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A retreat for a pilgrim in a busy world

Session One: First Principle and Foundation


Partner with one other person, someone you may not know. Take 5 minutes to interview your partner, asking the following questions: Your partner’s reason for joining the retreat, marital status/children/ family/ current parish, and present area of ministry (professional or personal). Introduce you partner to the group.

Opening Prayer

Preparatory Prayer Breathing /Relaxation Exercise
I always take a moment to call to mind the attitude of reverence with which I approach this privileged time with God. I recollect everything up to this moment of my day; my thoughts and words, what I have done and what has happened to me, and I ask that God may take and receive all of this as praise and service.

Sharing Session
The Life of Ignatius of Loyola The formation of the Spiritual
Exercises in this busy life of a pilgrim.

Sharing On the Story of IgnatiusWhat attracts, repels, or surprises you about Ignatius’ life?

Presentation: Principle & Foundation
“The goal of our life is to live with God forever. God gave us life because he loves us. Our own response of love allows God’s life to flow into us without limit. All the things in this world are gifts of God, presented to us so that we can know him more easily and make a return of love to him more readily. As a result, we appreciate and use all these gifts of God insofar as they help us develop as loving persons. But if any of these gifts become the center of our lives, they displace God and so hinder our growth towards our goal. In everyday life then, we must hold ourselves in balance before all of these created gifts insofar as we have a choice and are not bound by some obligation. We should not fix our desire on health or sickness, wealth or poverty, success or failure, a long life or a short one. For everything has the potential of calling forth in us a deeper response to our life in God. Our only desire and our one choice should be this: I want and I choose what better leads to God’s deepening his life in me. (St. Ignatius, Spiritual Exercises #23, Fleming S.J.)

Food for the journey

Concluding Prayer

Opening Prayer

BREATHING / RELAXATION EXERCISE:Take a moment to get comfortable. Close your eyes, feel your feet on the floor, feel your back against the chair. Feel your hands on your lap, your hair on your head. (Pause for a few minutes to allow settling. Then continue to read slowly………..)

  • Lightly notice the speed of your breath and thoughts.
  • Remember your desire for God by saying a short prayer or a wordless feeling of desire for God.
  • Begin breathing slowly deep down into your diaphragm-stomach area. You can put your hands over this area and feel it swell out with your breath. Gradually fill your lungs from the bottom upwards.
  • Hold the breath briefly but without closing your throat.
  • Release your breath completely and slowly, twice as slowly as you breathed in. Pause at the bottom of your breath briefly with a very still mind. (Pause)
  • Continue this rhythm of breathing for a few minutes longer but now with the specific intent of breathing in all that is of God, and breathing out all in your body and mind that is not. You need not think of anything in terms of content. Just retain a naked intent to be filled from head to toe with all that is of God, and to release whatever may come between you and God. In the process let your body and mind sink beneath the crowded surface tension to that more spacious and free place where you are confidently grounded in God.
  • (Allow about three minutes for quiet prayer and breathing.)
  • When you are ready, open your eyes and return to this room.

With less exaggeration than we used here, you can use this as your normal way of breathing any time. This will avoid or release tensions and racing thoughts that steal away awareness of God. Breathing then becomes a fundamental spiritual exercise that is always available.

Oh Lord, our breathing is vital for living! Your scriptures tell us how important breath is from Genesis when you breathed life into Adam (Gen. 2:7), to Jesus. Breathe your life into us now, Lord. As we focus on our breath, teach us to appreciate the gift of breath, its power, and its life-giving and cleansing abilities. Teach us how to breathe in order that we can slow our minds and find time there for you. Amen.

Adapted from Living in the Presence by Tilden Edwards. (Pages 21 −22).)

Did the slow breathing seem to make any difference to your presence of God?
Can you think of ways that your breathing habits and mental associations with your breath have drawn you toward or away from the presence of God?

