Dynamics of the Spiritual Exercises Lecture 3: Dynamic, Graces, Direction

Dynamics of the Spiritual Exercises Lecture 3: Dynamic, Graces, Direction


(unintelligible voices) – Well, good evening. Tonight, as you know, we’re going to look at the first week of the exercises. Now, the man or woman
who enters the first week of the exercises should be ready to pray, not to give rhetorical verification, but really has shown that they can pray more methodically and yet more freely. You say, well that’s a contradiction. No, it’s a combination of both. A person can use
structure and know when to abandon the structure
and follow the spirit. Secondly, with a kind
of deeper contrition, but also with more wonder
at the mercy of God. So, a person feels that I am sorrowful for what I’ve done or
what or I have not done, but at the same time I have a sense of wonder that despite any
failings, failures, sinfulness, God has always been there, and God has always been there as good, not a punishing God. With experience of recoil,
which I would call desolation, and attraction, consolation. Recoil, I don’t want this and
yet I want something else. So, these movements are alive. Remember now what we said earlier in talking about the
principle and foundation. You’re taking a person
through a prayer experience to deepen their own
experience of how to pray, how God is in their
life or God is creating. So, these things I’m mentioning
will gradually be evolving through your relationship in that period of going through the
principle and foundation, and teaching a person how to look and reflect on
sins and sinfulness. So, consequently the man or woman entering into the prayer of the
first week ought to be able to see the paradox, this
great Christian irony, that without sin we would
never know the mercy of God. That’s hard for people to think of. I said, but there’d be no
mercy if there was no sin. Mercy comes from the realization that I’ve been forgiven, that
God gives me an opportunity to begin again, that is always
renewal in the life of God, and that’s ironic. Meaning that it’s a displacement in logic. It’s a paradox. Moreover, without sin we
would never know the meaning of these words from John’s gospel. “For God so loved the world
that he gave his only son “so that everyone who believes
in him may not perish, “but may have eternal life.” So, we want to hold on at the beginning of these reflections tonight, which are going to be I
think a little difficult because I think the matter, although Ignatius said
it was the easiest week, I think it’s the hardest week. It’s a call to live the life
won for us by Jesus the Christ, the father’s great gift to us. So we’re going to enter into an area of our own spiritual
life which is not neat. People can put it into
little packets of responses and duties you do or throw up hoops, but when you really
move into the first week of the exercises Ignatius
begins, frequently enough, in a meditation with look
how bad this has been, and before you know it you’re ending up as look how wonderful it is to live in a world where there’s Mercy. That’s hard to do. Why did he do that? I said I don’t know, but it’s good. So, we’re going to look first at the text. The title of the exercises. By small e exercises, I
mean the kinds of things you go through in the systemic prayer that Ignatius presents. He refers to each of these as meditation. That’s a prayer in which
material thought out or mentally processed
in the light of faith, and in the desire to hear
and respond to God’s word to oneself, as Ivans puts it. So, meditation, while it does have a sense of intellectual rumination,
ends in effective embrace. How do you go from rumination to embrace? Now, I heard Charles Taylor last night. A lot of intellectual rumination. Very good, but I didn’t want
to go up and embrace him. There was an intellectual distance. It was a sense of objectivity. There was a sense of
centering on argument. And all of those tended
to make us think of how can I reason to where this man is, not to how can I feel how this man feels. That really is a good
example of a meditation on one level. On the other hand,
Ignatius will also talk, as he does right at the beginning of the first week of contemplation, as a prayer characterized
by an effective quality and by a certain receptiveness
and a certain simplicity. For this distinction, it should not be too highly emphasized. In other words, in this process
of doing a pastoral ministry of guiding someone in
a retreat experience, you don’t want to spend
too much time saying is this meditation or contemplation? Probably it’ll mix, as it
usually does in people. That effect of prayers, and we’re going to talk
more about that as we go on, is especially found in the colloquies of the first week, meditation and contemplative prayer that contains reasoning. I find an easy distinction is to say, generally when you’re in meditation, you’re talking about ideas,
truths, virtues, vices. When you talk about contemplation, you’re talking about
people, interacting, scenes, vitality, movement, narrative. If you get that difference,
I think you can see it there. Now the subject matter
of the five meditations of the first week center
first on the history of sin as represented in the sin of the angels, in one’s personal participation
in the history of sin, and in the two repetitions, which call for an individualized response to where one has felt recoil, desolation, or attraction to a greater
spiritual experience. You’re moving along
through these five sets of meditations presented to you. The first one, the Angels, Adam and Eve, somebody who has committed
a serious offense. It’s a history of sin, and Ignatious would always
see these panoramically, not into detail. He would say what we
have is the realization that there is a narrative, but
we don’t have to dissect it. And so that’s true when you go into the second meditation on your sin. It’s a narrative, not a dissection. It’s not a morbid introspective moment, in which people rehearse
what they did behind the barn when they were 10, 12, 15,
how ever precocious you were. The third and fourth
are a little different. The third is a kind of
review of what has happened to you as you’ve gone
through this history of sin that you yourself have ratified, and how has that impacted
