Journeying Through
the Mystery of the
Third Week

Chapters 15 through 17
of Orientations Vol 2, Part A

Chapter Fifteen

Readiness For The Third Week
Introducing The Third Week With Prayer Unit 23

When To Begin And When To Postpone The Third Week

        Here are some of the signs that a directee is ready for the Third Week:

        On the other hand, your directee may not be ready for the Third Week. He may still be dealing with earlier issues of "unfreedom." Or perhaps your directee is still struggling with letting go in prayer and needs so much more time on the life of Jesus that the whole question of discerning an Election is not relevant now. Or your directee may still need the graces of the First Week. In such situations, you have to make the prudential judgment whether it would really help to postpone the Third Week or whether it would be more beneficial to move ahead and use the text of the Exercises for a different purpose. Remember every Christian can pray profitably on these themes whether ready or not for the Third Week!

        Whenever you decide to postpone the Third Week, it should be because you have a real hope that something important will result. Postponement may be of help to the directee who is almost finished the Election process and is at the point of reaching his Unconfirmed Decision. To move him into the Third Week right now might be too jarring!

        However, it also happens that the precise graces that are needed are frequently received during the Third Week. For many directees this can be a time that the needed grace breaks through. Perhaps the more relevant issue would be whether to use the text of the Exercises or to use scripture alone focused with a more particularized grace as suggested with the following example:

"Susan, we are going to be moving into prayer over the suffering and death of Jesus. You have been dealing with such-and-such an issue for the past couple of months in one form or another. What grace do you think you should ask for here? What do you need from God right now?"
        The Third-Week focus on how Jesus suffers in his humanity may be very important even for those who are not ready (in the technical sense) for the Third Week. Issues of Healing-Mode directees frequently fall within the categories of accepting of one's humanity and of one's sufferings. The graces needed could very well be given when the directee is confronted with Jesus' weakness.(1)

        If you judge that your directee is now ready to move into the Third Week, you might ask him to spend a little time with you reflecting on the significance of some of his experiences:

"What do you think were the key graces that you received during the Second Week? ... What did you learn about Jesus? ... about yourself? ... about prayer? ... about discerning spirits during the decision-making process?"
        Facilitating your directee's reflection upon, and articulation of, his experiences in this way will help to accomplish the formation and empowering aspects of the Exercises journey.

Introducing Prayer Unit 23

Features Of Prayer Unit 23
Jesus' Last Supper with his Disciples; Jesus' Agony in the Garden. 

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

       As you introduce Prayer Unit 23 and the Third Week, it is helpful to spend time reading together the important emphases in the Grace and some of the `points' [193]-[197]:

"Notice that the prayer exercise focuses on the humanity of Jesus by pointing out how his divinity hides itself. Greater love has no one than the person who lays down one's life for one's friend.... Jesus does this for us individually to help us overcome our complicity with evil.... In the Sixth Point, the focus is our concrete return of love...."(2)

        Emphasize the Grace, but don't explain it too much because you will want to see how your directee himself will interpret and respond to it. Just identify this Grace as the grace of compassion and draw his attention to the shift from the general Grace of the Second Week.

        Remind your directee that just as he adapted aspects of his environment during the First Week and later during the Second Week, he may need to make some adaptations in his environment during this Third Week to be more in harmony with the suffering of Jesus. If he has tended to become forgetful about keeping himself in harmony with the Graces he is seeking, this would be the place to encourage special care. Deeper intimacy and union with another usually implies, in our popular culture, greater informality. With God this may also be true when we are in the heart of our prayer exercise. However with respect to the environment surrounding our prayer exercises, greater intimacy implies a greater care and delicacy. Though God's gift is a free gift, we cannot take it for granted.

        In whatever phase of the decision-making process -- whether it be an earlier emerging phase or the later Confirmation phase -- your directee may be, encourage him to include it in the Colloquies. If he is beginning to pray for Confirmation, he might even include the more practical aspects of implementation. Here is one way you can explain how to pray for Confirmation:

"As you begin this Third Week, you are entering with your decision which is now part of you. You don't have to keep thinking about it as if you have to make sure. Rather, you enter into the prayer with the decision as part of your being. Keep asking God for Confirmation as you use Gospel Contemplation on the events of the passion and death of Jesus over the next few weeks. Offer your decision as your response to Jesus' love for you."
        Notation [199] is rather interesting in the kind of detailed Colloquy Ignatius conceives at this juncture.(3)

        Obviously not every directee will have arrived at the Unconfirmed Decision at the expected time. If this is the situation with your directee, you may decide to move him into the Third Week anyway. In this case, help him continue the decision-making process within this context.

