanted i n my chest. 

My family has been overwelmed by the outpouring of prayers, cards,visits and calls of family and friends.  God has been listening..........I am making a remarkable recovery.  In fact, my cardiologist has given approval for me to take a trip in May to Rome for a few days, Barcelona to see the Sagrada Familia , Fatima and other sites.  This 75 year old woman has a new lease on lilfe and is so very grateful!

Norma:  I always like your comments and sometimes I cheer when I read something you've written that is especially wise.
Robert Galvin | 3/22/2012 - 8:54pm
Not an especially penetrating presentation of Ignatian spirituality, but welcome all the same.  More like this, please.
JANICE JOHNSON | 3/23/2012 - 11:18pm
Maria,  thank you so very much for your gracious words.  The Youtube video you suggested is beautiful.  I hope you realize that your own life story is a source of inspiration to many, including me.  Our life journeys have many twists and turns but God is always there for us, if we only pay attention!!  Your fervor shows that you have paid good attention.

I love Francis Thompson's poem about God being the"hound of heaven".
Blessings to you.
david power | 3/22/2012 - 8:11pm
How often I have asked for this kind of writing on America.An Exploratian of Ignatian spirituality has been my constant refrain for about a year or so.It is wonderful to read what is above.
It of course will be ignored in a world of culture warriors.No mention of gays or abortion and nobody is interested except Janice Johnson and Norma  Nunag.
It would be great to see a rap on finding God on all things.How does Ignatian spirituality differ from Franciscan spirituality or Domincian spirituality?
How can it be updated ?Most of the language surrounding Ignatian spirituality always revolves around the same terms and does not integrate successfully the existentialism of Kierkagaard or Nietzsche.It is a pity as it is  a method  that is open to all. 
Modern Jesuits have not done much in the way of "aggiornamento" ,apart from the failed liberation theology.They have scored a c+ where previous Jesuits got an A+.
Luigi Giussani is a far more pungent expositor of the  Incarnation than any modern Jesuit I have read.But maybe the Jesuit Post etc will begin to cover some ground.

Thanks anyway.