Second Week Of The Spiritual Exercises    --   Chapter 12

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Chapter Twelve

Jesus In His Public Life And Mission -- The Beginnings
Comments For Prayer Units 15-18
General Remarks On Discernment

Introductory Remarks

        If you have followed the structure suggested in this manual and if you have not made use of the adaptations of the Kingdom Exercise as suggested earlier and in Supplementary Prayer Units 1 and 3, you will now be finishing the events Jesus' life before his public ministry. By now your directee probably will:

        Also by this time, in all likelihood, you will have judged whether or not he is in the Call Mode. Your directee may even have begun to make some attempt at re-dreaming his own dreams in the light of God's dream. In any case, I am assuming that he is ready to look at Jesus' mission and, hopefully in the light of that, to discern his own unique mission. And so he is ready to enter into the mysteries of Jesus' public life and mission.

---- Towards Prayer Unit 15 And The Kingdom Exercise ----

Features Of Prayer Unit 15

Kingdom Exercise; Jesus Leaves Home; Jesus' Baptism in the Jordan River.

        The Kingdom Exercise presents Ignatius' image of Jesus revealing God's dream for the world. The themes of this exercise give the context for the Gospel Contemplations on Jesus' public life:
        Hopefully, by attending to Ignatius' personal image/myth transformed in Jesus, your directee will be more disposed to hear God's call during this Exercises journey. You may need to reread Chapter Ten and consult Chapter 25 (p.349f) to gain further insight into Ignatius' personal myth of the Kingdom. Because this is featured in Prayer Unit 15, your directee may need more time than usual to complete this unit.

        Note how the different exercises of Prayer Unit 15 encourage your directee to develop his own personal myth. If he has not already begun to do so, gently encourage him to consider doing this:

"You may not be able to come up with your own personal story but be open to it and at least try to discover what image or dream captures you at this time.... When you are walking towards the Jordan with Jesus, talk this over with him. Listen to him telling you about his dreams and tell him about your dreams...."
        Draw your directee's attention to the offering of the Kingdom Exercise. If he senses that he cannot make this offering at this time, suggest that he write out his own personal offering.   Suggest that your directee bring into all the prayer exercises whatever practical decision-making issues he may be aware of at this time.

General Remarks On Discernment

        Since your directee is now making the Gospel Contemplations on the Public Life of Jesus, there are some further comments on Consolation and Desolation that might be relevant at this point.

On Peace And Consolation

        Whenever you listen to the experiences of the Gospel Contemplations during each prayer unit, note how your directee relates to Jesus. You can recognize Consolation by the quality of intimacy with Jesus in the directee's prayer exercise and the quality of freedom in his daily life. Even if there is struggle or pain in the exercise, the texture of the experience is in consonance with notation [316]. Your sense and intuition reverberate like a tuning fork with a harmonious sound. The texture is like a drop of water on a sponge [335]. The free-flow of the Contemplative Attitude is in evidence. The focus is on Jesus. Even though the directee may be taken up with someone else in the mystery, you recognize that Jesus is still present and this presence makes a difference. As with human intimacy in general, the directee is not afraid to be himself. He is engaged in the prayer exercise with his real "stuff."

        Consolation can be expected to affect a directee's handling of day-to-day life situations. The ability to choose to be more serene in the midst of fast-changing family and work situations is one of the manifestations of consoling prayer: "By their fruits you will know them."(9) However, this quality of Consolation in daily life does not imply freedom from external stress. Human creativity presumes stress of a certain kind. Prayer guides sometimes mistakenly associate inner peace with external equanimity. Often inner peace may manifest itself in external equanimity, but a more reliable sign of inner peace is an acceptance of what is.

        Our psyches are like bricks of Neapolitan ice-cream with different coloured layers. Inner peace is like one of the layers; another layer may be a layer of stress. We can experience upset about something at one level but, at the same time, be basically peaceful on another level. However, like melting ice-cream, the peaceful layer might melt into and have an effect upon the layer of stress. In other words, Consolation from one's prayer exercise often helps a directee to be more responsive and less reactive in the midst of impinging situations.

