The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola are used during the Wednesday evenings of prayer. In this era, there is a collapse of meaning. This is literally a ‘disaster’, meaning the loss of a star or a fixed point that gives meaning and direction to our lives. The Spiritual Exercises gradually re-orient the human person around the ‘true star’ - the person of Jesus Christ. They seek to free the person from inordinate attachments and to allow one’s life to become re-integrated around the person of Jesus Christ (a phenomenon which the word ‘integritas’ is used to describe). They give an interior knowledge of Jesus Christ our Lord who became a human being out of love for each one of us. For Ignatius, coming to know Jesus in this way is at the heart of the exercises. This draws us into the love of the Father, which Jesus expresses in human terms and which the Holy Spirit leads us into an interior knowledge of.
The Spiritual Exercises seek to involve the whole person in the way one prays. For example, they seek to get our senses and feelings engaged as we see and hear what Jesus does and says in the gospel stories. By watching and listening to Jesus in this way, we get an engaging glimpse of the mystery of His love for us. If we stay with this glimpse, it becomes part of the body of convictions in which our faith in the good news subsists.
Reflection is central to the Spiritual Exercises. It is essential to notice, to articulate and to keep coming back to the way the Father, Jesus and the Spirit reveal themselves to us by gradually enlightening and attracting us. This enlightenment and attraction is like the ‘gentle whisper’ in which Elisha was led to recognise the voice of God. (1 Kings 19 : 12) It is easy to miss this ‘gentle whisper’ unless we develop our ability to notice it, to understand the way we are enlightened, to respond to the way we are attracted and to make out own of it. By means of reflection we become aware of and take responsibility for the way the Spirit ‘leads us into all the truth’ or into an interior knowledge of ‘how long and broad, how high and deep is the love of Christ’ for each one of us. (Jn 16 : 13, Eph 3 : 17-19)
The Spiritual Exercises are followed during the Wednesday evenings of prayer here because of their particular potential for the lay person. By praying with them in daily life, they allow one’s life to become integrated around Jesus Christ who is the fixed star who can sustain one’s being. One’s life develops a new order, an integrity (l. integritas) when He becomes the centre. From Him, fragmentation is healed in the re-integration of the relationships with God, with one’s calling or vocation, with others in the bonds of family and community and with society and creation at large.
During the Wednesday evenings of prayer, the Spiritual Exercises proceed through six stages which synchronise as far as possible with the themes of the liturgical year.
Stage One – The loving kindness of God (six exercises)
This opening stage concentrates upon seeing how God is both our lover and our Lord, immanent and transcendent, in order to deepen our belief in the loving kindness of God. This first stage also challenges our distorted and limited perceptions of God.
Stage Two - The steadfast love of God (six exercises)
This stage focuses on how we have failed to make God the Lord of our life. We examine the nature of our sinfulness and its seriousness so that we deepen our sense of how our infidelity highlights God’s fidelity to us.
Stage Three – The personal love of Jesus (six exercises)
This stage is concerned with developing an intimate knowledge of Jesus. We look at how personal the love of God is for each one of us in the way that Jesus calls you to be with Him.
Stage Four – The provident love of Jesus (seven exercises)
At this fourth stage we look at how provident the love and call of Jesus is for each person, how it is His plan to give each one of us an abundance of life and happiness. This stage also contrasts the two paths that are set before us and calls forth an election from each one of us to follow the path of life - serving the Christian vision for one’s life.
Stage Five – The passionate love of Jesus (six exercises)
At the fifth stage we look at how companions of Jesus are called to share in His sufferings and thereby discover the intensity and extent of His passionate love for each one of us. This stage also deepens our commitment to follow Christ in the world, a deepening that is tested and forged through the problems and trials that are intrinsic in every person’s life.
Stage Six - Sharing the joy and glory of the resurrected Christ (six exercises)
At this final stage, we seek to enter into the joy and glory of the resurrection of Jesus and to see His presence in all things and in all the gifts and relationships that have been given to us. This stage is concerned with how all things are made one in Jesus Christ when His resurrected presence becomes the centre of one’s life. When this happens, He draws us into to the Father through the Holy Spirit. In bringing us into the mystery of the Trinity, He brings a new integrity (integritas) to our lives in which we become at one with God, with our deepest selves, with others and with society and creation itself.
Copies of each of the exercises are available in the reception room. A booklet is also available in this room setting out introductory exercises which are relied upon as we progress through the Spiritual Exercises. All of these exercises will be posted on this website in due course.