your way of looking at God? So, that in a retreat
experience the third exercise becomes much more personal, more specific. It’s like a movie screen where
you’ve had panoramic views in the first meditation,
the second meditation, and then gradually you come to a close-up, and you know that it’s the same film, but seen from different vantage points. One sees the overall backdrop. The other one sees the particularities that makes a backdrop come to life. So, you have both epic and drama if you want to put it in
another way, in these exercises. And the final one is that contemplation, really although it’s called a meditation, it’s almost like an application of senses, that Ignatius will use later, of hell. I think it’s the most difficult one because it does seem,
no matter what you say, when you start going
through the five senses involved in alienation
from God, that is scary. It’s heavy. And you feel, I don’t want to go there, and I think the point is Ignatius doesn’t want anyone to go there, but using the theology
and using the literature and the popular fantasy
world of his Christian time, he thought it was very
important to see hell in terms of these sensory deprivations. Now, the good side of it is to say when you start talking
like that is realize that Ignatius is saying in the drama of my redemption and my salvation, the whole person is involved. It’s not an intellectual exercise. It’s also a sensory exercise. And therefore heaven, a counterpoise, has to be also sensory
as well as intellectual. Whatever the beatific vision is, it spills over into the
reality of our humanity, which includes our senses. So, that’s an important point. It’ll be an important point when we talk about the resurrection. Why the bodily mysteries of Jesus? Well the reason is that’s a gateway towards our understanding
of how human he was. So part of what Ignatius
are saying is humanity, for whatever reason, finds
itself in this great gamble. The gamble is not just luck, but it’s a gamble in terms
of how my freedom is used. Is it used so that a totality
of my reality rejoices in being loved and embraced by God, no matter what I’ve done? And so when I have done something
that I feel is alienating from that God that I have come to love, I ask immediately for
repair, for restoration to come home again, but we’ll see that more and more. The dynamics of these five exercises, the title of this program, the dynamics of the exercises, those are in the colloquies, the prayers at the end of each
of these five meditations. For me they were an area that opened up the meaning of the exercises as not simply exercises in
which I saw how bad I was, how much I deserved to
be condemned by God, sometimes I made that up I think, or how easy it was to lose God, but rather by reading carefully and praying carefully over the colloquies, I saw that the desire
of God for me is greater than any sin and any defect and any fear, and once I grasped that
what Ignatius wants to push us into in the first week is to find consolation and
joy and hope and wonder in the fact that, no
matter what I’ve done, through God’s forgiveness
I can be with God again, more wise, more loving, more human than I had even before I sinned because of his mercy. And so you can see as I’m
talking how hard it is to blend all these together in a way that does not compartmentalize. Now you do this step and
you feel your sinfulness. Now you do this step and you feel regret. Now you do this step and
you ask for forgiveness. And you do this step,
and then you’re forgiven. It’s not a product, and
therefore all through this God is working so that you can generally as one who guides another
in the retreat presume that if a person is here,
they’ve been forgiven, otherwise they wouldn’t be here. And to think that we have to make them feel a cry for forgiveness,
let God do that. Just accompany them. Assure them. Find appropriate scripture for
them, something to listen to, somewhere to walk, someone to talk to, but you constantly look for the ways in which you can bring the person to a repose in their sinfulness, the condition we are in before a God who loves
us in that sinfulness. Jesus had his mother. And we believe in faith
coming from another direction that she was conceived immaculately, but he also had his disciples, and not one of them was
conceived immaculately. Who were the ones that walked with him? When he went by the seashore,
he told the disciples that they should leave
their nets and follow him. If they made a mistake, as
they did, as they sinned, as they did, if they misunderstood
as they constantly did, he didn’t say go back
and repair those nets; I don’t want you. Why was all that happening? Why didn’t he say, mother you and I are going to go out as a team? You know, male-female team. And we’re going to really
convince this world of what my father is, but he didn’t. He said mother, you be immaculate at home. You want to follow me, okay, but these are the men I’m choosing, and that’s why in Luke’s gospel as Mary becomes more and more designated as the one who hears the
word of God and fulfills it, she becomes a disciple
through her obedience, her listening, her fidelity
to that word, okay? So, in those colloquies they suggest where grace resides and they provide the
one giving the exercises with an authoritative
sense of where to move, what to look for as he
guides or she guides another through the difficult week. So, I want to look at those colloquies. Number 53, which is the first colloquy, after the history of sin, is an image of Christ suspended that is held before us visually before the one making the retreat. Then the one who is making
the retreat is guided into a conversation with
this crucified Christ, asking questions that are
answered in the great hymn from Philippians 2 verses six to 11. Jesus, although he was divine, did not hug the divinity to himself, but he liberated himself from it. He became human, even suffering
the death of the cross and therefore God has given
him a name above all names, so at the name of Jesus, every creature, above the earth, below the
Earth, and under the Earth will bow at his name and profess Jesus is the Lord, the Lord. Well, that’s what you
have in that colloquy 53, and you should feel the
freedom as a director or guide to use that as part of a prayer. And if you see that, a person really has to understand how the
