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?
DON’T LISTEN TO HIM…HE IS A LIAR!!!
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)