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(Journey with Jesus)Discovering the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius – Larry Warner

July 18, 2017

JWJ2At last a book by a protestant on this subject.

Whereas the 30 day retreat involves 5 hours a day, the 29th annotation takes 9 months (30 minutes a day?- the author suggests 50-70 but is a bit of a perfectionist, though he accepts that ‘baby steps’ are OK). He also suggests Sunday as a day off for it is already too busy – for a clergyperson perhaps but not for most people.

It’s got interactive ‘signposts’ – extra exercises if you don’t quite get it, shortcuts if you do. Hew tends to labour the point about not feeling guilty if you get it wrong but can be endlessly repetitive – go back and do it again – and again.

He goes to great lengths to justify the use of imagination. Novel prayer aids include a bubble bottle and whipped cream.

His dislikes the use of ‘balance’ to translate ‘indifference’ but has not thought of ‘impartiality’. Later, he uses the term ‘detachment’ but also Ignatius’ term ‘disordered attachments’ this latter has caused some gay men to cease the exercises, believing they are being asked to desert partners.

He uses Borg’s phrase ‘meeting Jesus again for the first time.’

The leper story is good for LGBTs and straight people are less likely to understand the experience of being outcaste.

The exercises are grounded in God’s love, unlike the way that evangelicals usually start with in so the author rightly lengthens the section that dwells on love.

We get penal substitution on p. 77. Then there’s eternal damnation, which doesn’t’ go down well these days. No does the desire to suffer and welcome insults

The section on sin rightly concentrates on the sin of the world before going into how each of us contributes to it by our own actions. But do we have to believe in a literal Adam and Eve in order to feel the scope of sin’s effects?

Some of the prose is a bit wooden and the questions are leading rather than genuinely open. There’s also some appallingly bad poetry to meditate on.

This is a rather literal, slavish following of the original exercises. There are more imaginative ways of guiding people through them, e.g. The Ignatian Workout: daily spiritual exercises for a healthy faith – Tim Muldoon.

However, the proof of the pudding is in the eating so if an evangelical diectee asks me about the exercises, I shall give them a choice between this book and the Muldoon nd see how they get on.

JWJQuotations:

the emphasis on the person of Jesus. He was presented in the Exercises not as a subject to be studied, but as a person to dialogue with, learn from and walk alongside.

Jesus had radically changed Ignatius’ life, and he wanted others to have the opportunity to experience that change for themselves. Thus Ignatius designed the Exercises so they would be accessible to all people who desired to walk more closely with Jesus, no matter what their station or vocation in life.

This is not the only way to journey through this material. One of the hallmarks of Ignatian Spirituality is flexibility. Because of this, there is freedom to adapt this material to meet the life situation of your retreatant. Some people have adopted an every-other-day rhythm which, though not ideal (we don’t live in an ideal world), is still transformative.

God is not afraid of your questions or emotions. He will meet you in the midst of them. Remember, God desires honesty; so be honest and be real with God.

If you are a perfectionist or a recovering perfectionist, please be on guard. The structure of the daily exercises can tap into your strong desire to ‘do it right’ and then stir up negative messages of self-condemnation when you feel you have not or are not ‘doing it right.’ If you feel yourself stressing about ‘doing it right’ or you begin hearing the internal voices that birth shame and/or condemnation within you, stop and ask God to help you be gracious and patient with yourself. These voices are not coming from God but are rather lies that will distract you and keep you from the journey.

The space you use for your prayer times can be a help or a hindrance to your time with God. Choose a space that has minimal distractions. Keep all the materials you use as you go through the exercises (Journey with Jesus, bible, pens, markers, journal, etc.) together and if possible in the area where you enter into the exercises each day. These simple suggestions can make a dramatic difference in your ability to present yourself to God during your prayer time each day.

