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!
8. EMAIL ME WITH ANY QUESTIONS OR CONCERNS!
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…
THIS WEEK HAS BEEN A TREMENDOUS SUCCESS!!!
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).
THAT’S ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW!
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 (http://www.followingthetruth.com/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…
GO TO CONFESSION!!!