Category: Spiritual Exercises


AMDG

In the current spate of stabbings in London, poisonings around the world and threats of war,  the post-resurrection stories of peace have a particular resonance.  It seems that Jesus’ favourite word after his resurrection is “peace.”    It is almost always the first word on his lips when he appears to his apostles: “Peace be with you.”  In the Gospels, this greeting appears after the trauma of his death and amidst the joy of his resurrection.  He is not recorded as giving this peace before his resurrection,  In fact, famously in Matthews Gospel, he said I did not bring peace to the world but a sword. However the risen Christ does offer this peace and it is an antidote to our modern, secular society where is so much stress, depression, and anxiety.

Christ’s peace is different to the peace that the world can give. The Resurrection unleashed a power that reached down to the dead, even to hell. Similarly, the power of his peace reaches all aspects of our life.

So imagine you are one of the disciples, encountering the risen Lord.  He invites you to look upon his glorious but wounded body and even to touch those wounds. As we gaze on those wounds we can see how far Christ’s gift of resurrection peace goes…

  • First, peace for our minds.  When we look at the wounds on his head left by the crown of thorns, we know for certain that his forgiveness is everlasting; our consciences can be at rest.
  • Secondly peace for our hearts. When we see the large wound in his side caused by the spear of the soldier,  we see that this opens up to us a way to his heart.  Thus we have the powerful devotion to the Sacred Heart and more recently the Divine Mercy.  We know for certain that we are loved with an undying, unconditional love.
  • Third, peace for our soul. When we look at the wounds caused by the nails in his hands and is feet, it reminds us that now, in the words of Teresa of Avila, we are his hands and feet.  He is asking us to continue the work that matters. This is a worthwhile mission, that will satisfy our thirst for meaning.

Only the risen Christ can give a peace that reaches into all areas of our complex and complicated lives. Let’s pray that it is something our political leaders start to experience.

 

AMDG

How do we know we are on the right track in life? There are many cues that we get from our friends, work, family,  that we are socially integrating well.  Sometimes this is not enough and we become aware of deeper things and internal experiences. We get an itch that something is missing or conversely we sense that everything is going well.

Human beings are quite brilliant in many ways, with varying levels of mastery in different areas. Howard Gardener famously classified 9 types of intelligence or 9 ways of being smart –

  • Naturalist (nature smart)
  • Musical (sound smart)
  • Logical-mathematical (number/reasoning smart)
  • Existential (life smart)
  • Interpersonal (people smart)
  • Bodily-kinesthetic (body smart)
  • Linguistic (word smart)

St Ignatius teaches us how to be spiritually intelligent.  Maybe that is linked with being ‘life smart’.

Aware of the complexity and richness of our inner life – Ignatius talks about ‘spiritual movements’. He describes spiritual consolation as being an interior movement.  In order to recognise consolation,  one has to be sensitive to the whole fluid and elusive world of one’s feelings and reactions and so we have to be wary of false-consolations. Spiritual consolation is more than just ‘feeling good’,  our feelings vary and sometimes are not trustworthy. So how can we discern than an experience is one of true consolation? Ignatius says it will be marked by an increase of faith, hope, love and interior joy.  It also leads to a sense of peace which has a deeper quality to it – the peace which the world cannot give.

download (2)We shouldn’t be suspicious of consolation especially when we are surrounded by a narrative of decline in society and in the church. It is easy to mistrust it – or not expect it if we have low expectations and our hearts have become hardened.  Pope Francis in an address to his fellow Jesuits at their most recent General Congregation to be insistently seeking consolation. “ It is the task of the Society to console the faithful and to help with discernment so that the enemy of human nature does not rob us of joy: the joy of evangelising, the joy of the family, the joy of the Church, the joy of creation. That it does not rob from us, neither in discouragement when faced with the greatness of the ills of the world and the misunderstandings between those who presume to do good, nor fill us with fatuous joys that are always to hand in any shop. Thisservice of joy and spiritual consolation’ is rooted in prayer. It consists of encouraging us and encouraging all to insistently ask for God’s consolation. … Practising and teaching this prayer of asking and begging for consolation is the principal service to joy. … Joy is not a decorative ‘plus’, but rather a clear indication of grace: it indicates that love is active, operative and present … and it is sought in its existential index which is permanence. In the Exercises, progress in spiritual life is given in consolation. … This service of joy was what led the first companions to decide not to disband but to constitute the society they offered and they shared spontaneously, and whose characteristic was the joy that they received from praying together, going out in mission together and returning to reunite, in imitation of the life the Lord led with His Apostles. This joy of the explicit proclamation of the Gospel – through the preaching of faith and the practice of justice and mercy – is what led the Society to go out towards all the peripheries. The Jesuit is a servant of the joy of the Gospel”.

 

Spiritual Exercises    Rule Three – First week

I call it consolation when some interior movement in the soul is caused, through which the soul comes to be inflamed with love of its Creator and Lord; and when it can in consequence love no created thing on the face of the earth in itself, but in the Creator of them all.

Likewise, when it sheds tears that move to love of its Lord, whether out of sorrow for one’s sins, or for the Passion of Christ our Lord, or because of other things directly connected with His service and praise.

Finally, I call consolation every increase of hope, faith and charity, and all interior joy which calls and attracts to heavenly things and to the salvation of one’s soul, quieting it and giving it peace in its Creator and Lord.

AMDG

We may have met people who have had a powerful ‘conversion’ experience.  They feel as though they have been chosen by God, who has acted in their life in a decisive way.  A classic example is an alcoholic who reaches rock bottom, and then calls out for help and is touched in some way which leads to this conversion of life etc. George W Bush is a classic example – often the person feels like God has touched them especially and their personal theology, as a result, is more exclusive, although in his case Billy Graham gave a  helping hand. Perhaps this explains how language such as his ‘axis of evil’ upset so many liberals in Europe.  In Saint Ignatius’ rules for discernment, he talks about how the Holy Spirit can work in this way – like water hitting a stone – like a ‘spiritual’ intervention.   It all depends on the direction of someone’s life, if you wake up at the age of 40, like ‘Dubya’ after a wild weekend and you see your life slipping away a because you are drinking too much,  and in this reality check you are given a cold sharp clarity that makes you realise you have to stop.  Whereas if your orientation is the other way, i.e. if you are already seeking God and becoming growingly sensitive to the interior life then the spirit works more softly – ‘suavemente’ in the original Spanish – like water hitting a sponge.

The general orientation of a person’s life is key here because it can work either way, the spirits have the opposite effects depending on your general orientation. A person moving from good to better can suddenly be faced with a not-so-subtle temptation that could knock them of course, MP’s expenses come to mind. However, if a person’s life is disintegrating for whatever reason, and they are in the grip of an addictive vice, such as online gambling – the soft movement is from the ‘bad spirit’.  One more subtle temptation here, one more rationalisation there…. like water hitting a sponge.  Whereas the good spirit will come in clashing – like water hitting a stone in this case – a sudden sting of conscience, or a sober realization that all my credit cards are maxed out. We all have these ‘turning points’ in our lives, and this is where it pays off to have a spiritual director to help understand what their significance is.

Second Week Rules for Discernment – Rule 7 

In those who go on from good to better, the good Angel touches such soul sweetly, lightly and gently, like a drop of water which enters into a sponge; and the evil touches it sharply and with noise and disquiet, as when the drop of water falls on the stone. And the above-said spirits touch in a contrary way those who go on from bad to worse. The reason of this is that the disposition of the soul is contrary or like to the said Angels. Because, when it is contrary, they enter perceptibly with clatter and noise; and when it is like, they enter with silence as into their own home, through the open door.