At The Journey's End  

Themes For Reflection
Chapter 22 of Orientations Vol 2: Part A




          After the Exercises journey, it is wise to ask your directees to spend some days or weeks in reflection upon their experiences of the journey. This reflection, either one-on-one with you or in a facilitated group setting, will help them recognize, appropriate, and name more accurately their unique experiences of the Exercises. In turn, this will help them apply this spirituality in their day-to-day living in the future. The following themes with reflective questions may be of some assistance in this process.


 
 

Theme 1
Finding God In Everything

  
           God is present in all things, not only as creator, but because God labours for us in all things. During the course of the Exercises journey, I have experienced this presence in many different ways! Hopefully, the ways by which I have come to discover this presence and understand it will remain with me later in life and help me to find God in all things!

Grace: To ask for what I desire -- a deep-felt appreciation of how God is present in all things and through all the events and experiences of my life.

1. The Contemplation to Gain Love [230] asks us to reflect on God's presence under four aspects:
          God gives all gifts.
          God is present in each gift.
          God works and labours for me.
          God is the source of all things.
    What different ways have I experienced God's presence during the Exercises journey? How was I moved to respond?

2. How has my awareness of God's presence shifted over the past months? For example, are there some experiences that I used to call a tragedy that I now experience as a blessing? 

3. Many methods were used to help me become attentive to my inner experiences. How did the following help: 

  Review?  Repetition?  Examen?  Gospel Contemplation? 
Discerning with a Prayer Guide?  Decision-Making Process?

4. If I had to set down for posterity three basic principles of prayer based on my own personal experience, what would these principles be?



 
  
Theme 2
Images Of God

 


          The images that I have of others affect the ways I relate to them -- my expectations, my interpretation of their words, how I allow myself to be known or loved by them. Our images of God affect us in the same ways. They affect the way we pray, what we receive in prayer, how we receive it, and ultimately, how we relate to life and to ourselves.

Grace: To ask for what I desire -- a deep felt-knowledge of the true image of God and a greater appreciation of how this is growing in my experience.

1. What images of God affected me as I entered into the Exercises?

  Impersonal energy?  Divine traffic cop? 
Benevolent dictator?   Movie director?  Celestial bosom? 
Supreme puppeteer?  etc.

2. How were my images of God affected by the Exercises journey?

  Shifted?  Caused a struggle?
 Affected how I read scripture?  etc.

3. Which biblical images of God became my images of God during these days? When and how did this take place? Here are some examples:
        God is both shepherd and welcoming host. (Ps 23:1)
        God is your guardian. (Ps 121:5)
        Can a mother forget her infant? (Is 49:15)
        How much more will your heavenly parent give the 
             Holy Spirit! (Lk 11:13)
        Jesus took the form of a slave. (Phil 2:7)
        Jesus said, "Mary." She said to him, "Rabbouni!" (Jn 20:16)

4. In what ways did I discover my images of God to be related to my images of life? Here is an example of a parent: 

  "... because I looked on God as a benevolent dictator, I became impatient every time that I had to talk things out with my family ... I assumed that I should have had all the answers!"
 




Theme 3

Forgiveness From Sin And Salvation


 


          If I am to be a follower of Jesus who is saviour, I must allow him to save me from the effects of evil in my life. I need to be freed continually from these effects so that I can follow him more closely and generously.

Grace:  To ask for what I desire -- a deep-felt knowledge of the Trinity's way of dealing with my sinfulness versus my way of dealing with my sinfulness.

1. What has been my pilgrimage experience through sinfulness and forgiveness? Were there some moments during these days when I entered into the dark side of my being?

2. What attitudes did I have to develop before I could enter into this darkness?

3. From my own experience in prayer during the Exercises journey, how would I describe the meaning of forgiveness?  sinfulness?  sin?  disordered tendencies?  salvation?

4. Where in the Exercises journey was this awareness given? For example: 

  "I never really came to understand the meaning of sinfulness until I contemplated Jesus leaving home.... For some strange reason, I.... Then I discovered how my need to prove myself affected those I loved most.... I was filled with shame about..."
5. What sinful or disordered tendencies will I have to deal with for the rest of my life? For example: 
  "During the course of these days, I discovered how fearful I was during many instances of my life. This fear has influenced many aspects of my life. During the Gospel Contemplations on Jesus' early years, I recalled many instances in childhood when I was taught to be fearful. I realized that fear controls much of my behaviour that..."




Theme 4
Call To Discipleship

 


        God calls me to cooperate with others in developing a more caring world so that together we may share God's life more deeply. The call is usually a call to move beyond the confines of myself, beyond my fears, my weaknesses ... into the unknown.

