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A Spiritual Treasure
on 3 September 2002
"The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius" is one of the literary treasures of Christendom. Written by St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, in the 16th Century, it presents St. Ignatius' formula for the pursuit of spiritual perfection.
The book itself provides a "guidebook", if you will, for a 30 day Ignatian retreat. St. Ignatius presents meditations for each day of the retreat. The meditations are very brief, leaving broad latitude for the retreat master to direct the retreat along the path most likely to be helpful to the retreatants.
While this book certainly is not a "do it yourself" retreat book, it does provide the reader with an accurate insight into the essence of Ignatian Spirituality. The story of the conversion of St. Ignatius is told in the introductory sections of the book. St. Ignatius was an ambitious young Basque nobleman in the service of the King of Spain when he suffered a severe leg wound at the battle of Pampeluna. While recuperating in Loyola Castle, he read the lives of the saints, a book witch redirected his service from that of the King of Spain to the service of the King of Heaven. As he gradually discerned his calling he unsuccessfully attempted a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, among other pious exercises. He used the method of his discernment process as a guideline for others, whether to discern their proper state in life or to more perfectly orient their lives toward God. The essence of Ignatian spiritually is that all creation is good. It was created by God to lead all people to Him. The duty of every Christian is to use all of creation to give honor and glory of God, and to use it to lead all men to their creator. Just as all creation if fulfilled in God, so to are all people. The Spiritual Exercises encourage us to always view every potential action in light of how it can give the greatest honor and glory to God. In so doing it provides us with a standard by which to live our lives.
In addition to this general spiritual direction, I found a specific, practical value in this book. Throughout the book, St. Ignatius, in keeping with his view of all creation as reflecting the glory of God, repeatedly encourages us to use our mind's eye to paint the picture of the scenes depicted in the Scripture which we are reading. We should imagine the sights, the sounds, the smells, the inflections in the voices, every detail which will bring us into the world of Scripture. This has been very helpful to me in my roll as Lector at my church. I think of St. Ignatius' admonitions every time I try to bring the sacred readings alive to the congregation.
Perhaps each of you would be touched in ways differently than I, but I feel confident that this book will touch and improve the lives of all who read it and meditate upon it.