Life can be hard. Christ himself said that, if you wanted to be his disciple, you’d have to pick up your own cross and follow him. It seems like lately, the cross most of us are called to carry is getting heavier and heavier. Some are being crushed by the weight. That’s really not how it’s supposed to be, and over the last three years, I’ve found something that has made my life, my spirituality, and my overall attitude, much better.
I had the chance to sit down for lunch with Fr. George Lane, the publisher of Loyola Press while I was on a training seminar at the Press. Fr. George talked to me a bit about the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, the founder of the Jesuits.
I’ve been a Catholic my whole life, and have been working for the Church for many years now, and to be honest, I’d never heard about the Spiritual Exercises. I think that, unless you went to a Jesuit parish, school or college, you don’t hear much about St. Ignatius.
Anyway, that chance encounter with Fr. George led me to make an eight day silent retreat that summer. What a great experience! I never thought I could keep quiet that long, but I realized that, so often, I don’t even let the Lord get a word in, I’m so busy asking, telling, and sharing.
That first retreat lead me to make another, this one a life-changer. I went into it with the goal of discerning a major decision that had to be made. Even before the retreat began, the Lord was speaking clearly to me through a homily at my home parish, where I had gone a few hours before I had to leave for my retreat.
That retreat lead me to begin what St. Ignatius called “The 19th Annotation,” also known as the Spiritual Exercises in Daily Life. St. Ignatius was a layman when he wrote the exercises, and meant them for laypeople. Ideally, they are to be done in silence, over thirty days.
But Ignatius knew that not everyone could take that time away from their responsibilities, so he wrote the 19th annotation, which has the retreatant doing the exercises over the span of thirty-some weeks, meeting once a week with a Spiritual Director.
As I type these words, I’m in the process of completing the exercises. It has been very hard to make it all work, but my spirituality has been greatly strengthened and deepened by the experience, and I encourage everyone to make them, whether on a 30 day retreat or using the 19th annotation.
More on the Spiritual Exercises will be forthcoming!