St. Ignatius of Loyola, the Pilgrim, and the Formation of the Spiritual Exercise

In his autobiography St. Ignatius refers to himself in the third person as a ‘pilgrim.’ He was a pilgrim in a time of turmoil, revolution and major changes. After his conversion to be a follower of the Way of Jesus he made observations and took notes of his experiences. From these experiences and notes, over a period of twenty five years, he wrote directions of how to make a retreat from daily life so we can enter back into it with “eyes to see and ears to hear” God in our everyday life. These directions are called the “Spiritual Exercises.” Using these exercises, during Advent and Lent, we will make a journey, alone and together as pilgrims in a busy world seeking to find God in all things. It is natural for our pilgrimage to start with an outline of the life of St. Ignatius. For it was on his life experiences that he formed the Spiritual Exercises, which will be our guide as we travel the road from the promise of Advent to the Resurrection at Easter.

Inigo de Loyola was born in 1491 in Azpetitia in the Basque province of Guipuzcoa in northern Spain. He was the youngest of thirteen children. His family was wealthy but at 16 he went off to serve as a page for Juan Velazques, the treasurer of the kingdom of Castile. As a member of the prestigious Velazquez household he was frequently at the royal court and developed a taste for great wealth, honor and glory. He was a ‘ladies man’, addicted to gambling, very contentious and on occasion engaged in swordplay. He spent 11 years in this world of wealth, lust, arms and political intrigue.

When his mentor, Juan Velaques, fell from power for opposing the new king, Carlos I, he joined the service of the Duke of Najera, a viceroy of the northern part of the Kingdom of Navarre, which bordered on France. In his own words: “Up to his twenty sixth year he was a man given over to the vanities of the world, and took a special delight in the exercise of arms, with a great and vain desire of winning glory.”

This second career came to an abrupt halt when in a battle at Pamplona a French cannon ball badly injured both his leg. In respect for his bravery in the battlefield the French soldiers carried him back home, to the castle of Loyola, to recuperate. The physical recovery did not go well and one leg was short and had a ‘protuberance’ he thought would be ‘unsightly’. He had the leg broken again and suffered a painful surgery and rehabilitation period.

Eventually, Inigo began to improve. He found himself with a great deal of time on his hands during his long recovery. He requested some popular tales of romance and chivalry to read. There were none in the castle and he as given the lives of Christ and of the saints to read. It was during this time he experience an inner conversion. He noticed that whenever he fantasized about the glorious deeds he would do as a solider he felt happy. But after the fantasy left him he felt down and discouraged. On the other hand he observed that when he thought of the great deeds of Jesus and the saints like Dominic and Francis of Assisi he felt a deep sense of peace and energy that was lasting. He realized that only by dong the will of God would he be satisfied and find true peace.

After his convalescence and conversion he set out from Loyola for the Holy Land. His first stop was the famous monastery at Montserrat at the shrine of Black Madanoa. He made a general confession of all his past sins. After spending the night in prayer before the statue of Mary he left his sword and dagger before the altar of “our Lady.” Back on the road he exchanged his clothes of wealth with a beggar for his rags. With these two acts, laying down his sword, the symbol of his life as a solider and exchanging his clothes with a beggar he truly became a pilgrim on the Way.

Ignatius traveled to Manresa where he had intended to say only a few days. Instead he was there eleven months and his life at Manresa played a significant role in the development of the Spiritual Exercises. He became a beggar pleading for alms. He served the poorest of the poor in the hospital, living a life of penance and fasting. In Manresa he suffered from depression and scruples that turned into blessed deep and consoling spiritual experiences. One of his visions was on the banks of the Cardoner River in Manresa where he experienced an infusion of wisdom so profound that it stayed with him the rest of his life. Although living in a cave he started to use his religious experiences to help others and he made notes that became the essential elements of the Spiritual Exercises. So out of his suffering and consolations the Spiritual Exercise were born.

Finally after receiving permission from the pope, he continued his pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He had planned to spend his life “helping souls” in the Holy Land. However after only three weeks, because of the political situation with the Turkish overlords, the Franciscan who looked after pilgrims in the Holy Land forced the enthusiastic evangelizer to leave. His will to live in the Holy Land was not God’s will for him.

He ended up in Barcelona where he decided to educate himself so he could be a more effective preacher of God’s word. After studying reading and writing with schoolboys for two years he knew enough Latin to enter the University of Alcala where he studied philosophy. In Alcala he lived in a poorhouse and made his living by instructing others in the Spiritual Exercises. His teaching brought him to the attention of the Inquisition of Toledo. Consequently he was imprisoned for forty-two days awaiting a verdict. He and his companions were found innocent but admonished not to speak in public on religious matters until hey had competed more years of study. He moved to the university of Salamanca but once again was jailed on suspicion of being a heretic. Again he was found innocent but forbidden to teach or preach. Inigo was determined to pursue the studies he now saw as imperative and traveled to Paris where he was destined to stay for seven years.