crucified Christ is a symbol, not of God’s anger or rejection, but of God’s infinite love for us, that the son would restore humanity in an ultimate act of obedience, which is to embrace death out of love, to die with no one being your enemy, and to die with confidence in God, even though you may not feel that. And how can I not touch your heart? And so you have to be free, as a director, to use the meditations, not
let the meditations use you. And the richness of
this diversity is given, not through compartmentalization. Ignatius is partially teaching a person how to go through prayer methodically, but he forgets all that
by the time he gets to the third and fourth
meditations in the first week. They’re loose. Go back to where you
found it worked for you. Well, why not start
where it worked for you? So feel a freedom, not a
not a silliness, you know, where you suddenly rewrite the exercises, but within that context of
what I said at the beginning: “God so loved the world “that he would give his only begotten son “that we might be saved.” And to see this symbol at the beginning of this first week after you’ve looked at the enmeshment we have in sin, grasping us, holding us,
being part of our life, our culture, our
psychological predispositions, all those are being cut by
the mercy of God in Christ. So you ask this Christ the inquiry: why did you become human? Why did you do this? Why did you, an immortal one die? And, if you had to die,
why in this way of ignamy? Now friends, look at those questions. Can they be answered in a minute? Why they might take a whole hour. Does something suggest to you that everything is prelude
in that first meditation to this first colloquy of
presenting you before the Lord. It makes you rethink
where we put our emphasis. The colloquy is not an afterthought; it could be coming
throughout the whole prayer, but it’s what you want to get to. It’s not when you say when
you’re done the real work of seeing the whole history of sin, most people are pretty aware
of that whole history of sin. Oh, they might say where
is it about the angels or I don’t really know if I
believe about Adam and Eve and say forget all that. We are surrounded by
myths that try to give us some religious explanation of why we live in a tired and wounded world. In this tired and
wounded world get quickly to the only answer guy could give: his son. And these questions become personal. Not every answer will be the same for every woman or man
making the exercises. And then you throw it on you and say what have I done for Christ? What am I doing four Christ? What will I do for Christ? The colloquy ends with the presumption that heart and head
will soon want to speak whatever comes into your mind. So, Ignatius starts
with the mystery of sin as kind of environmental reality. He asked you to look at three instances: superior beings, brothers and sisters, and one good person that
still does a dumb thing. They all can sin. And in Ignatius’ own theology, they all deserve to be separated from God, and yet they weren’t. Now whether you believe that would happen or I believe that would happen, we think of the possibility
and we say it could happen, but why would God waste
his son and his son’s death to let all that is evil triumph, and you suddenly realize
that God so loved the world that God has this force, this vitality, this hunger and thirst that we be saved, not that we be condemned. And the false god that many
people have in front of them is the god who’s waiting to condemn, instead of the god waiting to save. And that transformation is so
important in the first week, that my God is the God who wants to save. And that’s why one of
our great theologians, Hans Urs von Balthasar, wrote a book on asking the question
can everyone be saved. It’s something like that. Can everyone be saved? Alright, in the second colloquy, 61, after your personal sin,
following the consideration of personal sin, the response
is one of mercy given. It’s a response of thanksgiving, thanksgiving to God our Lord for giving me life
until now and proposing, with his grace, amendments for the future. And he’s answering the
question what have I done? What am I going to do? What will I do? Well, whatever I’ve done before, if it’s putting God’s reflection on my sin in the light of getting even with me, there’s something wrong with that. It doesn’t come from God. And so maybe the real amendment is that I begin to look at
God looking at my sin, not with indulgence,
but with truthfulness, but with wonderful acceptance of me. A readiness to forgive, like
the God of the prodigal son in Luke 15, God races to embrace me. And someone will say to you, but isn’t that too easy, and say that’s exactly what
the scribes and Pharisees said. Why are you eating and
drinking with sinners? For Christ on the cross
in Luke’s presentation, turning to the thief and saying this day you will be with me in paradise. It’s absorbed in Ignatius’
religious psychological approach, but he had no language to support it. And so he had to lean
on the language he had, but he transformed it
by moving the thrust, the dynamic, away from
the logos of theology to the effectus of the spiritual life. And not enough has been
written about that. So, one of you write it. Okay. The internal structure of these exercises: you have a preparatory
prayer, two preludes, three points, a colloquy, and they yield to a
less structured approach in the third and fourth
exercises, numbers 62 and 63. How do these elements
of prayer fit together? Ignatius starts every one
of these five annotations and asks you to do this
throughout the spiritual exercises with the prayer Lord grant that all my intentions,
actions, and operations may be in service to the fulfillment of your divine will. That’s going to be a thread
throughout the exercises, finding God’s will. Where is God moving me? What do I find is a pattern
of response in my prayer through my affections,
through my interest, through my consolations through the desolations that
take me away from something, through the fears that inhibit me, through the false argumentations that divert me from God’s calling me. So, the preparatory prayer is going to be with you throughout the whole retreat, but notice in the first