This could be a great week to get out your art supplies and have some fun during your journaling time. Using paints, colors, construction paper, etc., you can communicate your feelings and record the meaningful images that may arise during your prayer time; or just see what happens when you get artsy. Let go of the need to do it well or right and just jump in with both feet and see what emerges.

As you journey through the Exercises, pay special attention to when you experience internal resistance. Whenever you become aware of resistance, respond to it as a warning light and seek to discover its source. Resistance is a gift from God that invites you to a deeper discovery concerning God and/or yourself. So, internally pause and ponder when you become aware of resistance. Ask God to help you discern where this resistance is coming from. What does it reveal about your image of God, your level of belief, love and trust in Him? What does it tell you about your sense of self, your identity? Take the time to reflect and unpack your resistance. Over time, the results can be life changing.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, things present or things to come…nor anything in all creation, will be able to separate us (me) from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

You replace the italicized words with your own words. When you are finished read your passage to Jesus. What feelings arise within you? What is Jesus’ reaction to your personalized passage of scripture? It may be helpful at this point to add the following words to the end of your passage – “I believe, help me in my unbelief.” Prayerfully read your passage at the beginning and end of your day for the next week.

As people journey through the Spiritual Exercises, there are a number of recurring issues that tend to arise and have the potential of derailing the retreatant along the way. I would say those listed below are among the most common and the most devastating. As the guide, it is important for you to keep your eyes open for these insidious purveyors of mayhem and be prepared to offer aid and assistance to the retreatant. Also, know this: these will not go quietly into the night, but will continue to plague the retreatant. However, as you name these realities they cease to be an unknown and unseen enemy. The retreatant will be able to see, name and deal with them, which will loosen the power and hold of these issues in the experience of the retreatant. Also, as you see growth, even small growth, in your retreatants’ particular area of struggle, make sure you name and celebrate that!

Discouragement and unrealistic expectations often go hand in hand. Many people begin this journey with a wide variety of expectations concerning their own faithfulness to the daily prayer time and their experience of God during those prayer times. A number of people think that the regiment set out in the spiritual exercises will help them to become a disciplined person, even though, prior to this they were not disciplined. This can quickly lead to discouragement and the desire to stop. They view their lack of discipline as failure. But this is not failure; it is reality, a reality God will use to continue to mold and shape the person into Christ-likeness. I would remind them of baby steps and encourage them to celebrate the steps they are taking and seek to build from there.

Another source of discouragement is birthed by an expectation that when they spend their time in prayer each day it will be a glorious time of blessing and revelation. This can be especially acute in the first part of the preparatory exercises when the focus is on God’s love. The thought is, “Since I am focusing on God’s love, I will begin to feel God’s love in an ever deepening and more profound way.” One reality that can emerge at this time is the retreatant realization that they do not really even know God’s love internally and this can be extremely discouraging. Once again, you are to come alongside and encourage them on their journey, possibly encouraging them to do optional exercises. More importantly, this is the beginning point of their journey and this is a quite common experience for people at this juncture. Sometimes knowing something is ‘normal’ and expected can bring a level of comfort.

Above, we said that often people will have the expectation that their time with God will always be glorious and filled with blessing and revelation, which will not happen. ……A subtle twist on this is the belief, consciously or unconsciously held, that if I do my part, God is obligated to give me some kind of felt spiritual blessing. This is an erroneous belief that transforms God into a spiritual vending machine. …..everything we receive from God is a gift, a result of God’s grace unearned by us. The daily prayer times are a means of presenting ourselves to God, not a way of getting something from God.

