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Friday, July 31, 2009

Feast of St. Ignatius & More from Maryland

Happy Feast to all the Jesuits and to all the followers of Ignatian spirituality in all parts of the world! I hope Jean's letters have been helpful for those of you who are just learning about Ignatian spirituality. I had three Jesuit cousins, but only one is still living; I wanted to be a Jesuit from the time I read all of Father Finn's books, beginning with Tom Playfair when I was in sixth grade. Later, I found that same book in Spanish in Chile!! The adventures of Tom Playfair had something to do with my vocation as I admired the Jesuit scholastic who helped Tom and his friends at St. Mary's, a Jesuit boarding school attended by several of my male relatives.
It is interesting that the entire United States Province is gathered at the Jesuit University, Loyola, in Chicago for our Provincial Assembly this year from July 29 to August 2 so that the Feast of St. Ignatius will be celebrated with much discernment taking place as we plan for the future. I will continue with Jean's letters;below is a very valuable one that I am including today, but there are enough posts scheduled until August 4 when I will be home to begin the blog again.

“Ignatian Spirituality and Other Prayer Forms”

As effective, growth-promoting and grace filled as the Exercises are for many people over a life time they are not a “rule” or a magic process to cling to or to use to exclude other prayer forms. Fleming points out that a “way of proceeding’ is a key concept in Ignatian spirituality. That is, it is an approach toward the spiritual life, not a spiritual system. Flexibility and adaptability are paramount.
Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J., former superior general of the Society of Jesus, has said, “Ignatian spirituality must not become an ideology, but remain an incarnate spirituality by means of the balance between Exercises and mysticism.” (Discourse given to the Rome Constitution, 2003).
We have seen in the previous brief synopsis of Thomas Green S.J.’s writings that many using the Exercises come to a point of darkness described by Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross. From that point onward they may be led to pray in a more imageless way instead of active use of the imagination.
I was extremely fortunate some years back to participate in a Contemplative Retreat at Guelph given by John Govan, S.J .doing precisely that, synthesizing Ignatius with Teresa and John. I now use a more passive form of contemplation in my formal prayer periods but still think of Ignatian spirituality as my way of life.
So we need not fear that the Exercises demand giving up other forms of prayer or that they are a rigid system demanding loyalty to them alone. It is a structured experience but part of what Fleming calls a reflective spirituality. And Ignatius himself had frequent mystical experiences.
I close with 3 thoughts related to current thinking about this topic. Some now refer to the Ignatian precept of finding God in all things as “Ignatian mindfulness” showing why the Exercises are still seen as powerfully contemporary.
The second is from Sr. Joan Chittister’s Aug., 2009 issue of “The Monastic Way”:
“To insist on a spiritual practice
that served you in the past
is to carry the raft on your back
after you have crossed the river.”

And finally from the late Ernest E. Larkin, O.Carm. referring to Ignatian prayer:
“Prayer taught in the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius that encourages the use of the imagination so as to enter into scriptural passages. Modern commentaries on the Exercises show that the use of imagination does not preclude but should lead to the imageless form of contemplation.”

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