week every prayer starts with let this, what I’m
going to do before you and with you Lord, let him
lead me to your divine will and help me to follow it. I don’t know what that
means or where it is, but it’s where I want to be. Okay. Then there are two
preludes in the first week. The first one is a setting a scene, and the scene is supposedly all the same: to see yourself as one in exile, a composite of body and soul, living with brute beasts. In other words one who has
been dehumanized by sin. Okay. Alienated. Now the points go
through, as they do here, that the way in which I can get into the particular understanding of the history of sin and my sin, and then I come in and look more closely at what especially has been happening to me as a result of my reflection on the history of personal sin. What are the points? What are the areas of attentiveness that gather and catch me? And nobody else can tell you that. It’s not like Ignatius is gonna say and here is your periods of attentiveness, nor is the guide going to do that. Fear the guide that tries to
tell you where you should pray. Look for the guide who will affirm where you tell him or her
you feel called to prayer. The guide may suggest, but
you can never be in command. You can be part of the
working of the spirit through the incarnational
reality that we have since Christ came into our world. Now notice how, through
this kind of prayer, people can situate
themselves in an awareness of their estrangement and their distance. Yeah there are things I think that keep me from being loving, being faithful, bearing with people,
of taking time to pray, of being cheerful of heart. Why am I not more happy about
being a person who prays? Why have I helped bring
that aura of sadness into religion, in which people think religion is telling you what
you can’t be and can’t do. Oh no, you know. It’s liberating you, so you
can find your truest self. Why am I not living like that? Well, that’s not a sin; it’s sinful, and that’s what’s more destructive. Okay, now look at that. Notice that all the way,
along the line Ignatius … It’s progressive grace. So, as one who guides
another in a retreat, you look for how these graces
are growing in the person, how they’re becoming
aware of what Ignatius is asking them to be, without my programming them to get there. How do I listen? We say, almost dangerously, in the psalm, bend your ear oh God. Lend it to me. Sounding a little bit like that preacher at one of the political
rallies telling God now is the time to vindicate yourself. There are a lot of people, Lord, praying to Allah and Buddha
and getting all mixed up. And they’re going to
triumph unless you triumph, and let our party win. And you’d say where do you begin? Not because of the party, but because who has that purchase on God? Who has that purchase on God? Only through humility do
we win the heart of God, not arrogance. And what is humility? Tell me what you want Lord, not I’ll tell you what
you should want Lord. And those are subtle things, but in the relationship between the one who
guides and one is guided, this kind of trust and intimacy emerges. I want to go back. I took, remember, 53 and
61 of the colloquies. Now, I want to take 63. Remember in this whole meditation
the third and the fourth, which is a variant on it, what you’re doing is
personalizing all the material, more and more, according to the experience of the one who is making the retreat. It’s a mouthful, but as
a director you’re saying alright now you tell me where God’s moving in all this for you, but do you notice as God
is moving you this way that you begin to abhor your sin? That is, you find it something
not only you’re ashamed of. It’s like wearing damp clothes. I want to get rid of them
and put on dry clothes. You know? Or it’s like being hungry, and you know you’re not
going to eat for three hours, and people keep bringing
food in front of you, but you can’t eat it. It’s a hunger. It’s distaste. It’s a … Sin is something that’s
really alien to me as a human. It’s a distortion, right? I feel this unhumanity about it. Well that’s one of the reasons
you’re asking for there. Then it goes further and
says why are your sins there? Oh, I know, you know, I talk
too much about other people and I get angry quickly. I sometimes use people. I abuse people. And you look at your life and say, ah, well, why were all those things there? There were sins. So, yeah but why? Suddenly there is the
discovery: they’re there because I really don’t think I’m as
good as other people are. I don’t think I’m as smart
or good-looking or clever, and therefore I have to display myself. I have to prove I’m
better than someone else. I have to put somebody else down. And suddenly you realize how
much of your own sinfulness comes from insecurity, fear, false images. I meant to write it in. I didn’t. And that’s why I think
one of the great books about the first week is Karen Horney. Horney. Karen Horney, Neurosis and Human Growth. It’s put up. You can still get it in Norton. It’s not a hard book, except that every page you
find yourself revealed, but two of her essays are just
terrific for the first week: The Tyranny of the Should,
The Tyranny of the Should. You know, should, ought. And Neurotic Pride, Neurotic Pride. Pardon me? Pride. Neurotic Pride. And what Horney shows is
that, frequently enough, it’s not this layer of our
sins which we acknowledge, but the deeper layer of our, what? Producing a personality
or reducing a personality. I have to show what I can do. I live in an academic world, which to my mind is very neurotic. It’s made that way. People are programmed to get ahead, to get a job, to get tenure,
to get full professor, and the rest of their
life they talk about that or they bringing the conversation around, so people talk about it. I’ve lived with these folks. They’re lovely folks,
but they’re neurotic. You know? Who else is like that? Politicians. Why? Because both groups have to produce. They have a certain showmanship
in what they’re doing. Yeah, but some would say, well, but he or she is an
absent-minded professor. Yes, and cultivating it. Those are the things that
Ignatius is talking about, and gradually a person
says, you know what? I’m still trying to prove to my mother that I can be talented and make it, and that she can be proud of me. She was proud of my