        Again, if no decision has emerged in the Second Week, then you may want to suggest that your directee look at how he desires to respond to Jesus as suggested in notation [197]: "to consider how Jesus suffers all this for my sins ... and what I ought to do and suffer for him."

Chapter Sixteen

Listening To The Third-Week Prayer Experiences
Recognizing The Consolation Of The Third Week
How Different Directees Experience The Third Week
Meaning Of Compassion
Prayer Unit 24

        Listen to how your directee has been entering into the Third Week. Some of the following questions to keep at the back of your mind may help you notice what is going on in his experience:

        Note the instruction contained in the Fourth Point [195]: "... and here to commence with much vehemence and to force myself to grieve, be sad and weep, and so to labour through the other points which follow." I believe that here Ignatius is expressing the result of the graces of the Third Week for the well-disposed directee, not the cause of these graces. The Third Week can be a very difficult and painful experience. The experience often proves to be different from a directee's expectations. Sometimes a directee expects that the Third Week will be like many consoling Good Friday experiences of the past. However, he now discovers that he cannot use his imagination in prayer; or that he is unusually distracted; or that Jesus seems to be distant. He desires to be near Jesus, but he finds his attempts to be near Jesus inadequate.

On Recognizing The Consolation Of The Third Week

        How do you discern such an experience? You do so by noticing not only what the affective experiences of the prayer exercises are like but also how the directee relates to these experiences. Often when a directee experiences the Graces of the Third Week as expressed in notations [193] and [195], it is the "how" of the experiences that indicates whether he is in Consolation or not. Below is an attempt to outline some possible interior reactions to the Third-Week prayer exercises with the directee's way of appreciating those reactions:

 Possible Experience:
The "How" Or Way 
The Experience Is Received:
Dryness;   but with patience.
Sadness and sorrow and sluggishness; but there is love and hope in the 
Distance from Jesus; but there is understanding that, yes, 
    Jesus does have to suffer this alone;
     I would like to be there, but I cannot.
Painfulness; but the directee is thinking of the 
    other person.
Difficulties with distractions; but faith and trust are evident.
Perceived difficulties as he considers 
  further ramifications of his 
  about-to-be-made choice or of the 
  implement-ation aspects of the choice 
but they are appreciated as 
    manifestations of the Third Kind of 
    Humility or of some other spiritual 
Fear and anxiety concerning the 
but the directee is not turned in on 
     himself; there is still a movement 
     outwards in the experience.
    Consolation is experienced in different ways by different directees in the Third Week. For the directee who still needs the graces of the First Week, the experience could very well be a First-Week experience. Perhaps he needs a deeper insight into his own sin; then his experience will be that. Or his experience may be one of union where there is a great deal of intimacy with Jesus, little content, a gentle and uncomplicated mutual union of lover and beloved. This would be similar to the Application of Senses in which the directee tastes the anguish of Jesus and touches the ground where Jesus prays, as described in notations [124] and [125]. Another directee may begin to appreciate the sufferings involved in his Election or simply in his following of Jesus. Another directee may experience a lack of Confirmation for his decision and have to go back to some earlier phase of the decision-making process; he will need to go back to the drawing board, as it were, to discern the Election again! Another directee may experience Confirmation concerning his decision.

Growth In Compassion

        Hopefully your directee will be growing in his ability to be compassionate. During the Third Week, the directee is called upon to console Jesus, not to be consoled by Jesus. Sometimes this grace is received through the experience of extreme dryness with distractions during the prayer exercises. What may be happening is this: God may be working at deeper levels, detaching the directee from everything he can call his own and attaching the directee to God's self. All that the directee experiences is an increase of faith, hope and love which fits the third description of Consolation in notation [316]. Through this Consolation, he is being attached to the God of consolations rather than to the consolations of God. In this so-called dryness, he finds himself consoling Jesus. Through such a paradoxical struggle, he is strengthened by Jesus' passion.

