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Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius

Spiritual Exercises – Day 7


In response to many questions, I defined the concept of “meditation”. Basically, it just involves picturing or thinking about various concepts. It can be done anywhere and at any time, even while you’re in the car or taking a walk.

Here are the 3 meditations discussed on tonight’s show. (NOTE: These are not contained in Saint Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises):

Point 1 – The mystery of life and the mystery of death.

Point 2 – Death is the great separation.

Point 3 – Death for the Christian is the passage to life.

Here is the passage from Saint Claude de la Colombiere that I read on the show. It sums up one of the goals of this retreat -To better trust in God’s will for our lives, even when it involves difficulties:

Let us imagine our confusion when we appear before God and understand the reasons why He sent us the crosses we accept so unwillingly. The death of a child will then be seen as its rescue from some great evil had it lived, separation from the woman you love the means of saving you from an unhappy marriage, a severe illness the reason for many years of life afterwards, loss of money the means of saving your soul from eternal loss. So what are we worried about? God is looking after us and yet we are full of anxiety! We trust ourselves to a doctor because we suppose he knows his business. He orders an operation which involves cutting away part of our body and we accept it. We are grateful to him and pay him a large fee because we judge he would not act as he does unless the remedy were necessary, and we must rely on his skill. Yet we are unwilling to treat God in the same way! It looks as if we do not trust His wisdom and are afraid He cannot do His job properly. We allow ourselves to be operated on by a man who may easily make a mistake — a mistake which may cost us our life — and protest when God sets to work on us.

If we could see all He sees we would unhesitatingly wish all He wishes. We would beg Him on bended knees for those afflictions we now ask Him to spare us. To all of us He addresses the words spoken to the Sons of Zebeedee: You know not what you ask — O blind of heart, your ignorance saddens me. Let me manage your affairs and look after your interests. I know what you need better than you do yourselves. If I paid heed to what you think you need you would have been hopelessly ruined long ago.

Spiritual Exercises – Day 6

Today’s meditation focused on the reality of hell…IT EXISTS!

Saint Ignatius recommends that we meditate on the following 5 points, using our senses to vividly picture and experience the reality of hell:

First Point. The first Point will be to see with the sight of the imagination the great fires, and the souls as in bodies of fire.

Second Point.
The second, to hear with the ears wailings, howlings, cries, blasphemies against Christ our Lord and against all His Saints.

Third Point.
The third, to smell with the smell smoke, sulphur, dregs and putrid things.

Fourth Point.
The fourth, to taste with the taste bitter things, like tears, sadness and the worm of conscience.

Fifth Point. The fifth, to touch with the touch; that is to say, how the fires touch and burn the souls.

Tomorrow’s Topic
: Death

Spiritual Exercises – Week One In Review


We just completed the first week (5 days) of our retreat based on the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola! Judging from the emails that I’ve received (and there have been MANY!), I think you are all doing great! How are you feeling?

Discouraged (because you’ve recalled the many sins you’ve overlooked)?

Discouraged (because this is HARD work)?

Discouraged (because you find the Spiritual Exercises to be difficult to understand)?

Discouraged (because you don’t know how you’ll endure this for the entire Lenten season)?

Happy (because you realize that the Spiritual Exercises are going to bring you closer to the Lord)?

If I had to guess, I would speculate that most of you would fit into the first four categories. And if you’re not there now, then you probably will be there in the next few weeks. Therefore, even if you’re in the “happy” category, you should probably listen to what I have to say. I have NO DOUBT that you can all make it through this retreat provided you follow a few simple rules:

1. If you find that the daily meditations are taking up too much of your time…SPEND LESS TIME ON THEM!

2. If you can’t focus on all 3 meditations each day, CHOOSE ONE OF THEM.

3. If you are having difficulty finding time to meditate, think about the reflections while you’re driving in the car, walking the dog or taking a shower. God is everywhere and you can speak to Him from wherever you are!