Grace:  To ask for what I desire -- to grow in deeper appreciation of the different calls that I experienced and to understand how they were manifested in my heart.

1. In what ways did I experience God calling me beyond myself?

2. How was I called to grow in self-knowledge during this past month? For example:

  "... from thinking I knew myself to realizing that I did not know myself very well. I discovered that I get trapped every time I try to figure myself out, and yet I came to discover what's really affecting me when I let God enlighten me!"
3. How was I called to grow in intimacy during these days? How did Gospel Contemplation facilitate this for me? 

4. Did God clarify a call/ Confirmation of a call/ new call to me in my career or some major aspect of my life?

5. Where and when did I experience interior urgings and struggles as a sign of call?
 



 
Theme 5
Spiritual Freedom

 


        We experience Spiritual Freedom in those moments when we experience Jesus' love so much that the desires of our hearts and the choices that flow from these desires are oriented to God and the building up of God's household. There are two aspects of Spiritual Freedom. There is `freedom from' from enslavement to selfish desires, from inordinate attachments (undue preoccupations), from disordered tendencies (unhealthy fixations). Then there is `freedom for' for attachment to God, for the ability to make a good decision, for the desire to live with an unknown future.

Grace: To ask for what I desire -- a deeper and more realistic appreciation of what it means to experience God's freeing power in my life.

1. From my own experience of the Exercises journey, I will attempt to illustrate these classical words that are usually associated with the experience of Spiritual Freedom:

  indifference balance at equilibrium disordered attachment
ordered attachment self-conquest perfection unfreedom.

2.  Where did I experience God's freeing action during the past month? 
  Letting God be God?  Prayer flowing without having to control it?  Accepting myself as loved sinner?  Desiring to pray for rejection and poverty?  Being with Jesus in joy?  etc. 

3. In what ways did the use of Gospel Contemplation help me to experience greater freedom? 
  Letting-go required for the use of imagination?  Entering the event and staying with it?  etc. 

4. What interior reactions did I experience as I approached these experiences of freedom? 
  For example, the initial struggle towards a refusal to look at something through depressive feelings to a kind of surrender ...



 
 
Theme 6
Discernment - Decision-Making - Deception


          One of the ways we listen to God us is by becoming aware of the interior movements or reactions that are provoked by God's word. But often, it is only when we deal with a real decision that we experience spiritual movements -- repugnance, anxieties, turmoil, peace, warmth, attractions, sadness, fears, sense of God's constant care, desire to imitate Jesus completely, etc. -- more clearly. In technical language, these are Consolations and Desolations. In the midst of these ebbs and flows, we often experience deception as we attempt to discover God's desires in our regard. Hence, discernment is often necessary.

Grace: To ask for what I desire -- a deeper appreciation of how God personally communicates through my interior experiences.

1. I will attempt to illustrate from my own experiences the Guidelines for Discerning Spirits, particularly notations [316], [317], [322], [326], [327], [332], [333].

2. During the past months of prayer, where did I experience myself being deceived under the appearance of good?

3. How has the experience of the Exercises journey helped me to make a serious decision in my life?  to "own" one of my past decisions? to uncover hidden motives in past decisions? 

4. What aspects from my experience of the Exercises might be helpful to me in my ongoing decisions of life? 

  Relationship of prayer to decisions? 
Use of the Awareness Examen as a way of developing freedom? 
Allowing things "to simmer on the back burner" while praying on the gospels? 
Four-column method?  Discerning Consolations and Desolations? 



 

Theme 7
Suffering With Jesus



          Prayer on the sufferings and death of Jesus can bring a person face to face with the ability to be for others. At that fragile moment, one is called to forget one's own concerns in order to be present as best as one can be to the needs of another. The passion and death of Jesus is the school of generosity and sincerity on the spiritual journey!

Grace: To ask for what I desire -- a deep-felt appreciation of how I experienced the sufferings of Jesus during the Exercises.

1. Each person experiences the prayer of the passion of Jesus differently. I try to come to some understanding of what took place during my prayer on the sufferings of Jesus. Some examples are:

  dryness, frustration, being consoled, 
unsuccessfully trying to console Jesus, striving, compassion, 
deepening appreciation of the suffering members of the human family, 
confirmation, etc.

2. What have I discovered from my prayer on the sufferings of Jesus about life?  commitment?  implementation of decisions?  my image of myself?

3. If I made a decision during the Exercises, in what ways was it confirmed or not confirmed during my prayer on the passion?

4. From my own experiences of the Exercises journey, how would I express the meaning of the following:
      The compassion of Jesus is related to his passion?
      "Passion of Christ strengthen me" from the prayer, "Soul of Christ"?
      To be Jesus' disciple, we must take up our cross daily (Lk 9:23)?
 