        Another sign of inner peace is a more or less habitual awareness and ability to judge the fluctuations of Consolation and Desolation in one's heart and to make choices accordingly. Hopefully the Exercises journey will so help a directee to experience this that he will grow in the ability to judge Consolations and Desolations in his day-to-day living. As a prayer guide, you can observe this growing ability when your directee begins to recognize the Graces being sought in daily situations and events, rather than expecting their reception only during the prayer exercises.

Some Thoughts On Incipient Desolation

        The beginnings of Desolation often do not immediately look like Desolation at all. Here are some examples:

        We can name these beginnings Incipient Desolation. The reason why these phenomena are hard to recognize as Desolation or as its beginnings is because the directee experiencing them seems to be happy enough and appears to be getting something out of the prayer exercise. Given time, these beginning forms of Desolation usually become Desolation in the more recognizable ways described in notation [317]. In closed retreat settings, a prayer guide may decide to wait until the directee begins to experience this more recognizable Desolation. If time for this desolating symptom to unfold itself is given, this is usually a better way for a directee to recognize and learn how to deal with these things on his own. However, in the setting of the notation-[19] Exercises journey, this may not be as appropriate; the process may take too much time and the intensity of the Desolation may be less noticeable.

        How do you help your directee handle Desolation at this time in the Exercises journey?(10) At this point, it is usually important to help your directee recognize his experience as Desolation and then engage him in discussion of what it might mean. Together(11) you try to isolate the issue behind the Desolation. For Healing-Mode directees, this work of isolating the issue can become God's way of training the directee to handle his compulsions and fears not only during the Exercises journey but even later. Consult Chapter 24, "Guiding Directees In The Healing Mode During The Second Week," p.330ff.

        The three suggested reasons in notation [322] and the spiritual therapy of notation [319] establish a general approach. You can use them quite literally. Note the warning in notation [319] that the directee not make any change but stand firm in the decision to which he adhered in the preceding Consolation. With that instruction, Ignatius presumes that the directee is in the middle of a decision-making process. However, changes in certain aspects of the prayer exercises and his daily routines may certainly be appropriate:

        Remember that the basic psychological principle behind the Exercises according to notations [19] and [20] attempts to bring harmony between body and spirit. We do what we can to dispose ourselves for a grace that only God can give.

        The observation within notation [319], "much examination of oneself," may not work for those directees who, when things go wrong, either obsess or fall into addictive behaviours. For them, it would be far better not to argue with the temptation by trying to figure its source when they are in a downward spiral. Rather, it would be better to take notation [325] literally by refusing to make an analysis which would further the obsessive fears or anxieties. Later when the desolating experience has subsided, this type of directee may be able to analyze what has been going on.

        In order to help your directee understand the issues that triggered the desolating experience, you may have to draw from many possible scenarios at the back of your mind. For example, perhaps the directee:

Often what a directee is dealing with in prayer is a reflection of what he is dealing with in day-to-day living. Therefore you could be asking yourself: "What are the similarities between the difficulties my directee experiences in daily life and those surfacing in his Gospel Contemplations?"
---- Towards Prayer Unit 16 ----

Where We Are Going And Why

        When your directee started to use Prayer Unit 15, he began the Public Life and Mission of Jesus, the overall theme of the major portion of the Second Week. If he is still developing his personal myth significantly, you may need to give him more time on this unit. But if developing a personal myth is not something that you judge to be fruitful for him at this time, simply move ahead with the next prayer unit and encourage him to include his image for the future and/or his dreams in the Gospel Contemplations.

        What you introduce and what you emphasize will depend on what you are hearing and the next little step that your directee is being invited to make. As indicated in many different ways elsewhere, the map needs to be adapted to the terrain and not the terrain to the map! And so, by now you should be adapting and departing from the materials suggested in these running commentaries.
        This manual, however, has been written from the perspectives(12) of Learning-Formation and of the Exercises as an Instrument of Decision-Making for a directee in the Call Mode. These perspectives will be more evident from here on.

