To  You . . .
           . . . From Ignatius
This letter is written in the name (**)
     of Ignatius of Loyola
            for the person who desires to make
                  the Spiritual Exercises journey
                  according to notation [19].

This is a meditation intended for many purposes:
           to explain what are Spiritual Exercises,
             for prayer,
                  to prepare for
                       the Spiritual Exercises journey,
                      to study the Ignatian charism,
                           for a multiplicity of creative uses.
 
 
 

Please Note ---

This is a copy of Chapter 21 from Orientations Vol 2, Part B. 

It has a multiplicity of notes and links to other parts of this website for purposes of study. 

However if you prefer an unencumbered text,  free from these references to various parts of the Spiritual Exercises and Glossary, click here
 

 
As you know, my great desire was always
     to tell people about God and God's grace,
      and about Jesus ... both crucified and risen,
      so that my brothers and sisters
            would experience
                        the freedom of God.

I wanted to bring the same message
      as the church had always brought
      ... and yet,
      I felt I could put this in a new way.
 

Why was this so?
 
I had a direct encounter with God,
      particularly during those months at Manresa,
      where, as I told you in my autobiography,
  God personally taught me like a school boy.
Yes, I, Ignatius of Loyola, Inigo as they called me,
      I knew God ... Father, Son and Spirit ...
      nameless and unfathomable,
      mysterious and yet near ...
      bestowing themselves upon me in a manner
      beyond all concrete imaginings.

I knew God clearly in such nearness and grace
      as was impossible to confound or mistake.

God, God's very self ...
      I knew God,
      not simply human words describing God.

I knew the Divine Majesty.

I knew God,
      as you would say in your modern world --
      experientially,
      even if knowing God face to face, as I do now,
      is again different ... and yet ...
      somehow the same.

This is grace ... gift ...
      I believe that God ... Father, Son and Spirit ...
      desires to give this gift of God's self
      to all who desire to be open to it.

This grace that I received during those days
      at Manresa,
      was not something that I considered
      a special privilege
      for myself or a chosen few.
Therefore, I set down the structure of this experience
      in a little manual which I called
      The Spiritual Exercises.
I gave these exercises to anyone
      for whom such an offer of spiritual help
      might seem profitable.
I did this as a lay person,
      long before I went to school
      to learn theology for ordination.

I gave these Exercises on the conviction
      that God desires to communicate directly
      and personally
      to the generous person,
      eager to discover God's will
      and ready to act responsibly in the world
      with deliberate choice.


Over the years, it has been observed
      that, if persons are willing to dispose themselves generously
      according to the directives of these Exercises,
      in time ... God personally leads them.

God can and does communicate personally to human creatures
      who are open-hearted.
 

A person knows God truly when this happens,
      and that person
      will experience the sovereign power
      of God's freedom in one's own life.
      This very simple and yet
      stupendous conviction of mine
      is a key to my spirituality.

Unfortunately, over the years,
      people have thought of my spirituality
      as being too rigidly methodical.
They did this because they separated
      the exterior structure and content of the Exercises
      from their interior dynamic,
      sometimes misinterpreting and misunderstanding
      the very simple approach
      that I have always believed in,
      namely ...

            We do the best we can,
                        only by way of disposition
            and by way of creating an openness.
            In the meantime, we know that
            only God's Spirit can give us
        what we are seeking.
My spirituality would be betrayed if it were reduced to methods ...
      but the Exercises contain many methods.
My spirituality would be betrayed
      if persons were not led, ultimately,
      to abandon all tangible assurances,
      including my methods --
            thus growing in confidence toward the inconceivable
            where there are no longer paths or methods,
            and thus entering their final, fearful,
            creaturely choice
            at the end of their lives.

                  To help others to experience God directly,
                  and to realize
                  that the incomprehensible mystery we call God,
                  is near ... and ...
                  we can talk with God --
                  this is the goal
                  of the Spiritual Exercises journey.

Do you desire that the Father, Son and Spirit,
      share themselves with you?
Do you desire to base your life choices
and decisions
on this personal sharing and communication?
Then, by all means,
      enter into these Spiritual Exercises.
But you will have to pay a price --
      the price is your time;
      the price is your patience;
      the price is putting aside, for almost a year,
      frenetic occupations, pressing decisions,
      that will scatter your energies
      and leave you so unfocused
      that you will not be able to give yourself
     to the daily moments of solitude
      that my Spiritual Exercises presume.

