As I shared in last week’s bulletin, I will be spending the next month on a 30 Day Ignatian Retreat doing St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises (written by St. Ignatius Loyola, ~1523 A.D). It is a requirement of my STL (Sacred License in Theology) graduate program that I am happy to comply with. For me, it could be a once in a lifetime opportunity to more profoundly ‘Come aside awhile and pray’, as Our Lord asked His disciples to do.
I’ll try to keep you posted on some elements of the retreat, beginning with the basics of the First Week in this article. The 30 Days are broken up into 4 Weeks, each representing a unique stage of the spiritual life and the process of conversion. The four stages include meditations on 'sin, the life of Jesus, the Passion of Jesus, and the Resurrection of Jesus’. The Exercises (meditation, examination of conscience, lectio, etc.) are intended as "… means of preparing and disposing our soul to rid itself of all its disordered affections and then, after their removal, of seeking and finding God’s will in the ordering of our life for the salvation of our soul."
After a few explanations to begin the retreat, Ignatuis gives us a basic principle:
The First Principle and Foundation
The human person is created to praise, reverence, and serve God Our Lord, and by doing so, to save his or her soul.
All other things on the face of the earth are created for human beings in order to help them pursue the end for which they were created.
It follows from this that one must use other created things, in so far as they help towards one's end, and free oneself from them, in so far as they are obstacles to one's end.
To do this, we need to make ourselves indifferent to all created things, provided the matter is subject to our free choice and there is no other prohibition.
Thus, as far as we are concerned, we should not want health more than illness, wealth more than poverty, fame more than disgrace, a long life more than a short one, and similarly for all the rest, but we should desire and choose only what helps us more towards the end for which we are created.
The First Week addresses sin and the reality of hell. This can be rather sobering. Fr. Spitzer, S.J., always begins the Exercise with a good conference on the Love of God. Without that, he would say, how can we explore, without excessive fear, the nature of sin in our lives? It is God’s merciful love that allows us to open up that door that we have kept tightly shut for fear of condemnation, rejection, and any hidden attachment to sin. God’s mercy gives us courage to let in the light of love and truth.
The Exercises of the First Week encourage a radical examination of conscience in regard to how we have used our faculties of memory, understanding, and will. You may recall the beautiful song of surrender, "Take, Lord, Receive", that puts Ignatius’ Prayer of ‘Suscipe’ to verse:
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding and my entire will,
All I have and call my own. You have given all to me. To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will. Give me only your love and your grace.
That is enough for me.
This is a generous disposition that we can all strive for, beginning by asking for the grace of it. We cannot do it on our own. We need God’s good help. Beginning with surrender, God can do great things with our lives. Mother Teresa’s sisters sing this at their profession Mass.
The 30 Day Retreat can be done at home in the midst of lay obligations in what is called the 19th Annotation Retreat. Tim Malone, Director of our Spiritual Companion ministry is very involved in this undertaking through St. Joseph Parish in Seattle and other locations. You can reach him via his website if you have any questions at
Another good online program is offered via Creighton University:
Know that you will be in my prayers. I bring you with me on retreat and pray that all the graces I receive will be shared in abundance with your own souls and in your lives with God and neighbor. Please keep me in your prayers as well.