A Reflection on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola
By Sister Donna Fannon, MHSH
*The title of this post is inspired by the film, “The Way” which is filmed on the Camino in Spain. Each year thousands of pilgrims walk hundreds of miles on the Camino en route to Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain. Pilgrims began walking this route in the 9th Century to venerate the tomb of St. James. Many pilgrims now walk the Camino to discover aspects of the mystery of themselves.
Today, July 31, is the feast day of St. Ignatius of Loyola.
We recently celebrated the feast of St. James the Great (July 25). St. James and his brother John were followers of Jesus and were referred to as the Sons of Zebedee in the Gospels. They (or their mother, according to one of the stories) made a request to Jesus that they be granted seats at the right and left of him in the Kingdom. Jesus asks them if they are willing to drink the cup that Jesus will be asked to drink in order to bring about that kingdom. Then Jesus quietly tells them that it is up to the Creator to designate places. Later we learn that James and John are with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. It is the night before the Crucifixion they cannot even stay awake to keep Jesus company as he struggles in accepting God’s will to go through with the pain and agony that await him the following day. Finally, all of the apostles desert Jesus in his Passion, the risen Jesus meets them in the Upper room, forgives them, bestows the Holy Spirit on them and commissions them to spread the Good News of reconciliation to all.
I reflect on the story of James and John and their relationship with Jesus at Eastern Point Retreat House in Gloucester, Massachusetts, where I am again directing the full Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. I can’t help but be reminded how, like James and John, so many are called to participate with Jesus Christ in renewing the face of the Earth. James’ and John’s story is a metaphor for each of our journeys with the Lord, and how we, too, must learn what it means to be a disciple.
The Spiritual Exercises lead retreatants through a series of prayer experiences—“exercises”—that reveal God’s love for all of creation and God’s desire that all of creation be redeemed and charged with grace. Those who enter into the Exercises are invited to take a long, loving look at our broken world—the way that the Trinity would gaze on it—and to get in touch with our deepest desires to live in harmony with all creation. Retreatants discover God’s unconditional love for them in ever deepening ways. They are invited through a series of imaginative exercises to seek a deeper friendship with Jesus and make a commitment to co-labor with Jesus in his on-going work of redemption that restores all creation to his Father.
This summer there are 22 people being directed in the Spiritual Exercises. It is an ecumenical group and includes men and women ranging in age from 30 to 80+ with a wide range of life experience.