Tag Archives: Spiritual Exercises

Confronting the Devil– one of the Church’s greatest needs

With last the announcement last week about a study session of the new Rite of Exorcism seemingly many peoples’ interest in the devil and evil soared. But I wonder if we all know the implications of having an interest in the “devil and evil” means. What it means is that we are in a spiritual battle with evil, a fact that is being spoken of more and more.

The Servant of God Pope Paul VI addressed the issue in a General Audience on November 15, 1972. What he said in 1972 remains so very true today:

What are the Church’s greatest needs at the present time? Don’t be surprised at Our answer and don’t write it off as simplistic or even superstitious: one of the Church’s greatest needs is to be defended against the evil we call the Devil.

The papal address is not long and it covers topics of a Christian’s vision of the universe, the mystery of evil, seeking answers to our questions, the biblical witness to evil and the Devil, the Devil’s ability to tempt us, the peril of ignoring the Devil, the presence of diabolical actions and what our defense against the Devil means. Read what Pope Paul said.

Two Standards Loyola.jpg

In his meditation of the second week of the Spiritual Exercises Saint Ignatius of Loyola presents to us “On the Two Standards” telling us we are faced with making a choice: “The one of Christ, our Commander-in-chief and Lord; the other Lucifer, mortal enemy of our human nature.” Loyola places in front of us the choice of how we are going to live our lives, either for Christ or against Christ, either for good, or for evil. Why sell our soul for money, power and fame when the Lord offers us a life that’s attractive and beautiful through the virtues of spiritual –and possibly in actual poverty, contempt for worldly honor and humility against pride? Poverty, whether spiritual and/or actual, obedience and humility are virtues that lead to all other virtue and everlasting life in Jesus Christ.

Read more ...

Leading the soul to God by the method of the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises

I came across this entry in an old encyclopedia. In its brevity a lot of truth is revealed: we can work (asceticism) by reason, and the heart, to union with God. Consider for a second what the author, Fr Drum, has to teach. Also, remember that Ignatian spirituality is not the same as Jesuit spirituality. The two are not the same by any stretch of the imagination. Fr Drum tells us that it is possible through prayer and good spiritual direction to know, love and serve God in this world so as to do the same in the next. Many people today don’t have the confidence that knowing and loving and serving God is possible at all. Some don’t know that God wants our happiness today –in this life–that there is meaning to our life that includes suffering and love (& joy) and some reject the notion that we are oriented toward a final goal. Christians call this goal heaven, the Beatific vision, communion with the Trinity, etc. What else is there for the Christian who really prays and lives his or her life with the Gospel and with reason? I get the sense that they don’t have the certainty that God knows us personally and intimately, never mind having a relationship with bodiless being.

I spent many years being formed by Ignatian Spirituality. My personal, cultural, ecclesial life (taken as a unity) is informed by what Saint Ignatius of Loyola proposed in his Spiritual Exercises. But I would not be telling the whole truth if I didn’t say that other influences have had a strong influence in how I look at my life and life’s work today. My life intersects with Monsignor Luigi Giussani, Chiara Lubich, Saint Josemaria Escriva, Saints Francis & Dominic and Saint Benedict and this school of the Lord’s service. The host of women saints and blesseds are too cumbersome to note here. The point, however, is not my interpretative lens except to say that I have benefited from the Spiritual Exercises and perhaps you might think the same if you gave the Exercises a chance. They are clearly an apostolic method in the spiritual life with an incredibly strong contemplative aspect. The Exercises are not for everyone, so be patient with them if you attempt to do an Ignatian retreat.

Ultimately, what the author of this entry names as the goal of the Christian life is my own, regardless of the influences: To live is Christ. It is entirely consistent with the motto of my coat of arms seen above: sequela Christi (to follow Christ). Ignatius (and the other spiritual masters noted above) could not conceive of life any differently. Would that be the same for all people!

The entry:

St. Ignatius of Loyola, Rome.JPG.jpeg

The spirit of Saint Ignatius was Pauline, — intrepid yet tender; motivated by two great principles,–love of Jesus Christ and zeal for the salvation of souls. These two principles were brought together in his motto: A. M. D. G., “Omnia ad Majorem Dei Gloriam” (All for the greater glory of God). It was this spirit, which breathed in “The Spiritual Exercises,” a method of asceticism, that is the very soul of the constitutions and activities of the Society of Jesus.

