The Ignatian Adventure has been my roadmap for the past 15 weeks, and it will continue to guide me through the Ignatian Exercises through May of this year. In short, the Ignatian Exercises are a historic journey of “four weeks” (broken down into smaller bite-sized pieces to stretch over 8 months in the 19th edition) that were initially inspired by St. Ignatius of Loyola. The book first introduces its readers to the Ignatian way of reading scripture and prayer, and then gently leads through the traditional four weeks of exercises
- experiencing the boundless mercy of God (week 1),
- accompanying Jesus Christ on mission (week 2),
- being with Jesus in his suffering and savoring the grace of compassion (week 3), and
- experiencing the joy and sharing the consolation of the risen Lord (week 4).
I am reading this under the tutelage of a spiritual director from the Hermitage, and we began in October in order to align the “weeks” with the spiritual calendar. For instance, during the week of Christmas, I read about the birth of Jesus; and nearer to Easter, we will join the Ignatian exercises in the suffering and death of Jesus.
The intent of these exercises is to develop and commit to a spiritual practice of prayer and Scripture reading each day (for upwards of an hour). This, you may be thinking, is an ambitious goal for anyone, let alone a dissertating graduate student. There is no denying the fact that such a practice has been a struggle to diligently pursue; I often feel as if I am only skimming the surface of the depth of this historical journey of the soul. Nevertheless, I am grateful for the structure and simplicity of being given one verse or passage a day and asked to be with it in different ways.
I’ve learned that Ignatian spirituality invites its participants to enter into Scripture and prayer that may be foreign, uncomfortable, perhaps even scary. Throughout this book, the author introduces gradual steps into various approaches to the time participants spend in prayer and Scripture reading. Some of these include the following:
- The Examen – a daily prayer of awareness
- (Re)imagining God – having an image of God that works
- Ignatian repetition – repeating a scripture reading and finding new angles/depth
- The Principle and Foundation – a sort of life’s resume summary statement
- The Colloquy – putting yourself in the biblical scene
- Discernment of the spirits – desolation vs. consolation, a little like Lewis’ Screwtape Letters
- Ignatian contemplation – imaginative prayer
Additionally, O’Brien sprinkles beautiful, well-timed prayers by other saints and spiritual leaders throughout history within each chapter in order for his readers to enter into prayer through others’ words. See, for example, these prayers by Merton and de Chardin.
In all honesty, I am not sure what product will be revealed at the end of the Ignatian exercises for me. For now, I am simply enjoying the journey, the process, reading the scriptures with the NRSV (a different lens than youth), and having “no idea where I am going” (the opening line to Merton’s prayer, p. 37). I imagine this would be a fruitful journey for a committed book club, university ministry group, or intentional community to take together.
– JF, Emerging Leader 2016-17