Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, Part II
As you may know from my column in last week’s bulletin, the Exercises of St. Ignatius are divided into four weeks, but I decided to title this column ‘Part II’ because I have no idea today whether I will be in ‘Week II’ or not next week. As I’m writing this on Sunday (June 17th), a week before you receive your bulletin, and before I’ve even begun the Exercises, I can’t predict how far along I’ll be in a week. The Exercises lend themselves to a flexibility that adapts to the retreatant and how they are making progress. One could take two weeks for the ‘First Week’ and another person might take just a few days.
Father Abbot gave me my religious name this morning for the duration of my time here, "Fr. Dismas". I was surprised by this, given that a good friend used to call me St. Dismas (the good thief). We used to volunteer at the Dismas Center in downtown Seattle together. I asked the Abbot what prompted this and he said, as if prophetically, "I just thought of it." Then he turned and pointed to the alb hook and shelf in the sacristy that I’ll use during my retreat, which was labeled, "Fr. Dismas" the last priest to have died here. Abbot Peter went further, "You have big shoes to fill." Maybe it will take me four weeks to do "Week I", but I’ll finish with a great confession like St. Dismas on the cross.
The first week is about sin and confession with an emphasis on examination of conscience. It is comparable to the ‘purgative’ stage of the spiritual life. Some authors have divided the spiritual life into three stages; purgative (repentance and purification), illuminative (learning the virtues and gifts of Christ), and unitive (experiencing oneness and joy with God). A prayer commonly said daily during the Exercises helps one enter this journey:
Soul of Christ, sanctify me. Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me. Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O good Jesus, hear me. Within your wounds hide me.
Do not allow me to be separated from you. From the malevolent enemy defend me.
In the hour of my death call me, and bid me come to you,
That with your saints I may praise you forever and ever. Amen.
Fortnight of Freedom
Our US Bishops have asked for two weeks of prayer, beginning June 20 and continuing until July 4th, for the intention of protecting Religious Freedom in America. While that has already begun, every prayer is helpful. The HHS mandate is going through a constitutional challenge that may be decided by the Supreme Court. There are two major problems that concern the Bishops on the behalf of every believer in the United States. One, the Federal Government is proposing that they, not the Church, or any denominational body, determine which institutions are religious or not. For example, the narrow ‘accommodation’ that President Obama offered applied only to parishes, not schools, hospitals, or Catholic charities. This would apply as well to private businesses as well. A Catholic who owns a fruit stand would have to supply contraceptive coverage, inclusive of abortafacients, in any medical coverage offered. Which is the second major problem with the mandate, it forces a grave violation of conscience on all Americans, regardless of their beliefs. This goes against what the standard throughout our country’s history of protecting individual consciences where grave matter exists. (i.e. Quakers being exempt from military draft, etc.) I believe our Bishops are prophetic in calling for a health care plan that protects religious freedom while providing a safety net for those unable to afford basic medical care. Please join me in praying for justice for all. For more information, see:
Prayer for the Protection of Religious Liberty
O God our Creator, Through the power and working of your Holy Spirit, you call us to live out our faith in the midst of the world, bringing the light and the saving truth of the Gospel to every corner of society. We ask you to bless us in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty. Give us the strength of mind and heart to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened; give us courage in making our voices heard on behalf of the rights of your Church and the freedom of conscience of all people of faith.
Grant, we pray, O heavenly Father, a clear and united voice to all your sons and daughters?gathered in your Church?in this decisive hour in the history of our nation, so that, with every trial withstood and every danger overcome— for the sake of our children, our grandchildren, and all who come after us— this great land will always be "one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Pastoral Team Developments