        For another directee, Compassion is experienced very simply with detailed imagery:

"... I found myself taking the place of Simon and helped Jesus to carry his cross. But I was so disconcerted. Every time I tried to help, I actually made it more difficult for Jesus. I even noticed how the women on the road were weeping for Jesus.... They were the same people that I had been criticizing for their rich lifestyle a couple of months ago...."
        Another directee could be experiencing Compassion in his everyday life. His son has just been told about the presence of a disease and the directee seems to be completely taken up with concern for his child. He even complains that he has not been able to settle down to pray and he seems worried about that:
"I really want to pray the prayer exercises of the Third Week and I am putting in all my prayer time, but I find myself praying for my son and trying to discover a way to tell him something more that the doctor has told me!"
This can be the Consolation of Compassion. Don't confuse pain and sadness with Desolation; don't confuse desolate feelings with Desolation (in the technical sense) in which one experiences turmoil and is filled with self-centred thoughts and feelings -- feeling unloved because God is felt to be absent [317].


        The Consolation called Confirmation can come with interior dryness. Confirmation is the final interior affirmation at the end of the process of discernment. Through this experience, a directee does not have absolute certainty that the decision will prove successful or that history will judge it to be a right decision, or that the decision will never have to be reconsidered in the light of new facts. Rather through Confirmation, he has a kind of loving moral assurance that the decision was well made and, in that sense, he is able to judge that it is a "correct and good choice" [175]. We speak of "confirming the decision," whereas, in fact, it is the person making the decision who is confirmed. The directee is given the enlightenment and the interior assurance that the process has been done as well as it could have been, given the limitation of circumstances of human living.

        Absence of fear in the face of realistic difficulties and absence of all apprehensive doubts are not necessarily signs of Confirmation. The cost of the calls in the Old and New Testaments was accompanied by fear and terror! Whatever be the "up" or "down" quality of the experience, the signs of Confirmation ought to include one or two of the following:

        For a further discussion on the meaning of Confirmation, consult Chapter 28, "Confirmation And The Process Of Discerning Decisions."

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Introducing Prayer Unit 24

Features Of Prayer Unit 24

Arrest of Jesus; Jesus' Trial before Annas and Caiaphas; 
Jesus' Trial before the Sanhedrin. 

        When you introduce Prayer Unit 24, ask your directee to answer the questions at the end of that prayer unit either outside the prayer exercises or during one of the Repetitions. You may have to remind your directee concerning the delicate nature of this week. He may need to revisit the awareness of how the external environment affects his prayer exercises: TV watching, pressing requests from vested interests to make decisions for next year, summer plans with the annoying pre-arrangements, etc. Requests from various sources asking for generous responses may need to be placed "on hold." Exciting adventures that may interfere with the Graces being sought may need to be cancelled.

        Is your directee maintaining his environment in as much harmony as possible with the Graces being requested during this Third Week? It would be disharmonious for a directee to offer God his choice and to ask for Confirmation during the prayer exercises while outside the prayer exercises he is entertaining doubts about whether he went through the process in the Second Week properly! Harmony would mean that he would hold the choice in his heart as a firm decision as he lives his daily life.

        The Additional Readings in Prayer Unit 24 try to capture something of the mind and heart of Jesus during his last hours. Perhaps, each day an extra period of meditative reading upon these may help. Some form of penance may also help your directee to enter the Third Week more deeply. Some examples might be fasting, visiting the sick in the hospital, writing an awkward letter that one has been avoiding, walking instead of using a car for a short distance, writing those letters for Amnesty International, etc.

Chapter Seventeen

Prayer Units 25 And 26
Transition From The Third To The Fourth Week
Adapting The Prayer Unit For Holy Week

        As you continue to listen to your directee's experience, note how the directee is entering the passion and the way he accepts or faces difficulties in prayer:

Such questions at the back of your mind may help you to listen to what is emerging in your directee's prayer experience. During the interview you may find it helpful to ask:
"How do you find yourself relating to Jesus? ... I hear you saying that you "desire." What does this mean for you?"
        You may also find it helpful to discuss his answers to the questions that were at the end of Prayer Unit 24.