Features Of Prayer Unit 16

Jesus' Temptations in the Desert; Jesus Announces His Mission in the Synagogue and Is Rejected; Introducing the Two Standards Exercise

With this unit, you could include
some of the Five Steps in the decision-making process.

        A Call-Mode directee, who has come into the Exercises journey with a significant issue around which a choice needs to be made, should continue to deal with the preliminaries of the decision-making process during the interview with you and later in his prayer exercises. With Prayer Unit 16, you will be giving the Two Standards Exercise. Give the prayer material without too much explanation [2] so that your directee will grapple with the literal text and discuss it with you in the next interview. However, you might stress:
Listening to Prayer Unit 16

        After your directee has completed Prayer Unit 16, help him notice his own reactions and responses to the Two Standards Exercise. What are his "riches and honours" [142]; that is, the attitudes, approaches, things, etc. which he needs for his false security and by which he bolsters his false self? These are traps and some of them are like Temptations Under the Guise of Light [332] because he keeps on being caught by what he thinks are useful riches. Hopefully, as the Exercises journey has been proceeding, you have been able to help your directee notice those traps or deceits present in his prayer exercises and life experiences.

---- Towards Prayer Unit 17 And Two Standards Exercise ----

Where We Are Going And Why

        By this time some directees will have explored the specific way God is calling them in their life. Now is the time in the Exercises journey to deal with this more intentionally. As a help to do this, the Exercises present us with the Two Standards and the Three Classes. Chapter 26 explains how and why these two particular exercises are an important part of the decision-making process.

Features Of Prayer Unit 16

Two Standards Exercise; Jesus Teaches the Beatitudes; Introducing Three Classes of Persons. The Triple Colloquy is used from now on.

With this unit, you could include
some of the Five Steps in the decision-making process.

        We have been using different lenses, contexts or structures in the Exercise journey: the events of Jesus' life, the dream of God, the Guidelines for Discerning Spirits, some basic psychological insights, the directee's personal history, etc. The lens through which Ignatius now asks the directee to consider his experience is that of the standard of Jesus.

        The first part of the Two Standards Exercise is intended to help your directee become free from Deception in the decision-making process and in his consequent choices for Jesus here and now in the Exercises journey. There are different categories of Deception:

a) Temptation to sin always involves a Deception; a person chooses to accept the temptation because of some perceived good or advantage.

b) Hidden Disordered Tendencies involve a Deception; often they are subjectively perceived as helping one gain security, status, etc. [62], [63].

c) Being dominated by an Inordinate Attachment involves a Deception; the object to which one is attached appears to have some advantage to the one who is attached [16], [154].

d) Temptation Under the Guise of Light is the Deception of spiritually mature and generous persons. They usually perceive the more obvious deceptions contained in any movement towards a), b) or c) almost immediately. However, with the Temptation Under the Guise of Light, they are deceived by some seductive idea or thought which attracts them, by appearing to be in harmony with their generous and loving desires [332]. It is their goodness that is used to deceive them.

        The categories above differ from each other according to subtlety. The particular type of Deception that the exercises on the Two Standards and the Three Types of Persons address is c) above. However, because good people unwittingly weave a life tapestry spun from some threads of Lucifer's standard, Ignatius is especially concerned about the d)-type of Deception throughout the Exercises as a whole and, particularly, during the Second-Week decision-making process [10], [328], [332].

        The image of the Two Standards is a medieval image of two warring factions of knights in full armour on horses. Each group was led into battle by a knight carrying a large flag or standard. Once the hand-to-hand combat began, the two factions became almost indistinguishable as the knights from one side inevitably were mixed up with the knights from the other side. In this mass confusion, an onlooker would hardly be able to distinguish which knight belonged to which standard. Through this image, the Exercises attempt to convey how good and evil are often intertwined and that it is often difficult to distinguish one from the other. In notation [141], Lucifer is pictured as issuing a summons to innumerable demons and as scattering them "... some to one city and others to another, and so through all the world, not omitting any provinces, places, states, nor any persons in particular." In other words, no one is untouched by the enemy's temptations. This is the same truth that Jesus gives us through the parable of the weeds mixed up with the wheat. The Two Standards Exercise is not an exercise concerning a choice between the standard of Satan and the standard of Jesus; it is way of entering more deeply and following more radically the standard of Jesus.(13)