4. If you can’t remember the points or the steps, go with what you can remember.

5. If you miss a day, or two, or three…DON’T QUIT! Listen to the podcasts when you can, or just skip a few days and join in when you’re able.

6. Don’t panic when you feel like quitting…Satan HATES IT when we try to get closer to the Lord!

7. Take ONE DAY at a time!


If, after this first week, you have an increased awareness of your sinfulness, the realization that you were created to know, love and serve God and that you were destined to live in Heaven, then…


Many of us have a tendency to be too hard on ourselves when we try to grow spiritually. We feel that WE have to do it by ourselves. We forget to ask God for help. Don’t make that mistake. The Lord is waiting to send us the grace needed to make spiritual progress. ASK HIM FOR HELP!!! Ask for the grace to persevere, ask for the grace to recall and feel sorry for your sins, ask for the grace to overcome your sinful ways, ask for the grace to love Him more, ask for the grace to continue with this retreat, etc…

Let’s quickly review the first week. If you’re just starting with us or if you don’t have time for a lot of review, this is what you need to remember from the first week…

DAY 1 – I exist to KNOW, LOVE and SERVE God and to one day live with Him in Heaven. Do I always love Him with my WHOLE mind, heart, soul and strength? Do I ALWAYS love my neighbor as myself?

DAY 2 – All things on the face of the earth are created for you to achieve your destiny of living with God in Heaven. Therefore, you should make use of those things in order to reach your goal (Heaven). Are you spiritually “indifferent” to the things that happen in your life OR do you prefer health to sickness, wealth to poverty, comfort to inconvenience, acceptance to rejection? There is no need to panic if you have preferences. In fact, it’s normal. One of the reasons that we’re doing this retreat is so that we can become more “indifferent” to God’s will in our lives. It will allow us to willingly accept whatever He sends our way.

DAY 3 – We must learn to see sin through God’s eyes. Consider the following points:

1. Lucifer and his angels sinned against God by refusing to obey His will. As a result they were condemned to hell.

2. Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating the forbidden fruit. By doing this they lost the right to Heaven.

3. Recall that someone can be condemned to hell for ONE mortal sin.

In each of these cases, ONE SIN had eternal consequences. Compare this with the MANY sins we have committed over the course of our lives and reflect on the fact that due to God’s mercy…WE ARE NOT IN HELL!

DAY 4 – Recall all of the sins you have committed throughout your life. Spend some time thinking about the many times you chose your will instead of God’s will.

DAY 5 – Picture yourself looking at Our Lord on the cross. As you look at His beaten and bloody body, ask yourself 3 questions:

1. What HAVE I done for Christ?

2. What AM I doing for Christ?

3. What OUGHT I to do for Christ?

Remember to do your General Examination of Conscience at the end of each day (it only has to take a few minutes):

1. Thank God for the graces you received throughout the day.

2. Ask for the grace to know your sins and to struggle to eliminate them.

3. Review my conduct through the day (thoughts, words, actions) and determine how many times I’ve sinned.

4. Ask pardon from God for my faults.

5. Make a resolution to do better.

Perform your particular daily examen 3 times each day (spend only a few minutes):

1. In the morning, identify the particular sin or fault you wish to overcome.

2. Before or after lunch, see how you did (ask the Lord to give to the grace to be honest). If you messed up, ask for forgiveness and the grace to do better in next few hours.

3. Before bed, repeat step 2 (reflecting on the period of time since you did step 2).


I encourage you to pray for all of us who are making this retreat and be assured that you have my daily prayers. Beginning on Monday, I’ll start posting daily summaries of our retreat (very brief) on my blog ( That should make it easier to recall what we discussed. As always, please email me with any questions. I’m looking forward to getting started again on Monday as we’ll spend some time thinking about hell. Have a blessed weekend and, if at all possible…


God Bless,

Lent: Becoming Uncomfortable About Being Comfortable


“I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.” (C.S. Lewis)

One of the biggest mistakes that we can make in our lives is to become comfortable. While this attitude is common among atheists and those with little faith in God, it is a BIG problem for believers as well. The fact that we are Christians doesn’t stop us from retreating into our comfort zones and transforming the Lord and His teachings to fit our own personal needs. In fact, it’s astonishing how often “our God” is willing to overlook and even condone the sins we commit each day.