While in Paris Inigo Latinized his name to Ignatius and studied philosophy and theology. In Paris Ignatius joined with a group of “friends in the Lord” of whom Peter Farve and Francis Xavier were members. After Peter Farve became a priest in July 1534 this group of seven, six laypersons and one priest, bound themselves together by a vow to go to Jerusalem where they “would spend the rest of their lives for the good of souls. If that failed they offer themselves to the pope to be employed in whatever ministries the pope thought best. On the feast of the Assumption of Mary, August 15th they bound themselves by vow to this course of action, as well as a life of poverty. Their intention to live a life in celibacy was implicit in their intentions to become priest. However at this point they had no intentions of forming a religious order.

Joined by others they all eventually made their way to Venice where they intended to take a ship to Palestine. While waiting they went to work in a hospital to work with the very sick, especially with victims of syphilis. They nursed patients, scrubbed floors, emptied slop pails and dug graves. Ignatius’s companions went to Rome to seek permission from the Pope to go to the Holy Land. Ignatius did not join them because he feared two influential persons in the papal court that had denounced him in Paris as a possible heretic. To all their surprise Pope Paul III blessed their pilgrimage, gave them permission and money for the journey and permission to be ordained by any bishop of their choice. Returning to Venice, six of them, including Ignatius were ordained to the priesthood. As the political situation made a journey to Palestine impossible they dispersed to various Italian cities primarily as ‘street preachers’ living on alms they begged and lodging wherever they could get a free room. They decided that if anyone asked who they were they would reply they were the “Company of Jesus” for they had no superior except Jesus.

Eventually Ignatius and two of the companions headed for Rome. Since a trip to the Holy Land was on hold they decided to go with the alternative plan and offered their service to the Holy Father. At a small town at the outskirts of Rome, La Storta, Ignatius experienced a profound vision. It was a vision of Jesus carrying the cross with God the Father at his side. Jesus said “I wish you to serve us” and the Father added “I will be propitious to you in Rome”. Ignatius was placed at the side of Jesus. In Rome all went well for Ignatius and his companions although suspicion and rumors continue to followed them. It is at this point that he ends his autobiography. His pilgrim years had ended and he would spend the rest of his life in Rome. The last line in his autobiography is “With the help of the pilgrim (Ignatius) and his companions some works of piety were founded in Rome, such as the house of catechumens, the house of Santa Maria (home for prostitutes) and the orphanage. Master Nadal (whom he dictated his autobiography to) will tell you all the rest.”

Ignatius and his companions never made it to the Holy Land and there is much more to the story of St. Ignatius, the early Jesuits and to the history of the formation of “Society of Jesus”. But this is enough of the story for us to see how the Spiritual Exercises were formed out of a pilgrim’s, Ignatius’s, everyday experiences of life.

What attracts repels or surprises you about this part of Ignatius’s life? Can we related this story in the 16th century during the reformation to our own to our own lives in the 21st century during a time of great change in the world and Church?

Food for the Journey

Session One: The First Principle and Foundation

Grace Desired
I ask God for the grace to feel and understand how God has been and always is present in creation, my life, my experiences, and to grow in a desire for deeper gratitude and praise to God.

Daily Passages for Prayer
1. John 10.1–21 Jesus is the Good Shepherd; he knows me by name
2. Psalm 139 God, you made me in my mother’s womb
3. Luke 11.1–13 Lord, teach us to pray
4. Isaiah 43.1–7 You are precious in my eyes and I love you
5. Jeremiah 29, 11–14 The plans I have for you are for good
6. Psalm 103 Human life ends quickly, but God is tender and always achieves his ends
7. Principle & Foundation Handout

Reminders for Prayer
1) Always begin with a preparatory prayer and the grace desired.
2) Conclude each prayer period with an Our Father.
3) Immediately after the prayer time, take a few minutes to write down what happened in the prayer -what attracted you, what words or phrases struck you, how you were moved to pray, e.g. praise, petition, thanksgiving, etc. This daily journaling, if possible, is important.

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