The price is commitment to prayer,
      each day, at a special time;
      perhaps the best time.
More prayer, possibly,
      and more focus in your prayer
      than you have been used to.
The price is waiting for God
      to influence your being
      and trusting God to do so.
The price is that you will have to surrender
      your own personal methods ... and wait ...
      at least, for a time.
Occasionally, you will feel
  that you should never have begun,
      and you will experience a variety of reactions
      towards which you will become more and more sensitive.
Reactions that are interior,
      some of which are spiritual movements ...

            ... turmoil, anxieties, joy, pain, uplift,
            peace, enthusiasm, comfort, happiness,
            sadness, dryness, discouragement, tears,
        hope, enlightenment, temptation, fear ...

In my Spiritual Exercises manual,
      I describe them in Spanish as "agitaciones" --
      spiritual movements caused by the good and evil spirits.
Modern psychology undoubtedly will have
      a different explanation of how they arise.
      I have discernment guidelines that will help
      you and your prayer guide
      sift through these reactions.

At the beginning of the manual which I wrote
      for your prayer guide,
      I included twenty-two different
      introductory notes or comments
      that apply to the whole of the Exercises.

In time, these comments came to be known as Annotations.
      The way you are receiving
      the Spiritual Exercises
      is according to Annotation 19,
      or as some of your contemporaries call it,
      Spiritual Exercises in Daily Life.

The journey you are about to make
      will take you many months,
      and you will be doing the Spiritual Exercises
      in the midst of your everyday life.

If you were to do this same journey
      according to Annotation 20,
            you would be doing so in the closed setting
            of a retreat house,
            away from everyday life,
            from your usual activities and occupations.
You might feel that this is a better way
      of making the Exercises.
      I used to think that way myself,
      particularly in my time.

Remember, however,
      we didn't have retreat houses then,
      and the person who made the Exercises,
      even in a closed setting of thirty days,
      had to take lodging in a boarding house,
            away from home,
            and had to go to church several times a day
                  for mass, vespers and benediction.
The directee
      had to go outside for one's toiletry needs,
            go to the stream to wash one's clothes,
                  and sometimes cook and shop for oneself.
There were many more distractions for the person
      of the 20th Annotation in my time,
      than for the person
      of the 20th Annotation in your retreat houses today.

Another difference in my time had to do with the culture.
      Society, then, was not what you refer to today as
            schizoid ... separated.
            There was a more unified way of looking at life.

In the past seventy years,
      you seem to have discovered
      what is called the unconscious, and, I believe,
      you experience this phenomenon
      as being separated from your conscious self.
Your life in various areas seems to be divided.
      The public and private spheres of life in my time
      were not experienced as
      disparate, as I believe, they are for you.
      Nor did we speak of secular and sacred
      as if they were separate,
      as you regard them now.
For persons of my time, the process of integrating
      their spiritual experiences
      with their secular experiences
      was easier.
Therefore, when they went away for thirty days,
      they would more automatically experience
      a unity
      between their experiences.
Not so with the people of your time.

The advantage of doing my Spiritual Exercises
      according to Annotation 19
      is that you will be taught to integrate
      the experience of God's Spirit
      with your daily life.

            In the next several months,
            many of your activities
            of work, family and leisure,
            even if you adapt them for this journey,
            may appear to take you
            away from God.
            I assure you, however, that
                  if you are faithful
            in your committed prayer times
           and to what you will learn in the course
                  of the Exercises journey,
            you will begin to find God in all things.

This is the goal of the Spiritual Exercises journey ...
      to find God ...
      to experience God ...
    to return love for love ...
            in the choices you make.





Your prayer guide is a companion on your journey.
      She is neither your superior nor your judge.
            You do not have
            a subject/superior relationship,
            a slave/master relationship,
            nor a sacred obedience relationship with her.

She is a sister pilgrim.
      She is a sinner as you are.
      She is a person whom God will use,
            at this point in your life,
            as an instrument for your guidance.

I have given her
      very special instructions on how to apply
      my Spiritual Exercises
      so that she will not interfere and
      will allow God to communicate personally with you.

I presume, then,
      that you and your guide are companions on the journey,
    that each of you is coming out of good will,
      that each of you is coming out of generosity.
            Your relationship
            will be one of friendliness and gentleness.

On your part,
      you are being asked to be deeply faithful
      to the exercises for each day
      and faithful to the reflection
    upon the experiences of these exercises.