        Directees become very aware of Deception when they learn to recognize how they go into Desolation when the enemy enters their fortification by the weakest side [327]. Here are some examples of traps that may have already occurred or are occurring:

When You Give Prayer Unit 17

        As you continue to discuss the Two Standards Exercise, hopefully your directee is making connections between the traps he has already experienced and/or recognized and the prayer material for the coming week. In this way the awarenesses from the Graces of the Triple Colloquy of the First Week -- namely, the influence of the world on one's Hidden Disordered Tendencies -- may have some connection with his present prayer experiences.

        Since most directees tend to focus so much on the problematics and negative aspects of their lives, it is wise for both you and your directee to spend more time with the second part of the exercise which distils the basic characteristics (in terms of Ignatius' era) of Jesus' call to discipleship.(14)

        The Exercises text instructs the directee to use the Triple Colloquy during each prayer period from now on at least until the end of the Second Week.

        When you explain the prayer exercise on Jesus teaching the Beatitudes, instruct your directee not to turn this material into an Examination of Conscience. Here the directee is being asked to continue with Gospel Contemplation -- to listen, see, feel, and be present while Jesus is giving his teaching to his listeners about what it means to be a disciple.

        Introduce the Three Classes of Persons without much explanation: "... Pray on this during the f) period and we'll talk about its meaning next week."

Listening To Prayer Unit 17

        After your directee has completed Prayer Unit 17, listen to his interior reactions and movements with respect to the Two Standards:

        If there is Desolation in reaction to the standard of Jesus, it could be the Desolation of the challenge of discipleship or the Desolation of some Inordinate Attachment. Perhaps he needs to pray for ongoing freedom as suggested in notation [16] or [157]. Such reactions can be a sign that your directee is dealing with something significant.

        Note whether there is any unfinished business that needs Repetition; if so, adapt the material as you give the prayer unit. Sometimes the suggested additional scripture readings from the previous prayer unit can help you make this adaptation.

        Note whether any significant items surfaced from the Three Types of Persons Exercise. If nothing, ask a question or two, something like: "How did you react to the Three Types of Persons Exercise? ... How do you see the three types as relevant to where you are now? ... What class of persons are you in now? ... Why do you say that? ... Perhaps you could pray that exercise again but now with respect to such-and-such that you have been mentioning in the past few weeks."

---- Towards Prayer Unit 18 ----
Features Of Prayer Unit 18

Discovering Material for Decision-Making; The Three Classes of Persons; Call of the Apostles; Call of Peter. 

With this unit, you could include
some of the Five Steps in the decision-making process.

        Please note how the Grace enunciated in this prayer unit differs from the general Grace of the Second Week. The purpose of Prayer Unit 18 is to help surface the material that needs to be considered before the decision-making process is begun. Remember your directee may have started the Exercises journey without some issue requiring a decision. However, he still needs to inquire how God is calling him now in the concreteness of his ongoing personal and private life. The experience of the Exercises would seem to be wasted unless your directee has somehow incarnated it into his life.

        The formal decision-making process may not involve issues around changing of one's state of life, which is the main example used in the Election. Instead, it may involve some other significant material. Your judgement will depend on your initial covenant with your directee. If he has entered the Exercises journey with the desire to experience and understand Ignatian spirituality, and if you are giving the Exercises with the formation paradigm in mind hoping that your directee not only have a good experience but be able to use it later after the Exercises journey is over, then it may be important to confront the issue of conscious decision-making with him even at the risk of setting up some misunderstanding or resistance.(15)

       Hopefully, the actual experience of consciously discerning a decision during the Exercises journey will give the directee a felt understanding for the discernment of a decision so that he will be able to use discernment in the future. This follows the formation paradigm which is the context of this manual. If the Exercises are to be a useful instrument in the directee's ongoing life in the private, public, and more societal spheres, he must understand the spirituality of the Exercises from a decision-making perspective -- the standpoint from which Ignatius wrote them.

