In early November I posted a note here asking for your prayer as I began the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius, a process often referred to as the 30-day retreat.
A few hours ago the retreat concluded and last night those of us who had made this four-week journey together gathered for a meal before we return to our homes today.
The journey of the Spiritual Exercises is intense. After a day of preparation we entered the silence and prayer, free from all phone, internet, media and conversation. Each day we met in individually with a Spiritual Director who accompanied us, helping each of us to remain open to the purpose of the Exercises.
Ignatius writes in his introductory notes that just as a healthy person will take physical exercise, these four weeks are, in the same kind of disciplined and demanding way, spiritual exercise:
“For as strolling, walking and running are bodily exercises, so every way of preparing and disposing the soul to rid itself of all the disordered tendencies, and, after it is rid, to seek and find the Divine Will as to the management of one’s life for the salvation of the soul, is called a Spiritual Exercise.” (SE Annotation 1)
People often envy those who go on retreat fantasising a peaceful escape from the regular routines and demands of life, and I did enjoy this sense for the first couple of days. But after a day or two it is clear that these weeks are a not a break or an escape but an engagement with the divine. Not simply time an encounter with a human friend whose company I enjoy, but a robust and reality-centred relationship with the all powerful and almighty God who does not hesitate to encounter me, to lead me, and when necessary to wrestle with me.
Again in his initial notes Ignatius reminds the retreatant:
“The most important qualities in the person who enters into these exercises are openness, generosity and courage. As retreatants, our home and desire is that God will place us with his Son so that in all ways we seek only to respond to that love which first created us and now wraps us round with total care and concern.” (SE Annotation 5)
Over these retreat weeks I have been grateful for the prayer of many people, including many FFF readers. I have prayed every day for those who read these posts, and for your intentions.
As we finished the month together last evening we reflected on the graces we have received. It was a strange sharing since we have not spoken a word to each other in our month together, but together we have sought maturity of relationship with Jesus.
The evidence was undeniable. Jesus has been present and active in each of us, leading us to greater maturity of faith.
The great news is that while retreat opportunities are great when we can take a day or two or thirty, Jesus requires only an instant to transform, to heal, to forgive and to strengthen us.
All we need to do is to ask.
Take a moment now…
- …to ask Jesus to reveal Himself to you in a way that is real and undeniable in your life in the next few hours.