We are blessed that the Church gives us the season of Lent to “repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). It is a time to begin anew, to be “cleansed from our idols” (Ezekiel 36:25). Rather than focusing on what makes us comfortable, we are urged to focus on what makes us uncomfortable. About what should we be uncomfortable? For starters, let’s look at the fact that OUR SINS are responsible for Jesus suffering and dying on the cross (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 598). How is it then that we have become so comfortable in ignoring this fact? The main reason is that we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the effect our sins. Every time we sin, we not only hurt God but we hurt the entire Church. Since we are all connected as members of the Mystical Body of Christ, my sins have an effect on every member of the Church.

OK, Gary…what about me? I’m a good person and go to church every week. I try to lead a good life. I haven’t committed any sins lately. Am I off the hook? Let’s look at how Saint John answers that question in the pages of the Bible:

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 8-9)

The good news is that, even though we are sinners, THERE IS HOPE! Jesus is standing by, waiting to forgive our sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In order to obtain that forgiveness, however, we first need to acknowledge that we have sinned. We should pray every day for the grace to see our sins AS GOD SEES THEM. Then, we can repent and seek out the Lord’s pardon for the damage we have done.

In his Spiritual Exercises, Saint Ignatius of Loyola suggests that we imagine Christ present before us on the cross. While looking at His battered and bloody body, tortured so that we can be redeemed from our sins, he proposes that we ask ourselves 3 questions:

“What have I done for Christ?”

“What am I doing for Christ?”

“What ought I to do for Christ?”

If we think about these questions long and hard enough, it’s likely that we’ll become uncomfortable…and that’s good. Because becoming uncomfortable about being comfortable is what Lent (and our Catholic Faith) is all about.

How Do I Know That The Retreat Is Working?

As we begin our Lenten retreat based on Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, one question is going to arise in many of our minds…

“How do I know this retreat is working?”

Before answering the question (and the answer may surprise you), I want to issue a warning. Throughout our 30 day (more or less) Ignatian retreat, Satan is going to try to convince you that you’re wasting your time. He’ll plant ideas in your head that you’re not good enough, that other people are holier than you, that you should quit the retreat if you miss a day or two, that you’re not improving spiritually, etc. He will tailor his lies to YOUR particular weakness. My advice?


On the other hand, when you get a negative thought and feel like giving up on the retreat, it may not be from Satan. It could just be that your human nature is getting the best of you. In my case, I generally begin to lose interest in activities that are too difficult or if I begin to doubt God’s providence. If you begin to get thoughts about giving up on the retreat, I recommend you do 2 things:

1. Pray. Ask the Lord if you should continue.
2. Email me.

There may be cases in which the retreat isn’t right for you at the present time. You may be too busy with other tasks. You may be going away on vacation for several weeks. You may not be spiritually ready. All of these are valid reasons for discontinuing the retreat. Just be sure that if you decide to give it up, you’re doing it for a valid reason.

Now, let’s answer the question. How can I be sure I’m getting something out of the retreat? First, let’s look at a statement from Fr. Andre Ravier, S.J. in the book A Do-It-At-Home-Retreat:

“If this retreat has helped us simply to recite the Our Father with more faith in our understanding and more love in our heart, its purpose has been achieved.”

Let me add to that by asking you a few questions based upon the meditations of the first 2 days:

Did you learn…

…that you exist in order to know (praise), love (reverence) and serve God?

…that your destiny is to live in Heaven?

…that all created things in your life are there to help you get to Heaven?

…that you have some inordinate attachments in your life (things that aren’t bringing you closer to God)?

…that you have one or two faults that you’d like to eliminate from your life?

…that you prefer health to sickness, wealth to poverty, comfort to discomfort?