        Is it too much of a generalization to assert, from common observation, that most people resist making consciously discerned decisions? We humans make decisions all the time and in so many different ways but less frequently with conscious and intentional discernment. Implicit in being human is the ability to make choices and everyone has developed his/her own style for this process. Being accustomed to making decisions automatically, many people resist bringing their own modes of decision-making to reflectively discerned consciousness. Many relegate prayerfully-made decisions to the private sphere of life. Hence, most directees consider discernment as applying only to the private sphere and, then only, to larger situations such as a career change brought about by external forces such as a shift in the economy, a mid-life crisis, a need to make a living, etc.

        If, at this juncture, you recognize that this prayer unit will not benefit your directee, then adapt it or skip it. However, it may still be important that your directee deal with the material on the Reformation of Life [189] discussed in the next chapter. You may need to refer him to notation [189] at this time.

        As always, it is more important that you and your directee deal with what has been emerging in prayer rather than imposing on the Exercises experience the need for some decisions which may or may not be supported by God's grace. In other words, some decision may logically fit at this time but God may not be granting the grace for it. You may hope that some decision should be made on such-and-such but the such-and-such may not be surfacing within your directee's prayer experience. As prayer guide, you can suggest that he look at such-and-such, but you must always respect his own response to your suggestion [15].

        You might introduce Prayer Unit 18 by reading the theme and the Grace with your directee and giving some needed explanations. Here are some suggestions:

"The imagination exercises during the a) and b) periods can be a real help in clarifying for you what items or matters in your life with God that may need some discernment. In the a) exercise, note that the person you imagine before you is a person exactly like yourself who has gone through an experience similar to your own during this Exercises journey, with the particular insights and graces that you have received thus far. What kinds of data would you recommend that this person look at? ... Perhaps that is the very data God is asking you to look at. Please make sure that you do this exercise in a prayer context using your imagination ... as the exercise thus directs you!"
... or ...

"Over the past few weeks, we have been discussing that some decisions may need to be made in the area of such-and-such. You can use these two exercises in a) and b) to check that out."

        If fitting, draw your directee's attention to notation [157]: "If you find that you resist looking at some data or you experience that you are not free when you are challenged by them, then pray the note [157]."

        If your directee is already involved in the decision-making process, you will need to adapt this prayer unit and continue to foster the process that has been taking place. Consult Chapter 27, "Decision-Making And The Five Steps."

Listening To Prayer Unit 18

        After your directee has prayed Prayer Unit 18, you will be listening for his reactions to a), b) and c). Hopefully a) and b) exercises helped to surface the material which he needs to enter into the decision-making process, and hopefully c) indicates his readiness. Here are some questions you might be asking yourself:


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Endnotes For The Second Week

1. William A. Barry, S.J., Finding God In All Things: A Companion to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius (Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 1991). Chapter 5, "God's Dream for Our World" (p.66ff), is a good, easy-to-read explanation of the Kingdom Exercises as myth and is very helpful in explaining the role of the Kingdom Exercise in relationship to the Second Week. Barry deals with the use of the Kingdom Exercise with the classic approach which encourages the directee to enter into Ignatius' myth of the King.

2. This creative approach of placing the Kingdom Exercise after the exercises on the early life of Jesus was first suggested to me by John English, S.J., for the "ad hoc" situation of giving the Exercises to individuals as part of a large-group, training program in the early 1980s. We wanted to harmonize the prayer material with the church calendar. As we were moving into the Christmas season, we discovered that many directees needed to spend more time on healing issues (surfaced during the First Week) and were not ready for the Kingdom Exercise. But they were able to deal with these healing issues with the Gospel Contemplations which were associated with the Nativity season.

3. In Roman, Anglican, and Orthodox theology, Mary is the mother of that person who is God.

4. The decision-making process within the Exercises is called the Election which means "choice" [175]. The model used by Ignatius is based on a choice of a state of life involving a permanent commitment -- marriage, some form of religious calling such as the priesthood. In other words, Ignatius uses the example of a directee's determining of a life-calling as the context for developing the principles for the decision-making process. He seems to view everything else as being `Reformation of Life'[189].

