Grace: To come to know how God is acting in my life and inspiring me to help build the Kingdom.
Reflection: In the novel The Second Coming, Walker Percy follows the story of Will Barrett, a man who was too busy to live in the present moment and simply “missed” his life. In light of this, Percy asks, “Is it possible for people to miss their lives in the same way one misses a plane?” Late in his life, Barrett wonders whether he missed or wasted his life. Percy writes,
Not once in his entire life had he allowed himself to come to rest in the quiet center of himself but had forever cast himself forward from some dark past he could not remember to a future which did not exist. Not once had he been present for his life. So his life had passed like a dream.
To me, Barrett’s reflection on his life emerges as an invitation to live in the present moment and to pay attention to the ways God dwells and labours in us. At the very core of Ignatian spirituality is the belief that God is found in all things. This belief denotes that a major part of our human vocation is to find God in all things. According to St. Ignatius of Loyola, God communicates directly with each of us in our minds and hearts. God communicates through what Ignatius called movements of the heart or motions of the soul; namely, our thoughts, feelings and desires.
Grace: To know all that God has given me in His creation, that it might bring me closer to Him.
Text for Prayer: Psalm 104
Reflection: Living in Denver, I am intimately familiar with the grandeur of God’s creation. I almost daily stand in silent amazement as I watch the hand of God painting a sunrise or sunset that is as breath-taking as it is short-lived. Only a God of infinite beauty could fill the sky with his wonder, only to have it disappear into pure blue a few moments later.
Being filled with awe and wonder at the beauty of creation is perhaps a great balm for the modern soul, which is so often distracted and enslaved to duty or obliged to carry out the monotonous, making only things that are ugly or necessary. However, in contemplating natural things, the soul is free to see that which is not constructed by the limitations of man, and this contemplation can then lead us to reflect upon ourselves as creatures, too. When we do, we might come to consider how it is that God has given to us all of his beauteous creation, and why. (more…)
Grace: That all intentions, actions, and works may be purely directed towards the praise and service of God our Lord.
Text for Prayer: Genesis 1:26-31
Reflection: Why did God choose to make mankind? If I were to pose this question to the 8th graders whom I teach, they would likely—using their energetic imaginations—come up with various hypotheses: Maybe God made us because He was lonely and wanted some friends. Maybe He was bored. Maybe it was an experiment to see what would happen and what we might to do to entertain Him. Maybe He wanted someone who would pay attention to Him and do things for Him. These answers may seem humorous, but they flow from the difficulty of trying to envision a God who is not just one thing among many other things but who is wholly unique, wholly other.
When we ask the question, “For what purpose did God create man?”, we naturally tend to put ourselves in God’s place and to imagine how and why we would have created mankind, and the rest of creation, if we had been in the same situation. This can lead us to think that God’s purpose in creating must have been to fill some need or to make up for some insufficiency. However, if we want to understand better why God created us, we might be helped by first asking a related question: Who is this God who did create us?
The Church has always taught that God can be known through his effects, that is, through the things that He has made. Saint Paul writes to the Romans, “[e]ver since the creation of the world, his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made” (Rom. 1:20). Thus, by using the power of our human reason and reflecting upon the things we see around us as well as upon ourselves we can eventually determine with certainty specific qualities which God must possess. We can know, for example, that God is totally simple, that He is one, that He is unchanging, infinite, perfect. Using human reason in this way, we come to see the inadequacy of some of the hypotheses proffered above: God couldn’t have made us in order to fill some gap because he is a perfect, infinite being and lacks nothing.
Grace: To ask for the courage and generosity to draw closer to God.
Text for Prayer: Psalm 130
Reflection: Why exercise? The simplest answer might be to say that one exercises in order “to be healthy,” and regular exercise can certainly be a good thing when directed towards physical and mental health. There are many ways that people today strive to achieve what they call their fitness or wellness goals and a plethora of training manuals to go with these many exercise routines.
But focusing on physical exercise only as the sole means to wellness can lead us to forget that it is equally important to focus on our interior lives. St. Ignatius, in the Spiritual Exercises, offers a training manual for a health that is just as important as physical and mental health, if not even more so, our spiritual health and the care of our souls. The Exercises, as the Saint writes himself, are about “disposing the soul to rid itself of all the disordered tendencies, and after it is rid, to seek and find the Divine Will” (Annotation 1). In other words, the Exercises are about detaching ourselves from all that might hold us from knowing and seeking God’s Will in our own lives, and then helping us to learn how to make better choices that will lead us to God and genuine happiness.
Now entering into our fourth year, we are once again pleased to announce the beginning of our reflections on the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. Starting on February 12th, we will once again commence our Lenten journey towards Easter with six young Jesuits as our guides. By Easter Sunday, anyone who has followed these reflections regularly will have a basic introduction to the whole of the Spiritual Exercises.
Each post will have roughly the same format. It will begin with a grace to ask the Lord for as you begin your time of prayer and reflection. Then, it will provide a text for prayer, either from the Scriptures or the Spiritual Exercises. After this will come the main part of the post, a reflection based on a prayer from the Exercises. Then, questions or a prayer that will help you reflect with greater depth how the day’s reflection applies to your own relationship with God. Having read the reflection and gone over the questions, you might then want to use the day’s text for further prayer, using your imagination to enter into the scene depicted.