Another deadly trap that seems to ensnare retreatants is perfectionism. The spiritual exercises do not create this tendency, but do often bring a retreatant’s perfectionistic tendencies to the forefront. This is usually manifested in their need (more than a mere desire) to do the exercises the “right” way. They often ask many questions about a certain prayer practice, the best way to do a slow down, what each examen needs to look like, how long to spend journaling, sitting in silence… They are driven to perform in an acceptable manner; and when they believe they have missed it, they begin to heap self-condemnation upon themselves that often leads to feelings of shame and self-loathing. Although perfectionism is powerfully enslaving, the fact is, since it is so easily seen in this context, it affords you and the retreatant a perfect opportunity to deal with this powerful nemesis. One way I deal with this is using a breath prayer, which I write about below in the self-condemnation section. I have found this to be a very powerful tool in this battle. It provides a means of taking these internal thoughts captive to Christ and replacing them with a powerful God-truth. The other way I deal with perfectionism is through the use of the review days…..do nothing on those days. …..can begin to learn something about grace. …..paint on those days, to play volleyball, take a walk, go to a coffee shop, …..this journey is not all about duty and the need to do the ‘right’ thing in the ‘right’ way. It is about presenting ourselves to God, just as we are in whatever we may be doing. …….“Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly.”

The next two foes with which many reteatants do battle are guilt and self-condemnation. I do not think this comes as much of a surprise for we tend to be gracious to others, but are often quick to judge ourselves. We are patient with others but impatient with ourselves when we are struggling or not growing as we think we should (unrealistic expectations). So, let us take a moment to look at guilt and self-condemnation.

Many retreatants feel guilty when they miss a day or two in the Exercises. But these feelings are neither helpful nor valid……Imagine that one of your friends came to visit you unannounced but you were not home at the time. What would you feel? Would you feel guilty? Or would you feel sad and disappointed that you were not at home when your friend came since you would have loved to see them? This feeling of having missed an opportunity to be with Jesus and listen to Jesus is what I want you to replace feelings of guilt. When you realize you missed an opportunity to visit with Jesus, think to yourself, “Oh, it would have been so nice to have spent time with Jesus this morning.” As people exchange their feelings of guilt with this fresh new feeling of having missed out on seeing Jesus, it will help them to reconnect with Jesus in the now of their life, during the examens that day, and will set them up for meeting with Jesus in the prayer time the following day. When we feel guilt, we tend to hide just like Adam and Eve. When we miss someone, we are drawn to that other person.

Finally, we arrive at shame. Shame is akin to guilt, but is a deeper, more pervasive and damaging emotion. Whereas guilt says, “I did something wrong,” shame says’ “I am bad,” “I am worthiness” and statements along those lines. This shame turns into a voice of self-condemnation. There are many things that can surface this voice of self-condemnation (unrealistic expectations, perfectionism…) and feelings of shame.

It is not what we own that we must discard, but that which owns us. Look at your life: your use of time, resources, your relationships, your daily life and ask yourself some hard questions:
•     What consumes my thoughts and plans?
•     What holds my allegiance?
•     Who or what tells me who I am?
•     What gives me security and comfort?
•     What makes me feel whole and complete?
•     Who/What meets my deepest needs?

Below is a list of a number of areas people often need to explore in terms of unhealthy attachments (things people ‘need’ to be happy). Slowly mull over the list, asking God to reveal to you areas where you may need to apply the discipline of detachment. How do each of these become destructive desires that lead you away from God rather than to God?
•     The need to be in control
•     The need to be right
•     The need to be liked
•     The need to rescue/help/serve others
•     The need to be understood and appreciated
•     The need to be perfect – to do it right
•     The need to be comfortable
•     The need to be healthy
•     The need to be esteemed/thought well of by others
•     The need to be happy
•     The need to be pain free
•     The need for financial security (now and in the future)

The Prayer of St Ignatius found during the Principle and Foundation (Section 4 of 5: Service – it appears there 3 times) can be particularly difficult for those who have escaped from a history of spiritually abusive teaching where the Christian was to be a human doormat. This prayer of Ignatius could easily be seen as promoting this errant theology.