brother, and not of me. I said, well, why don’t
you get rid of that? Why don’t you forgive her,
so you can be forgiven? Does that come up in a retreat? Is it appropriate? Of course. Number 63, that second
level, that looking into what is the root of this sin? And the 30: acknowledge
that this world around you is not going to be sufficient. What do you mean the world is beautiful. You talk about nature. I said, no I don’t mean that. I mean the world that we have created, that environment of sin that we have given structure
and name and culture to, that’s not going to be your redeemer. Okay, now the question you
might have it this time, as people who guide others, is what holds all this together? And I’m going to simplify what
is there in the whole page, so we can have some discussion. As we go to the exercises today, we do not go to the exercises and say, we’re being faithful in
exactly the way Ignatius did. We can’t do that. And within the context of
Christian spirituality, in the 21st century, one
of the great realizations, something far more dignified
and older than the exercises is the discovery of scripture. And we should use scripture
much more frequently within the exercises even
from the very beginning. Now, here Ignatius has given us a hint, and I’m going to do this very briefly. In the first week, the
first week always begins with this first prelude, this estrangement with
brute beasts in exile. Who is that? That’s the prodigal son. Luke 15. That was a faraway land and he thought of even
eating the food for pigs. That’s what Ignatius is describing, like that prodigal son who
felt this split in him. So, you start there. How do you end every one of the meditations in the first week? With the Our Father, the prayer
Jesus taught his disciples so that they might pray as he prayed. Lord, teach us to pray, and that Our Father was a revelation of his relationship to the father. And, so you begin with estrangement, and you end with the empowerment
to call God your father. That’s called, as I
explain here, an inclusio. It’s a literary device
that brackets the material in a frame, placing similar material at the beginning and the end of a section, similar from how I ran
away from my father, and I’m living with brute beasts and I don’t know why I ever did it. The other end, Our
Father Who Art in Heaven. It’s called an inclusio. And once I saw that and understood this is what
these meditations are about. It’s about recognizing, feeling, effectively embracing,
understanding how I can be estranged from God and the things of God. Yet how I can be gradually drawn back to be empowered to say Our Father. And you do that every
one of those meditations. I probably killed Frank just now. Now, the pastoral adaptation, I would say I think that the first
week is very difficult. Calls for a lot of sensitivity, ingenuity, the ability to bring the
right thing at the right time. To suggest that somebody might
want to listen to some music to get the understanding
of what God means here by loving you, caring for you. You might want to read some poetry that talks about the same struggle the one making the retreat feels. You might want to have a
conversation that talks a little, and puts the exercises to a side it seems, and you start talking to the person about why do you feel this way about you? Or even if you’re braver and you feel you have the insight, why don’t you like who you are? All of these are ways of
getting into the fruit, the gift, the grace of the
first week of the exercises. Now, if you look down on the middle of the second to last paragraph in black, “the first week is about
the relationship between God “and the one making the retreat.” That’s what it’s about. So I thought it was about our sins. And I say, well that’s what Ignatius says and that’s part of the relationship, but you don’t pray on sin, you pray on sin that leads to mercy. So, when your discerning, when you get somebody
that’s all locked up in sin, you think of Ignatius recently when he was going wacko and
almost moved to suicide, and you’d say that’s
not what Ignatius means. Ignatius means the sudden realization that no matter what I have done, I am never cut off from mercy, and mercy is the way God wants to come and be part of my life. And then in their own
languages they begin to say, I will go to my father and
I will say to him, Father, and as their running in their prayer, they feel the embrace of God who puts all dignity to
one side, all formality, and restores not only
the acceptance of you, but the praise of you. Give him the ring. Give him a banquet. Give him sandals. What was dead is now come to life. What was lost has been found. That’s the grace of the first week. “That relationship is grounded “on the everlasting love of God “through the corridors of social
communal and personal sin. “It is a time for accepting “that revelation, not for introspection.” So how do I know when I’m moving the
wrong way as a director? When the one making retreat is giving you all introspective detail, and they’re trying to resolve it on the area of all the false images of what they should be. You see him playing right into
the hand of the evil spirit. I’m gonna solve feeling bad by getting really inside all those things that made me feel bad in the first place. That’s called neurosis. I’m feeling bad and I’m going to go inside the mercy of God and say while I do not understand
why this is happening, I believe with all my heart, I want with all my heart
everything that you call mercy to wash over me, to be
part of me, to welcome me. And I point out at the end … “While we must honor the
importance Ignatius places “on the subject matter and the
processes of the first week,” Which I think I’ve tried to do. “I agree with Michael
Ivan, who said quote, “Today, ways of presenting the first week “cover a wide range, “and many go well beyond
the limited flexibility “of the early practice. “Among these it is impossible
to pick out a single right way “of giving the first week to
contemporary participants. “It is for the director to decide how best “to help an individual
realize his objectives.” That’s why what we’re
doing here is so important. Our history, our instincts,
the terrible temptation to say well, I don’t want to change too much because I won’t be faithful
