What does it mean to be a man or woman of the Spiritual Exercises?
This question could receive a different answer from every person you ask, so we posed it to a few Jesuits and colleagues who live the life. Here are their responses.
Responding in Love
It has been 18 years since I made the Spiritual Exercises in Everyday Life, and my life was reoriented for the better.
I came to know the voice of my Shepherd, and He is kind, gentle and loving. This was a big change, as I often thought God was speaking to me through “dos” and “don’ts.” Knowing His voice more easily today helps me to discern daily choices in a more balanced way. I cannot say that I always get it right, but I am challenged to be more like Him.
Christ is my compass. I follow His lead, getting to know Him, letting Him know me, so that I can love Him more and desire to follow Him more closely. As a woman of the Exercises, I daily desire to be receptive to how God is communicating and loving me throughout my day, so that I can respond more lovingly to the people God places in my path. This has been a 180° change from my life before the Exercises. Before, I was more focused on being “perfect” and not making mistakes or offending people. Today, I am more comfortable with the unknown and am more accepting of the “messiness” of being human. I don’t know what each day will bring, but I know Jesus is at my side loving me through it all.
Ignatian Spirituality Center of Kansas City
Our Glimpses of God’s Love
I once heard a homily about St. Ignatius’ vision of God the Father placing Ignatius with Jesus holding his cross. Ignatius hears Jesus say, “I wish you to serve us.” The homilist remarked, “That profound grace changes everything for Ignatius. He came to know that God the Father placed [Ignatius] with his son and that his son accepted him as his follower. And Ignatius knew who he was [to God], how profoundly he was loved by God.”
It is as a parent that I feel like I have been able to see as God sees, to love as God loves and to recognize that I am profoundly loved by God. The first time I held my daughter, I was overwhelmed by how much love I felt for her. I remember crying and laughing at the same time – no one expression of emotion could convey it. Until then, I had never imagined God crying and laughing with overwhelming love for me.
Another “vision” came at 2 a.m. when she was just a month or two old. She was screaming – the kind of scream that makes you wish for the soothing sound of a smoke detector. At one point she grabbed my bare skin with her little sharp fingernails and squeezed – hard. I remember crying, because it hurt and I was exhausted, and at the same time grateful that I could share in her suffering.
I came to understand in a new way that God isn’t just open to hearing about my struggles, God wants to share them with me.
I think we all have these everyday visions, these moments of profound grace. They may not be as mystical as St. Ignatius’ vision, but they happen more often. As with St. Ignatius, they can remind us of who we are to God and how we are loved by God.
Parish Life Coordinator
St. Francis Xavier College Church
God is Love
The Spiritual Exercises invite me to greater awareness and contemplation to the truth that we are loved unconditionally by an incarnate God who constantly engages us in our everyday lives. In that spirit, we endeavor to love, serve, praise and reverence God in all that we do. I see this in my relationships with my family and loved ones, but it must also be beyond that. As assistant principal of mission, ministry and diversity at Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora, Colorado, I am aware of this through our student retreats, formation programs, immersion trips, Student Diversity Action Group and Parent Diversity Committee, and through our staff Ignatian spirituality mornings, daily Mass and colleagues simply going above and beyond for our community. All of these mission experiences are about forming ourselves in relationship with Jesus and one another living in solidarity as the Body of Christ.
The Spiritual Exercises help me seek to be as closely present and in as close relationship with Jesus through daily prayer, scripture and the sacraments. It is my hope that these exercises strengthen me in animating my personal relationship with Jesus into all the relationships I have with all my neighbors, through all my experiences and activities. It is my Examen prayer that I am mindful of the presence of Christ in all my life experiences, seeking the face of Christ, the face of love.
God is love.
Regis Jesuit High School
Putting Christ in the Center
To be a man of the Spiritual Exercises means that Jesus has become the fundamental person in my life. The Exercises showed me the Truth of my life; since then, my life has become a further uncovering of that Truth. I learn to base my choices and commitments in Christ. As a man of the Exercises, I continue to grow into the desire so clearly stated in the Anima Christi: “Do not permit me to be parted from you.”
As a man of the Exercises, I never proceed alone. I proceed with a companion that launches me into the pursuit of freedom. This freedom takes many forms and arises when I encounter and re-encounter Jesus in my day-to-day life. For instance, Jesus provides a freedom from fear that can catastrophize the future or leave me overly concerned with what people think of me. Or when I am faced with my own self-interest and concerns – ultimately my ego – Jesus prompts me to reprioritize those around me, like the students I now teach at Cristo Rey Jesuit or the Jesuits I live with in community.
This freedom also takes the form of being attentive enough to see and go where there is suffering in the world. For where there is suffering in the world – whether in communities traumatized by gun violence, migrants coming from Venezuela to the U.S., or students of color lacking educational equity – there is Jesus suffering, there is Jesus crucified.
Br. Sullivan McCormick, SJ
Cristo Rey Jesuit College Preparatory