Teach us, good Lord, to serve thee as thou deservest;

to give, and not to count the cost,

to fight, and not to heed the wounds,

to toil, and not to seek for rest,

to labor, and not to ask for any reward,

save that of knowing that we do thy will.
—St. Ignatius of Loyola

However that is not the case. The key phrase is in the last phrase of the prayer; ‘save that of knowing that we do thy will.’ This phrase is saying that we enter into the above realities only as God leads and not as a means of seeking to earn something from God or demonstrating to God how committed we are. The prayer is also not promoting being a doormat for others, but rather is communicating a willingness to say yes to God no matter the cost as God leads the individual. This is a huge difference that needs to be articulated to the reteatant.

So, as the Spiritual Director/Guide, beware that this prayer might be seen by the retreatant as an invitation to surrender oneself on the altar of works and self-mutilation and that is NOT the intention of this prayer.

Read Romans 8.1, 38-39. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus… For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Imagine yourself underneath a giant waterfall of God’s love. God’s love is rushing over you, drenching you. Imagine that instead of hearing the roaring of the water as it cascades down on you, you hear the gentle whisper of God saying to you, ‘There is no condemnation in Christ; nothing can or will ever separate you from my love for you.’ Spend time soaking in God’s love, being caressed by God’s loving touch, and hearing God whisper to you, ‘There is no con­demnation in Christ; nothing can ever separate you from my love.’

What feelings does this stir within you? Share your feelings with God.

Use all or part of the sentence ‘There is no condemnation in Christ; nothing can separate you from my love’ as a breath prayer throughout your day.

Spend time recalling those who have shown you God’s love, carried you to Jesus, prayed for you and chosen to journey with you during certain legs on your adventure of faith—those whom God has used to help grow, sustain and deepen your faith.15 Ponder their involvement in your life even as you were broken, struggling and messy

What feelings arise as you recall these individuals?

What are the gifts they gave you through their presence with you?

What does their love, care and involvement reveal to you about God?

When you are going through the daily exercises, you will be invited to be one specific individual in the story. Please feel free to go through the gospel narrative more than once in a session, choosing a different person each time. What changes in terms of your experience and feelings toward Jesus? Also, do not be afraid to step into the sandals of Jesus from time to time. When we see ourselves as Jesus it can be very enlightening regarding who we are and who Jesus is.

it wasn’t your sin that drove Jesus to the cross, ‘ Jesus’ love for you that led him to the cross and kept him on cross.

HINDRANCES TO LISTENING TO OTHERS

If you ‘know’ what the person will say, you stop paying close attention.

If you share your own story (so that you feel important, interesting, helpful, experienced), this brings the focus off the retreatant and on to you.

A drive to fix the situation keeps you from listening and instead occupies your mind with seeking solutions or similarities to the person you are listening to.

If you ‘know’ what a person means, you stop seeking to under­stand. For example, if a retreatant tells you about a painful situation, and you automatically assume that would make her feel sad, you stop seeking to understand and you move forward in the conversation instead of taking time to ask her how that situation made her feel.

Your own woundedness, fear of or discomfort with pain, struggle and feelings can lead to non-listening and therefore not being fully present to the journey of the retreatant.

GOOD QUESTIONS

Good questions:

are open ended.

cause one to reflect, ponder, explore, and get in touch with self, God and feelings.

focus attention on feelings (movement), God and self-discovery.

focus on resistance, places the retreatant is not willing to ex­plore. This may be a conscious or unconscious choice on the part of the retreatant, but if you notice resistance, gently invite the retreatant to enter into it. Resistance can be a place of great divine and self-discovery when it is entered into.

help the person pay attention to her internal movements.

help the person deepen, explore and sink into his experience.

BAD QUESTIONS

are closed-ended questions, needing only a yes or no answer.

focus on circumstances alone.

lead the person in the way you want him to go.

move the person from heart to head.

have one right answer.

are born out of curiosity.

stop reflection.

are asked too quickly without the proper time given for reflection.

flow from your own discomfort and/or desire to control, fix, cor­rect or make the retreatant think a certain way about something.

There’s a useful guide for those directing people through these exercises here

And there’s a download here

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