to what Ignatius wants. And I say what does Ignatius want? Look at the colloquies. Look at the inclusio. Look at some of the things
he suggests in between that might be helpful, but don’t let them become a journey. That’s call fundamentalism. It’s bad. Alright, let’s take a break. Okay, any questions or observations to get us started? Gaff? – Howard, I was struck by your underlining how the colloquy shows us
where Ignatius is leading. What can you say about the grace that I ask for at the beginning because part of my approach has been that the grace that one asks for, that Ignatius suggests,
is what focuses me, and there may be some
connection with the colloquy. Obviously, there is. Could you say something about that? – The only reason I emphasize
the colloquy is that it gives us an expression
of what Ignatius wanted this to lead to, what he thought
would be appropriate, what you thought would be part of, what I call, this developmental
grace of the first week, and so I’m imposing my own history on you, but having suffered
through the first week, trying to dredge up sins, and
when I finally found them, trying to pretend they weren’t there, and then I started giving the exercises, I noticed, why are these colloquies are they saved for the end, and then you feel this
sudden zap of affectivity or is it something you’re moving through that is developmental? That’s the cue. It’s developmental. And so I like the idea that
it’s something along the way that you’re constantly
being led to and it grows along that way. Okay. And I think that shows
how what they pray for in the second prelude, their
desire for this prayer, ties into the colloquy. And you see what the second prelude means in terms of the colloquy. It’s very helpful. You see what I mean? And that’s just something
I worked through. And I mention this article by Debrooker. Some things about it are old fashioned, but it drew my attention
to the first time, to the centrality of this first week is not to know my sins; it’s to know the mercy of God. That was so different, and I said I can’t know that; it’s something I energize myself to. I can take a little bit of
credit for knowing my sins, naming them, telling me when it happened, all the stuff we did to make us sure we had a good confession, but I can’t energize or produce or force God to reveal God’s self to me. Once I realized that the pride that exists in controlling your sins can only be dissolved
by the humility you have and begging God to
reveal God’s self to us. That’s the difference for me. And so everyone of the second preludes always has an element in it of programming what you’re going to do. And that’s okay, as long as you keep hitting the idea it’s grace and looking, as a guide or a director, in the one making the retreat for this realization of
the giftedness of mercy. Wade. – I just felt I had to
make a directed retreat, and my first directed retreat
was with George Aschenbrenner. And George … It had been a long time since
I’d made an Ignatian retreat. I was expecting this
oh-my-god-I’m-hardly-sorry beginning, and George stayed for two and half days with gratitude as the beginning before he
ever went to any of this. I’m the rookie without the exercises. He didn’t want me to
look at the exercises. Wanted me to to deal with some things, and his whole approach was
begin with the gratitude. And the gratitude just … It was the mercy seat. Maybe that’s from coming
out of St. Augustine’s and Holy Comforter St. Cyprian’s, but I can remember come to the mercy seat. It was the stunning revelation
for me of the retreat, but that didn’t come the first day. The first day he said … Pretty well dismissed my
meditations of the first day, and said go back you’re
giving me all head stuff. Get deeper and deeper into what you’re really grateful about. And since then I’ve, kind of,
in sharing this with people and trying to do a little
of the directing myself, I’ve often begun there. I’d just be interested in your approach as you kind of have that first conference with the first director of the very first time
you’re doing the giving. I’d be interested in your response. – Well, if we talk about
the absolute first time when you start, I would really start the way I did last time we were together. This idea of the principle
and foundation in creation and the loving God. And I would use Luke 15 because I can speak with
some personal authority about what it means for my
life and why it was important and therefore I can deal with
it, I think more, effectively. Not that you coax people into it, but you know the questions
they might ask and so on. Then when I can, when people start coming
to the first week proper, I think I would talk a little bit at the beginning about how
you saw the mercy of God in the prodigal son parable. And that we were looking at
mainly as a revelation of God. Now I want you to go back into
that valley with that son, and I want you to see all the things he suddenly realizes he has lost. What was the transition
from his being such a nitwit to finally coming and having some kind of, at least self preservation in mind? And, notice how analytic he is. I’ll go to my father. Here are the things I’ll say. He’s got it all plotted out, and how all that changes before the father because the father doesn’t want a speech; he wants him. And whether the kid says
it or not we don’t know, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if suddenly he realized how much he had been loved, and he never, never savored it. He let it fritter through his hands. I’ve had people I know, and I think I’ve been
good friends with them, but when they die I suddenly realize I never told this person just
how special this person was. I showed gratitude and
we were good friends, but I looked back and I’d like to go back, as I have less inhibition about it, grab the person and say I don’t know what I would have done if you were not in my life. We say that about God. How the psalms will
sometimes say you are my God, but what does that mean? It means all these experiences I’ve had of your forgiveness, your providence, your forbearance, your
custodial care of me, all those things, that’s who you are. Not a name, but an experience. You are my God. And I kind of talk … I try not to do it this way … So, I try to coax them into saying when you feel you’ve not been