Theme 8
Resurrection Of Jesus


          Jesus, the risen Lord, is the true image of God and in him all the events of his life on earth are present. Throughout the Exercises journey, the Spirit of the risen Lord was present with me. 

Grace: To ask for what I desire -- a deep-felt appreciation of how Jesus, my risen Lord, has been present to me.

1. Throughout the Exercises journey, when did I become most conscious of how Jesus was present to me as risen Lord? Did I experience this as a companion by my side?  as a standard bearer of truth?  as a lover?  as a queen/king?  as a friend?

2. How does my experience of praying on the resurrection illustrate the truth of the following:

  • When we are consoled, it is for your consolation (2Cor 1:6)?
  • Blessed are they who have not seen but who have believed (Jn 20:29)?
  • Jesus died as an individual but rose from the dead as a community? 
  • During the resurrection mysteries, Jesus exercised the office of consoler ... which is similar to the way in which friends console one another [224]?
  • Becoming joyful because another person is joyful is a form of being called beyond ourselves?
3. The pattern of Jesus dying and rising is the pattern of the spiritual journey. In what ways did I become conscious of this pattern throughout the different moments of the Exercises journey? For example:
  "At the beginning of the Exercises journey, I was confronted with learning a new way to pray. In this learning process, I had to die to some fixed ideas about prayer which were preventing me from experiencing intimacy with God, etc.... " 



 
 
Theme 9
Our Personal Wisdom



          By reflecting upon the experiences of the Exercises journey, as well as upon those of your own life's journey, you may be able to articulate some significant thoughts, paradoxes and maxims that will help keep a balance in times of darkness. Below, from other companions on the journey, are such thoughts.... 

  • Which of them harmonize with your experiences of life and of the Exercises journey? 
  • When and how did you come to appreciate their truth?
  • How would you change/adapt these articulations for yourself?
  • What others would you add?

          Once when I was talking with my sister Rita, she said. "You know I had so many wonderful dreams about life when I was young! But I never was supported in them. I could even have been an operatic singer. None of that happened. But what has happened has been far beyond anything I had ever dreamed of." 

 -- Tarcia Gerwing 

           If we allow sickness to lead us into wonder about the very base of experience, then our spirituality is strengthened. Accepting that we are wounded, we enter life differently than if our only concern is to overcome the wound. 

 -- from Care of the Soul by Thomas Moore

          As the body is clad in the cloth, and the flesh in the skin, and the bones in the flesh, and the heart in the whole, so are we, soul and body, clad in the goodness of God and enclosed.

 -- from Revelations of Divine Love by Julian of Norwich

A man who looks on glass
On it may rest his eye
Or if he chooseth, through it pass,
And then the heavens espy.

                       -- George Herbert 

         Enjoyment is not measured by what flows in, but by what flows over. The smaller we make the vessel of our need for use, the sooner we get the overflow we need for delight. 

 -- from Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer by David Steindl-Rast



         As wise women and men in every culture tell us: The art of life is not controlling what happens to us but using what happens to us. 

 -- from Revolution from Within: A Book of Self-Esteem Gloria Steinham



         I know that we live our lives between two unknowns the mystery of God and the mystery of ourselves; I realize that, by being human, we must make responsible choices in life, all the variables for which we do not have. I used to think that I was condemned to this ... but now I have come to realize that I am invited to this!

 -- John Veltri

           Sometimes the Spirit of God is like a dove, landing on your head, speaking to your mind; sometimes like a dolphin swimming up, up from the deep waters of your unconscious soul to whisper dreams, images, feelings and memories.

 -- David Howells

            In Benedictine spirituality, work is what we do to continue what God wanted done.... We work because the world is unfinished and it is ours to develop. 

 -- from Wisdom Distilled from the Daily by Joan D. Chittister

         Some of our medicine men always say that one must view the world through the eye in one's heart rather than just trust the eyes in one's head. 

 -- from Lakota Woman by Mary Crow Dog and Richard Erdoes



        We mess things up by striving too earnestly, obeying too literally, working too scrupulously: we cannot replace grace by effort.

 -- from Motherhood and God by Margaret Hebblethwaite

         The young don't know this, but life gets better all the time.

 -- Tarcia Gerwing

We are being led by the Spirit
in many hidden ways to enter 
into the life of the Trinity.

When we disclose something 
of ourselves to another in
trust and love,
we share in God's revelation 
to the beloved Son.

When we listen 
with loving attention to another 
who speaks from the heart 
of what is deepest, 
we understand a little more 
the Son's listening attention to his "Abba."
                                                    --  Author Unknown


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