St. Ignatius' Spiritual Exercises


Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

I was at a critical juncture in my faith journey — and not a particularly tidy one — when I learned of the extended Ignatian retreat offered at my parish. My conversion into the Catholic Church five years earlier had been propelled by disillusionment with the emotionalism that marked my experience in evangelical Protestant spheres. Eventually, a personal crisis had driven me to seek an expression of faith grounded in ancient tradition rather than in my unreliable ability to feel God’s presence.

It was an appropriate and necessary step of faith for me at the time, but the years that followed found me more reliant upon collective rituals and prayers and less sure of how to trust my own experience of the divine. By the time I saw the Ignatian retreat advertised in the parish bulletin, I’d realized I no longer had a personal relationship with God at all — what’s more, if I was honest, I wasn’t sure I believed such a thing really existed.

As someone perpetually disappointed by the inevitable crash that comes after the mountaintop experience of short weekend retreats, the concept of making a nine-month-long retreat intrigued me. In this sustained format, the dozen participants would commit to spending a half hour a day with St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises, using Fr. Kevin O’Brien, SJ’s book “The Ignatian Adventure” as a guide. Each week from September to May the group would gather to share their experiences and reflections. Additionally, each participant would meet bi-weekly with one of the spiritual directors leading the retreat to further examine how God was moving and speaking in their lives.

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Someday, the light will shine like a sun through my skin & they will say, 'what have you done with your life?' & though there are many moments I think I'll remember, in the end, I will be proud to say, I was one of us.

(Brian Andreas, Storypeople)