Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius offered at Sioux Spiritual Center
By Carole Brown
Sioux Spiritual Director
I never get tired of telling the story of a young Spaniard who was born in the days of kings and queens and knights and ladies. He had his eye on a young lady who was of a much higher rank in the Spanish court. He set his heart on her. To win her, he would have to have great success as a soldier — so he threw himself into the military life with great enthusiasm.
One day, as he was engaged in a border skirmish with France, his dream went up in smoke when he was hit in the leg by a cannonball. The dream of military success was over, and with that he realized that his romantic aspirations had no future.
While he convalesced at the family castle, he got bored laying in bed. Someone brought him some books with which to occupy himself — some romance books, and some holy books. He would muse between one and the other. The romance books were exciting to read, but afterwards he would feel empty and tired. On the other hand, the holy books were irritating to read, but afterwards he found himself attracted to Jesus and the saints. He asked himself, “Why can I not do the things St. Francis did? Why don’t I do what St. Dominic did?” Over the course of several weeks, he experienced a profound conversion of heart, and decided to change his life by becoming a penitent.
After his leg had healed, he embarked on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. En route, he stopped overnight at a cave outside of Manresa, with the intention of resting and resuming his journey. He ended up staying there for over a year, where he tells us, God taught him as if he was a little schoolboy. God used that time to teach the pilgrim, and to sort his head out so that he could align himself more fully with God’s plan.
Throughout his travels Ignatius sought to have spiritual conversations with many people. He used much of what he had learned in his own conversion to help others, collecting much insight which he recorded in his journal. From this, he developed the Spiritual Exercises. These Exercises have been making saints of men and women for over 500 years, such as St. Francis Xavier, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. Isaac Jogues. The Exercises are a deep meditation on the life of Christ which provide a wonderful and practical way of deepening one’s intimacy with God and discovering his will for one’s life. They are offered in a variety of formats, from the 30-day retreat to the 8-day retreat, and another version called the “19th Annotation” or retreat in daily life.
The Spiritual Exercises are offered at the Sioux Spiritual Center every summer in the 8-day format. Each day, retreatants meet with a spiritual director who assigns the prayer material. Each day, he or she listens to the retreatant describe what is coming up in prayer and provide appropriate spiritual direction. Apart from the prayers of the Mass and the meeting with the spiritual director, the retreatant keeps silent in order to awaken the spiritual senses so that they can perceive God’s communication.
If you are interested in making the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius, please check out the website: www.siouxspiritualcenter.org.