what you would like to be why is it that God still loves
you, still cares for you? That’s the spirit of these reflections. and then when you give them … I would be, you know, having done novices, directed novices in churches. When you come to what would you use? I’d say more and more I feel a freedom to use those concrete instances that show that God so loved the world that he would give this Jesus. And you go to Luke 7. The woman was a public sinner. Or you might go to Zacchaeus in Luke 19. You say take those scenes or even ask them to think
somewhere along the line of what I said here today. Why did Jesus choose the disciples when he could have had
someone totally without sin and they could have sold
this product, the kingdom? Why did he go to these guys? Well, that’s the way it was. I said, why? Are we allowed to search for the mystery of election and choice? And I think a lot of it is you do not know sin unless
you’ve experienced sin, and we all have. We all have. That’s why Mary becomes
more and more precious but that’s another question. We can look at that later. So, I would use experience. I would use some scriptural possibilities. I would use allusions from scripture, and say why don’t you think about that? And then actually when
you get down to the … People have said would you
take the history of sin? I said first of all, it’s
too much material for one. Everybody says that. Ignatius thought it was
good to take them … So, you can see that Ignatius was talking about an impression, not a detailed analysis because he had to do all
this stuff in one day. Then, he said you can take it apart, but my experience has been
it’s too much for people. They get tired out covering ground. So, in the history of sin, I would take something like,
not so much Adam and Eve, although you can take it, but I would take Cain and Abel, which is a powerful story of
fratricide, enmity, jealous. I would take something like the narrative of David
sinning with that Bathsheba. You know, all things that we
have taken again and again. Sometimes, I would take the Book of Jonah. How Jonah simply resisted being the prophet of this God
who’s going to forgive them and going to make me look bad, and what kind of reputation am I going to have then as a prophet? So he’s trying to escape
the reality of God in the imposition that Jonah would like to make on
what God should do and be. And the lesson at the end is
when his plant all dries up and Jonah says well are
you going to let me have a little plant of my own? God says to him you’re
worried about a plant; there’s a whole city out
there with men, women, not to mention all those poor animals, and you’d have them all destroyed just to prove that
you’re really a prophet. How that gets at things. And because people don’t
expect this sometimes, it has all the more impact. A psalm I used to not like was psalm 149 or 150. The miserere And yet it’s a psychological … 151, 151. It depends on the book … But anyway, you know. I have said the Lord, so on and so on. Because we used to say it before lunch and before dinner in the seminary. That was our opening prayer. I thought does this never end? (audience laughs) But it’s a wonderful psalm really. So those are the things
I think you want to watch where the humanity of your engagement with sin is a doorway for
the one making the retreat to feel that she or he can enter and find that same engagement with God. Sometimes you know you’re
in a group of people who will say don’t you give the exercises? I give the exercises. I don’t repeat the meditations
that Ignatius has always. It depends on where the people are. If they can get the idea. You know, when you think
of how much material has been written about the sin
of the angels and Ignatius, and say if you had to read all that before you could pray all
that, there’s something wrong. It’s not working maybe
the way it should today or it could. You never know. Sometimes I will say after a day or so why don’t you take what Ignatius has and just reflect on it
the way he presents it. See what you find there because they’ve already
had the experience, and that’s not terra
incognita, unknown land. It’s something they’ve been familiar with, in terms of their own effective life. Anyway, sure. – I don’t know how to put it, but sometimes it’s difficult to get replace of this image of God who condemn by the image of God who saves. And the person who is
the making the exercise. And especially when they realize,
maybe for the first time, that their sin is greater
than what they think, when you try by any
means to show them that God desire or love is
greater than their sins. And so they get stuck. I would like to know what is your take. What should be the next move when you get stuck at that point? – Well, you know what? I’m going to say something, and it’s true. I said it to myself. I really say, but there are other scenes, but the scenes of direct forgiveness that Jesus performs are
always amazing to me in what they do not do. They don’t ask for number. They don’t ask for specifics. They know someone’s been caught in sin, but he asked for faith, you believe in me, and then he asked them to live with that experience of being forgiven. The woman in Simon’s house has probably already been
forgiven when she comes, but it’s a celebration of, somehow, having been forgiven by Christ. And he says clearly she’s been
forgiven because she’s loved, not because she made the
proper act of contrition, but because she’s loved. Or the thief on the cross, to me it’s just amazing. “This day you will be
with me in paradise.” His only demands is that this person acknowledge
him, looked at him. Not really a great act of faith. He just said, you know buddy when you get to the kingdom
of yours, remember me. And those episodes for me are so condemning not of a person … How can I say this? Not a person not fearing God enough, but in the way we have been taught that forgiveness is hard, and how much of that goes
back to a control system that allows you to have some oversight in the life of people in some direction, maybe some good teaching, but it’s a control model of forgiveness. And Christ is always the
identity model of forgiveness. I’m where you are and I love you. Ecclesiastically too often,