…that you don’t always love God with ALL of your heart, soul and might (Deut 6:5)?

…that the way to get to Heaven is by loving God “with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all of your strength, and with all of your mind; and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27)?

…that you can sin by your thoughts, words or actions?

If you were already aware of these facts, did the meditations help to refresh your memory?

If you answered “yes” to ANY of the above questions…

CONGRATULATIONS…The retreat has ALREADY been a success! Do you realize how many people (including Christians) go through life without realizing these important facts? What a blessing it has been to learn these facts in the first few days of the Lenten season!

If this retreat helps you IN ANY WAY to get closer to the Lord, it will be invaluable. Look at how much you’ve accomplished in the first few days. Can you imagine how much more you’re going to learn in the remaining weeks? Let’s continue to pray for one another as we learn to become more open to God’s will in our lives!

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam! (For the Greater Glory of God)

“Seek the presence of God in all things, in conversation with others, in walking, in looking, in tasting, in hearing, in understanding and in all that we do, since it is a fact that His divine majesty is everywhere by His presence, power and essence.” (Saint Ignatius of Loyola)

Let The Spiritual Exercises Begin!



Tonight at 8 PM Eastern on my Following The Truth radio program, we’ll be starting the Spiritual Exercises Ignatian retreat. This retreat will last throughout Lent and conclude on the first Friday after Easter (April 13). As we go through the exercises, please email me with any questions that you may have.

Here is some general information which may prove helpful:

Here’s a link to the Following The Truth page on BlogTalkRadio.  You can listen live at 8 PM Eastern M-F or you can listen to the podcast in the BlogTalkRadio archives or download from iTunes at any time after the show airs.  All of these can be accessed from the following main page:



You can also listen to archived shows using the BlogTalkRadio player on my website:



If you want to purchase the Spiritual Exercises, here is the translation that I recommend (by Louis J. Puhl, S.J.):



Here is the Kindle edition of the book:

Here is a free online version of the book (I can’t vouch for the translation. You may want to try it out and see if it’s useful):



Here are some notes on the Spiritual Exercises from Fr. John Hardon, one of the patrons of our retreat.  I read these on the air on Friday’s show:



The Spiritual Exercises For Lent!

What are you doing for Lent this year? Here’s a personal invitation from Gary Zimak:

The Spiritual Exercises were composed by Saint Ignatius Loyola during the years of 1521 to 1533 and are based on Sacred Scripture, personal experience and the writings of certain spiritual masters, especially Thomas a Kempis (the author of The Imitation of Christ). Using the writings of Saint Ignatius, the notes of the late Jesuit scholar, Fr. John Hardon, and several other sources, Gary has developed a version of the Spiritual Exercises that will be presented on his nightly 30 minute podcast on BlogTalkRadio.

On Monday, February 27, 2012, Gary will begin the Spiritual Exercises on his nightly show. According to Saint Ignatius, the two-fold purpose of the Exercises is:

1. To prepare and dispose the soul to free itself from all inordinate affections.
2. To seek and find the will of God concerning the ordering of life for the salvation of one’s soul.

If you’re interested in participating, Email us and put “Lent” in the subject. This will allow us to create an email list and keep you updated with any pertinent links, messages or follow up explanations. For more information, be sure to listen to Following The Truth on Thursday and Friday (February 23-24) for a detailed discussion of the Spiritual Exercises and how they will be handled on the podcast.

In addition, Gary will be announcing the exciting news of the Spiritual Exercises on several network radio shows:

Tuesday,February 21 – The Son Rise Morning Show (EWTN Radio, 6:45 AM Eastern)

Wednesday, February 22 – Morning Air (Relevant Radio, 9:40 AM Eastern)

Friday, February 24 – Catholic Connection (EWTN/Ave Maria Radio, 9:35 AM Eastern)

Those who participated in Gary’s Total Consecration To Jesus Through Mary last year know how powerful of an experience this can be. Don’t miss the chance to do something SPECIAL for Lent this year!