A good, sound, well-discerned Election can be referred to as a "correct and good choice" (as in Puhl's translation). A correct choice is not necessarily a successful choice in the future. It implies that, given the data the directee has while in the process of discerning, his choice was the most loving and spiritually free choice he could have made at the time.

5. A very useful way of explaining Gospel Contemplation is in my revised Orientations, Vol. 1, pp.37-39. However, I have discovered that some people take its encouragement for passivity too literally.

6. Occasionally during the Exercises journey, particularly when a directee is not involved in discerning a significant decision, Gospel Contemplation, as a method of prayer, may not fit his needs at this time in his life. The methods of the Exercises are made for the person, not the person for the methods of the Exercises. Like other created things, the prayer methods of the Exercises must be used inasmuch as they help, and not used inasmuch as they hinder our praise, reverence and service of God [23].

7. Not too long ago (certainly in the first half of this century), this would not have been considered good advice. Distractions were considered an imperfection and signs of Inordinate Affections because they took the directee's total attention away from God. It was believed that, in prayer, the conscious mind had to be riveted consciously on a God who was more transcendent than immanent.

8. Consult the section, "The Healing Connection" in Chapter 33 of this manual, p.520ff.

9. John F. Wickham's article, "Ignatian Contemplation Today," in The Way Supplement 34 (Autumn 1978), shows that the fruit of Gospel Contemplation for the contemporary directee often does not manifest itself in a societal way as it did in the time of Ignatius. This article has been reprinted more recently in The Way of Ignatius Loyola (St. Louis: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1991), edited by Philip Sheldrake, S.J., p.145ff.

10. The issue here deals with Desolation, whether evident (as described in notations [315] and [317]) or less apparent. Also, the answer assumes that your directee has already used Gospel Contemplation well; this means that he has been able to allow the story to touch his real self. The assumption is that he is no longer in the phase of learning how to use this method.

11. Together is key to everything on the Exercises journey. You are not a "guru" with the magical, intuitive answer. The dynamic of the Exercises implies that you and your directee work together. The directee knows the Grace being prayed for and thus has the final say as to what may appropriately help him be disposed for it.

12. In this manual consult the Introduction to Part A; and Chapter 30, "Different Perspectives In Understanding And Using The Exercises," especially pp.461-466.

13. The habitual manner in which the directee relates to God and avoids the deepening of this relationship can become more subtle as the Exercises journey progresses. The Hidden Disordered Tendencies, illumined by the Third Exercise of the First Week, become more elusive in the "riches" of the Two Standards and the Temptation Under the Guise of Light during the decision-making process. Perhaps you have been able to note with your directee some relationship between the way he has got into trouble in doing the prayer exercises and the ways he is likely to get into trouble in his day-to-day living outside the prayer exercises and after the Exercises journey. For illustrative cases and a more explicit discussion of this point, consult Chapter 29, section C. Everyone has a different capacity and need for self-awareness and the particular correlation between the manner of handling the prayer exercises and the manner of handling life may be too subtle for your directee at this point.

14. What would be a distillation that would fit your directee's culture?

15. When resistance to explicit decision-making occurs, you should monitor your own resistance to this. Are you discovering in your directee what you resist for yourself?

16. Don't be misled by the Second-Week notation [161] which proposes both the Sermon on the Mount and Jesus' Preaching in the Temple for the directee's prayer exercises. The technique of Gospel Contemplation is intended here, too! The directee is to pray these by being present with Jesus as Jesus is teaching or preaching and not succumb to the temptation of turning the exercise into an analysis of each beatitude.

17. Mary, before the empty tomb (Jn 20:11), is a good example of the kind of "upsetness" that comes from a heart-filled generosity and love. She cannot understand what has happened. Here it is a question of misinterpretation, not having the facts. Her distress does not flow from disordered affectivity the way Desolation does. She is desolate, but not in Desolation.

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