it’s I’m not where you are, no how would you like to get where I am? That’s my feeling. I think that the sacrament
of reconciliation is a beautiful Sacrament, and the idea of being face-to-face was to give us more and more of the kind of effective environment, in which, like Christ, we
could be so eager to forgive and people could see that. When my younger nephew finally
got back just last year to the church, when he
finally went to confession, the priest said to him … I just didn’t know who is going to get. I hoped to it was somebody. He said Don, do you want
to tell me a lot of stuff or do you just want to be forgiven for what you feel right
now before God and sins? My nephew said … I wanted to hug him. He said I have all these things. He said, no, no. Let’s for now … Let’s let that … If things come up later
on that you want mention, that are especially … Okay, you can come back and do that. Right now, though, let’s
receive the forgiveness you so desire. I’m not asking everybody
else to feel this way. I’m really not, but I’d be lying standing
up here and saying if I feel any other … I don’t. I think it’s such a privilege
to bring absolution to people, and that the big question sometimes is after they’ve gone to confession. Say, why did you come to confession? And they start telling you about things that have been going on in their life and how this was an important moment. And then you’re taking about,
not categories, but a person. And I think that’s what the sacrament of reconciliation should be. And so, I think that the
race towards imposing order, I look on with great suspicion for lots of reasons. That people, it’s true, not
everybody is that well-educated, but they’re pretty well-educated
in their own psychology and their sense of what
moves them in prayer, and if by the time they
come to confession, unless they’ve been forced by their future wife’s mother-in-law, (audience laughs) maybe they come in for
their own reasons, you know? And the more we can make that
welcome, the better, you know? So, I feel strongly about that, and I feel people are afraid to do that because they say well people will say that I didn’t do it right. I said well, what is doing it right? Is bringing them into the mercy of God in the truthfulness that
they can summon at this time. In her better moments,
and we all remember this, when we were taught our
confessional practice, you went to a man dying for example who had been married outside
the church to a woman, you didn’t ask him if he’d be willing to give up his wife to receive absolution. He was dying, for God’s sake, you know? And the church wisely said no,
just keep him in good space. And I said well why is that
right then, but not there? Why don’t we try to keep
people in good space? By that, I don’t mean
saying they haven’t sinned or trivializing sin, but meaning that sometimes they
can’t find the words for it, the way to say it, but they have this instinct
for God and God’s forgiveness. That’s the beginning point, but I think there’s a good
theological argument for that. There’s not good canon
law argument for it, but there’s a good spiritual
theology argument for it. Anybody else? – I always puzzle about the first week because Ignatius already
has exercises in one day and doesn’t have anything else after that. And in your experience, how long is it typical for
a person to move internally so that they can complete this phase? – Well, you know, that’s why I emphasized, the last time we were together, that we should not take lightly
the principle and foundation and take a lot of time for people to begin to tell you who their God is. Do they feel loved? Do they feel called? Do they feel God’s providence? So if you do that, by the time
you come into the first week, the first week can go fairly quickly because you are in a
disposition where they realize that God means what God says
when God says we are forgiven. And I think that powerful phrase from when Jesus is visited
by Nicodemus in John 3: “For God so loved the world
that God would give his only son “and in order the world might be saved, “that they might have life.” You know, that’s been powerful to me. As has the prodigal son. Now there are other parables where talks about being in outer darkness and so on. And we know the meaning of … These are stories about exclusion because you haven’t done the
things you should be doing, and you know you should be doing them. They’re not the same kind
of stuff of Luke 15, Luke 7. Those dramatic stories where
real people are involved. These are all little parables that Jesus is telling us about, you know. Now, do you believe, for
example, that at any point if you push John McCain here or you pushed Obama here and you say now look John, do you think that everything’s
going to fall apart if Obama is elected president? Well, not really, but I think I’d like to be president. Okay. And you say, Obama, do really think John McCain is really gonna just ruin us? No, I don’t think that. I think there are things
he ought to change, but no I don’t believe that. In other words the
rhetoric is to make a point of how you better take
seriously this vote. And if you ask them they’d say, yeah but I would give if
you ask me on the sidelines. And I think many of the parables of Jesus are hitting a point hard, you know, Say, if you do this, you’d be excluded. You go to hell, which
was the garbage dump. And so a lot of that stuff is hard, and how much of it came from Jesus, and not the early church we do not know. There’s some things that say … How do we know that … I don’t know the prodigal son was not totally out of
the imagination of Luke, but even if it was, I like it. It’s revealed. Okay? Alright, let’s call it a night. Thank you. (audience applauds)

1 Reply to “Dynamics of the Spiritual Exercises Lecture 3: Dynamic, Graces, Direction”

  1. I love this Father Howard and the way he introduces into the spiritual exercises and its process. There is so much intelligent and psychological insight in him, as there evidently was In St. Ignatius of Loyola! The Jesuits in this country- to my delight, – and the Pope Francis is one of them! – I find out are alive and intelligent and unique as they teach and reach out with all their understanding and approaches to inspire the world!

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