As you read these daily reflections to grow in your relationship with the Lord, you should feel free to use as much or as little as you need, and spend as much or as little time as you can allow. If you simply wish to take five minutes to read the reflection of the day, that will be five minutes well spent. If you wish to spend 30 minutes and use the reflection, the questions, and the texts, that’s fine, too. Likewise with anything in between, or even more time in prayer if you so desire. The ultimate goal of this blog is to help anyone who reads it to grow in their love for God our Lord, and to better discern His will in their daily life. We encourage you to let that goal of growing in the love of God be the one measure you use to determine how much or how little you make use of the materials provided here, and how much or how little time you spend in prayer. Let all things be Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam—for the greater glory of God!
Grace: Gratitude for the many graces and blessings received, and the desire to reciprocate God’s generosity in loving service to Christ the Risen King.
Text for Prayer: Spiritual Exercises no. 230-237
Reflection: At the conclusion of Lent and the Spiritual Exercises, we have so much to be grateful for. Let us recall with gratitude the ways we have experienced the Trinity’s Love for us throughout the Four Weeks:
- How did the Spirit reveal to you your God-given uniqueness, especially how you have been wonderfully made by God?
- What bondage did you find yourself trapped in during the First Week, and how did Jesus set you free?
- Where and when did you find Jesus speaking to you most powerfully during the Second Week? What instance particularly drew you to desire to know, love and follow Christ?
- At what point during the Third Week did you feel most free to enter into Jesus’ Passion and receive intimate knowledge that Christ suffered this all for you?
- Where did you encounter the Risen Jesus during the Fourth Week? In what ways did you experience Christ as the Consoler (and more specifically, your Consoler)? What point during this week did you feel your heart most moved to follow Jesus? (more…)
Grace: To be jubilant because my Lord and friend is alive! To see Him standing right before my eyes.
Text for Prayer: Jn 20:11-29 and Jn 21:1-25
Mary Magdalena weeps outside an empty tomb and mistakes Jesus for a gardener. The fearful disciples lock themselves inside their homes. Thomas doubts and Peter doesn’t recognize Jesus until John points to Him. At this point, it would seem appropriate for Jesus to scream and rip out His hair. These people didn’t get it the first time, and they still don’t get it!
Fortunately for the disciples, and for us, Jesus says “peace” and not “payback!” He asks, “Do you love me?” instead of, “Do you know how you’ve offended me?” He knows it takes us a little while to understand, and He has all eternity to wait. Even so, we don’t have all eternity to respond.
Grace: To know the joy of the resurrection as Mary knows it.
Reading: John 20:1-9
Reflection: Christ is not dead. He has risen. He is alive.
Go ahead, ask Mary of Magdela, or Peter, or the beloved disciple, or the Mother of Jesus. They will tell you the story. Ask them what they saw while in the soft darkness before daybreak. You’ll hardly believe it.
Just imagine . . .
Nothing remained in that cold tomb except a folded up piece of cloth. Friends of theirs had laid Jesus there just a few days earlier after he was given a betrayer’s death. And now, that tomb was empty. The body gone. (more…)
Grace: I ask for a real sense of sorrow, anguish, and even tears because of all that Christ has suffered for me.
Material for contemplation: review the whole Passion
Reflection: Today is a day for remembering, for reflecting on what has happened over these past few days. After the intense experience of Thursday night and Friday, we may be tempted to look ahead to the consolation of Easter Sunday just to get some relief. But we have to resist this temptation. Today, just like the first disciples, all we can see is the ugliness of sin and its wrenching effects: our Lord is dead.
Today a great silence reigns on earth, a great silence and a great stillness.
- Ancient Homily for Holy Saturday
A friend of mine who converted from atheism to Catholicism several years ago said that the most shocking thing he experienced during his first Triduum was coming into the church on Good Friday and seeing the tabernacle empty, its door wide open. In that moment, it suddenly occurred to him: God is dead. The phrase that he had stood by all those years as an atheist was absolutely true. But now it had taken on a whole new depth of meaning that Nietzsche and the other atheist humanists never understood. Yes, today on Holy Saturday, God really is dead. But his death is not the expression of his impotence and irrelevance. Rather, it is the most glorious expression of his love. (more…)
Grace: Sorrow, compassion, and shame because the Lord is going to His suffering for my sins.
Text for Prayer: Mt. 26:59-68, Lk. 23:7-11, Mt. 27:11-26
The innocent Son of God was dragged from one tribunal to the next. His hands were bound and His feet were shackled like the most dangerous of criminals. He was charged with crimes that merited death while the crowd insulted Him. His judges sat in judgment of the Eternal Judge while His friends were nowhere to be found.
Consider the palace of Caiaphas. Here the Sanhedrin were gathered. The Sanhedrin were entrusted with leading the worship of God in the temple. They worked closely with their Roman governors and found ways to abuse their privileges. They were no longer living for the faith, but they found a way to make a living by the faith– attempting to serve both God and Mammon. Subordinating themselves to temporal powers, now they sat in judgment of the Divine King.