IGNATIUS FOR BEGINNERS - 1
TODAY WE CELEBRATE ST. IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA
Born in 1491, the son of a Basque nobleman,
Ignatius served as a soldier
and was wounded at
the siege of Pamplona
During his convalescence he read a Life of Christ,
was converted and lived a life of prayer and penance,
during which he wrote the first draft
of his Spiritual Exercises.
He gathered six disciples, and together they took vows of poverty
and chastity and promised to serve the Church
either by preaching in Palestine or in other
ways that the Pope thought fit.
By 1540, the Society of Jesus was born. For the next
sixteen years he directed the work of the Jesuits
as it spread around the world,
until his sudden death
on this day in 1556.
Ignatius was a man of imagination, and Ignatian prayer is imaginative,
reflective, and personal.
Ignatius Loyola encouraged people to develop an intimate relationship with a God
who loves you and desires the best for you.
Because they are God-given, and in God’s image you are created, trust your desires, because, says Ignatius, in the end our deepest desire is to return God’s love.
Trust your feelings. Feelings of joy and sorrow, peace and distress, were important indicators of the path toward fruitful decisions and deeper union with God.
At the heart of Ignatian prayer are the Spiritual Exercises:
The Structure of the Exercises Ignatius organized the Exercises into four “weeks.”
These are not seven-day weeks, but stages on a journey towards spiritual freedom
and wholehearted commitment to the service of God.
First week. A time of reflection on our lives in light of God’s boundless love for us. It ends focusing on Christ’s call to follow him.
Second week. How to follow Christ as his disciple. We reflect on Scripture passages: Christ’s birth and baptism, his sermon on the mount, his ministry of healing and teaching, his raising Lazarus from the dead. We are brought to decisions to change our lives to do Christ’s work in the world and to love him more intimately.
Third week. We meditate on Christ’s Last Supper, passion, and death…..the ultimate expression of God’s love.
Fourth week. We meditate on Jesus’ resurrection, and walk with the risen Christ and set out to love and serve him in practical ways.
Prayer in the Exercises - there are two primary forms of praying:
In meditation, we use our minds, thinking over what inspires, guides and informs our thinking. We study scripture, and other influential writings, etc…
In Contemplation we rely on our imaginations to place ourselves in a setting from the Gospels or in a scene proposed by Ignatius. We pray with Scripture. We do not study it.
Discernment underlies the Exercises. We notice what effect the exercise is having upon us, and discern where they are leading us. A regular practice of discernment helps us make good decisions.
Ignatius’ way –
the integration of
contemplation and action,
prayer and service,
emotions and reason.
it’s about being yourself with God,
that God loves you for who you are,
not what others expect you to be.
Imagine you see Jesus
sitting close to you.
In doing this
you are putting your imagination
at the service of your faith.
Jesus isn't here in the way
you are imagining him,
but he certainly is here, and your imagination helps to make you aware of this.
Now, speak to Jesus .... if no one is around, speak out in a soft voice ....
Listen to what Jesus says to you in reply, or what you imagine him to say ....
That is the difference between thinking and praying.
When we think, we generally talk to ourselves.
When we pray, we talk to God. (Anthony de Mello SJ, Sadhana ps 78-79)