Then, when you meet with your prayer guide,
      you will share
    what has been transpiring in your experiences ...

            ... the ups and downs ...
            the insights ...
                        the struggles ...
            the success feelings ...
                        the failure feelings ...

By listening to your prayer experiences,
      she will be able to guide you and
      help you to proceed on your journey.

Her very first task
    is to help you get beyond the barriers
    that prevent God from being personal with you.
This may take a long time
      or it may proceed quickly;
            there may be teaching, explaining, dialogue,
            and possibly some experimenting.
However,
      once you have allowed God
      to be personal with you,
      once you are free enough to allow your mystery
      to be touched by God's mystery,
      then your guide moves into the second task.
 

Her second task is to be more passive,
      sitting on the sidelines, as it were,
      but attentive while God leads you.
      I describe this in the 15th Annotation:

            ... while one is making the Exercises, it is much better that the Creator and Lord communicate directly with the directee seeking to discover God's desires, that God inflame him with God's love and praise, and dispose him to serve God better in the future. Therefore, standing in the centre like a balance, the director of the Exercises, should permit our Creator God to deal immediately with the directee, and the directee immediately with God.
There are two obvious exaggerations
      which she will help you to avoid ...

      The first
            is that God is not able
            to communicate personally with you,
            and that you can never have
            a close experience with God.

      Against this exaggeration,
            she will teach you to take seriously
            what happens in your heart.

      The second
            is a growing exaggeration in your day ...
            growing because your society, like my own,
            is in transition;
                  you may be tempted
                  to look for black and white securities
                  that are not God.
          This exaggeration
            states that every good feeling you have
            is a direct experience of God.

      Against this exaggeration,
          she will help you to become better attuned
            to what is more authentic within your heart.

      Often, it is with one or the other
            of these two exaggerations,
            that the enemy of our human nature
            will attempt to obstruct
            the good work that God desires to do in you,
            by seductively and persistently,
          attempting to trivialize your attempts
            to be open to God's initiatives.

What is my hope?

My hope is that week by week,
      slowly and gradually,
      you will develop a greater ability,
      a greater facility,
      in entering the mystery of God
You can then experience God's love
      the way I was able to experience God's love.

My hope is that you will grow in Spiritual Freedom
      and in union and love ...
          deep love with Jesus,
            my risen Lord and King.

With all the communion of saints,
      I am interceding on your behalf ...
      that at some point in your life,
      you will be affected by God's power,
      that all the desires of your heart
            and the actions
            and decisions
                  that flow from these desires,
      will be oriented towards God,
            who is more than both Mother and Father to us
      and towards God's service and praise.
 

We pray that you may grow
      in the awareness of God's continuous
      presence in your everyday experiences
      and discover that presence
      in both the private and public worlds
      in which you live.
Then, later, living in faith
      and meditating on the word of God,
      you will be able to find God always
      and everywhere,
      seek God's will in every event,
      and see Jesus, the Lord, in all people
            and in all their struggles for liberation;
      you will be able to make good judgements
            and correct decisions in all you do
            and in all you are.

I finish here
      with two statements
      that will be given again to you
      towards the last weeks
      of the Spiritual Exercises journey.

      The first
            is that love is manifested in deeds,
            not just in words ...
                  God's love, poured into your heart,
                  will move you
                  towards your sisters and brothers.

      The second
            is that love consists in a mutual sharing
                  by the two parties involved ...
                    the lover gives to and shares
                                            with the beloved
                        all that the lover has,
                        and the beloved acts towards the lover
                        in the same way.

      On your Spiritual Exercises journey,
      you are the beloved,
      and God is your lover.
            Father, Son and Holy Spirit
          desire to share everything that they have ...
                  even their intimate life ... with you.

      Hopefully, through the power of Jesus' love
      poured into your heart,
          you will be able to share
          everything that you have with them.
 
 


 

Endnote ---

           I composed this letter in the early eighties as a result of reading "Ignatius of Loyola Speaks to a Modern Jesuit" in Ignatius of Loyola (London: Collins, 1979) by Karl Rahner, S.J., and translated by Rosaleen Ockenden, pp.11-14.
           The first three pages of my composition (pp.270-273 in this manual) were adapted from Ockenden's translation of Rahner's work and in it I have used some of her very effective rhythms and phrases which capture well Ignatius' spirit and his deep conviction in God's desire to communicate personally with us. My present letter was initially formatted by Ruth McLean.
-- John Veltri