This little book is said to have converted more souls than it contains letters.

Certainly the results it has produced down the centuries cannot be exaggerated. The importance of its method is proved by the mere fact that 292 Jesuit writers have commented on the whole work. The purpose of the Exercises is definite and scientific upbuilding of the reason, will and emotions, by meditation and contemplation on the fundamental principles of the spiritual life and by other exercises of the soul. First, God is rated rightly as the soul’s end and object.

Reason is convinced that God is the end for which the soul is created, and all things else are only means to bring the soul to God; hence it follows that that is good which leads the soul Godward, and that is evil which leads the soul awayward from God.

The soul’s awaywardness from God results in sin; so sin is studied both in itself and in its consequences to the soul. Secondly, Jesus Christ is put in His place in the soul, by meditations on His ideals and contemplations on His private and public life.

The soul now aspires to the very height of enthusiastic and personal love to Him; and to the most self-sacrificing generosity in following the evangelical counsels.

Thirdly, the high resolves of the soul are confirmed by the imitation of Christ in His passion. Lastly, the soul rises to a sublime and unselfish joy, purely because of the glory of its risen Lord; and leaps with rapturous exultation into the realms of unselfish and perfect love of God, such as Saint Paul evinced when he cried out: “To me, to live is Christ; to die were gain” (Philippians 1, 21).

Fr Walter Drum, SJ
The Encyclopedia Americana, 1919

Catholic Prayer: experiencing a deeper and authentic prayer life in the Blessed Trinity

Where and how do we seek communion in prayer with God? Catholics enter into communion with God through the Blessed Trinity. I purposely ask the question this way because so often I meet Catholics who have fallen into a quasi-Protestant manner of thinking and praying. They say, “My prayer is a relationship with Jesus.” They go no further. They also rarely give an indication that there are two other persons of the Blessed Trinity. Certainly, we all are to seek an intimacy with the Lord Jesus, but as Catholics our theology and its manifestation in the spiritual life through the sacred Liturgy and personal prayer is always in conversation with the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is an essential point in the spiritual life. You miss this point, you miss the point of Catholic prayer. In fact, all of our liturgical prayer, save for a few, is directed to the Father, through the Son under the power of the Holy Spirit.

Catholics ought not be functionally unitarian: prayer exclusively directed to one member of the Trinity but it ought to be trinitarian:  Father, Son AND Holy Spirit. In 1989, Cardinal Ratzinger, with his typical clarity, addressed this issue in a “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on some Aspects of Christian Meditation.” He said, in part:

St Ignatius of Loyola at Manresa.jpeg

“From the dogmatic point of view,” it is impossible to arrive at a perfect love of God if one ignores his giving of himself to us through his Incarnate Son, who was crucified and rose from the dead. In him, under the action of the Holy Spirit, we participate, through pure grace, in the interior life of God. When Jesus says, “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9), he does not mean just the sight and exterior knowledge of his human figure (in the flesh is of no avail”–Jn 6:63). What he means is rather a vision made possible by the grace of faith: to see, through the manifestation of Jesus perceptible by the senses, just what he, as the Word of the Father, truly wants to reveal to us of God (“It is the Spirit that gives life […]; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life”–ibid.). This “seeing” is not a matter of a purely human abstraction (“abstractio”) from the figure in which God has revealed himself; it is rather the grasping of the divine reality in the human figure of Jesus, his eternal divine dimension in its temporal form. As St. Ignatius says in the Spiritual Exercises, we should try to capture “the infinite perfume and the infinite sweetness of the divinity” (n. 124), going forward from that finite revealed truth from which we have begun. While he raises us up, God is free to “empty” us of all that holds us back in this world, to draw us completely into the Trinitarian life of his eternal love. However, this gift can only be granted “in Christ through the Holy Spirit,” and not through our own efforts, withdrawing ourselves from his revelation (20).

I would recommend reading Cardinal Ratzinger’s full letter to the bishops; it is linked above.

Spiritual Exercises 2009 available

You can download the 2009 Communion & Liberation Fraternity Spiritual Exercises; the booklet is available in four languages. The print edition will be available with the June issue of Traces magazine. Log on to the CL site here.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
coat of arms



Humanities Blog Directory