Lenten Spiritual Exercises Series Details
The Inner Geography of Prayer
The core method for prayer in the Spiritual Exercise is that one tries to find one's way to the place where one desires to pray now and, when I find my way to that place, I try to stay there "until I have been satisfied" before moving on to a new place. This method applies to where I place my body (in the literal sense) and where I give my attention. This discipline of seeking the place of heart's desire and trying to stay there until I have been satisfied makes a powerful discipline for living ordinary life as well as for finding guidance in prayer.
Ignatius teaches a discipline in which I try to come close to the violences which burden me, violence done to me, violence done by me, and violence done in the world where I live. The violent parts of our past and our present reality are uninhabitable and toxic. The Spiritual Exercise teaches a method for reclaiming those uninhabitable parts of my self and world. Coming close so that I can stay in the violated places until I have been met there by God and those places can lose their toxicities and become part of the fabric of my life again. All this, however, presumes basic emotional health, which shows itself in my capacity to be moved by beauty and by sorrow.
Following Jesus into the World
In the Spiritual Exercise, the retreatant encounters Jesus first as one who becomes my ally and redeemer, giving me the hope that I can live all of my humanity, without walling myself off from the dangerous (or only embarrassing) dimensions of my self and my world. The joy that flows from such a liberation flows directly into the call of Christ the King to follow Jesus into the world in the service of this same redemption process: to live in service of the healing of the wounds that stem from past violence and cause more violence in turn. Falling in love with the world as a follower of Jesus means becoming accessible to the world's beauty and its violence, becoming a citizen of the world who is willing to walk intimately in companionship with Jesus who is committed to redeeming the world. Ministry, in the Spiritual Exercise, flows from God's deep affection for the world as it is. God's affection is prior and from it flow the labors of redemption.
Making Decisions for a Better Life
How, through my adult life, do I decide when to stick with the commitments I already have and when to change some of those commitments? Adults make such changes all the time: taking a new job, leaving our home and buying another, getting married, choosing a new career, driving up north for the weekend instead of staying home, pausing in the mid-morning's work to get a cup of coffee . . . large and small changes of one's present set of commitments; humans do this a lot. But adults also stick with commitments a lot: we will stay in our home at this address; we will stay married even though it is hard; I will stick with my career; I will keep working on this task (and not go out for a cup of coffee now). The Spiritual Exercise teaches a method for discerning when to stick and when to change, about small and large matters.
Grief and Joy in the Spiritual Life
Americans are, for the most part, better at strategy (planning, then executing the plan, then assessing success or failure) than at intimacy (grieving, rejoicing, savoring beauty, resting when tired). There's good and bad in that for sure. No planning and no sense of urgency lead to gradually dying. But no intimacy wears out the inner spirit, which is the source of an adult's energy for living. The Spiritual Exercise teaches a method of prayer in which I learn to be present to the griefs of my life and the joys of my life. It stems back to Ignatius' dictum, "I will stay there (at some place of grief or joy) until I have been satisfied." The Spiritual Exercise understands all true strategies, our purposeful commitments, as flowing from our intimate experiences of God and God's love for the world. This may be the most helpful single rule of prayer in the Spiritual Exercise for adult