Listen For Concreteness

        As you continue to listen to the experiences of the Third Week, keep in mind this truth: "In the First Week, directees are tempted to particularize and miss the Grace; whereas in the Third Week, they are tempted to generalize and miss the Grace!"(4) I mentioned before that your directee may experience deep love and union at this time in the Exercises journey. Nevertheless, this is also a very practical time to consider some of the implications and ways required to implement the decision. For another directee who is not seeking Confirmation, this can be a very practical time for discovering "... how to make up what is wanting in the sufferings of Christ" (Col 1:24) and/or the cost of discipleship in the concrete circumstances of his life. Hopefully, he knows the cost of discipleship and desires to return love for love. In this Third Week, you hope that this willingness has become a readiness with some evident signs in his daily living. Here are some examples:

a) During the First Week, Robert began to recognize his sinfulness in the way he tried to manage peoples' lives. Later he was able to identify how manipulative and possessive he had been. He prayed to "let go" of this style of relating to others. During this Third Week, he finds himself letting go in practice: b) In the Second Week, Jan discovered that "riches and honours" became manifest in the secure circle of friends that she kept around herself. Now in the Third Week, she begins: c) In the Second Week, Bill discovered that Jesus was calling him to act against his "blindness" which prevented him from looking at unpleasant things and which caused him to deny them in order to "tie things up with a neat bow." Here in the Third Week, Bill begins: d) In the Second Week, Joanne came to make her choice (Unconfirmed Decision) to work towards the simplification of her lifestyle at home. Early in the Third Week, she receives Confirmation. Later on as the Third Week progresses, she begins to take a sounding from the rest of the family concerning the possibility of a smaller home, a reduction of cars, and a different holiday style in the summer, but she does so in such a way as to gather information for implementing this decision without destroying the Confirmation process.
On Adapting To The Needs And Situation Of The Directee

        As with the other Weeks of the Exercises, the subject material for the Third Week can be contracted or expanded according to the needs of the directee [205]. The pattern in the Exercises text is written from the viewpoint of the closed directed retreat setting of thirty days. Ignatius suggests that you can divide the passion narrative into segments for prayer in many different ways. However you do this, he instructs that your directee go over the whole passion after the individual mysteries have been completed [209].

        There are many reasons why you might judge it necessary to shorten or lengthen the Third Week. Here are some of them:

 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Adapting Prayer Units 25 And 26

Features Of Prayer Unit 25

Jesus' Trial before Pilate; Jesus Carries His Cross; Jesus Dies on the Cross. Some suggested adaptations for extending the time given to this prayer unit.

        Prayer Unit 25 contains some suggestions(5) for expanding this unit according to your circumstances. If you want to conclude the Third Week with this prayer unit, then replace the Repetitions and Application of Senses with the suggestions given in the first half of Prayer Unit 26 [209]. Then, if you desire to begin the next prayer unit with the Fourth Week, you might use Supplementary Prayer Unit 2 instead of trying to adapt Prayer Unit 26.
Features Of Prayer Unit 26

This prayer unit is set up to be used by a directee during Holy Week and the first part of Easter Week. It includes: Repetition of Jesus' Last Hours; Meditative Pondering of the Whole Passion; Jesus' Resurrection Appearance to His Mother; Jesus' Appearance to Peter and John.

        Prayer Unit 26 was designed on the hypothesis that a prayer guide would be giving her directee this material for Holy Week itself, and therefore, it includes both the ending of the Third Week of the Exercises and the beginning of the Fourth Week of the Exercises. If this is not your situation, you will need to adapt the materials accordingly. If you desire to introduce the Fourth Week outside of the Holy-Week context, read the material in the next chapter and consult Supplementary Prayer Unit 2, p.263f.

Endnotes For Third 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 10, "Sharing the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus," pp.121-125. This is a very good explanation of the Third-Week graces.

2. This picks up the question ("What will I do for Christ?") of the Colloquy [53] of the First Exercise of the First Week and the note in the Contemplation to Gain Love, with the mutual exchange of goods between lover and the beloved (between the directee and God) [230], [231].

3. On the other hand, during the Third Week, directees often do, in their Gospel Contemplation, what they would normally do by the bedside of a dying loved one -- be present in silence. Silence and presence are important in the experience of Compassion.

4.This comes from a comment of John Haley at a team meeting of spiritual directors.

5. Originally, Prayer Unit 25 was designed on the hypothesis that a prayer guide would be giving her directee this material for the week preceding Holy Week.

6. In this manual, consult Chapter 23, "Concerning Gospel Contemplation," p.308f.

7. For diagrams illustrating this see Figure 4 in Chapter Eleven, p.136f; and Figure 12 in Part B, Chapter 27, p. 380.

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