May 2, 2007

Exercising the Soul

This past weekend I had the incredible opportunity to go on a silent retreat in Oregon with the Legionaries of Christ and Regnum Christi and undertake the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. I have avoided blogging about my experience until now, because although no words can express the depths that Christ wishes to reveal Himself (especially during a weekend solely with Him), I feel I have a duty to share some of the insights I gained over the weekend.

I haven't been on a retreat in a couple of years and my life has been pretty busy over the past 9 months (I wonder why...). So, I decided to bite the bullet and get away for a weekend (with over 60 other women, mainly wives and mothers!) and give Christ some of my "busy" time. I knew I needed a refresher and to flush out some of the agitations my soul has been encountering lately. I went into the weekend with no expectations, and not really even any clue to how it was going to be set up. Without getting into too many of the scheduling details, this was an integrated weekend of Mass each day, nocturnal Adoration of Jesus, Spiritual Guidance, making a General Confession, and the heart of it all: meditations of various parts of the Bible surrounding Creation and the Fall, The Incarnation of Jesus, His life and Passion, and His Resurrection.

St. Ignatius gave us these meditations and called them "Spiritual Exercises." He was a wealthy soldier in the Spanish army who had a conversion experience after being wounded in battle. When recovering from his almost mortal wound, he had nothing to read but the Bible and a book on the Saints. When he realized that he had almost given his life for an earthly king, he began to contemplate his own mortality and what would become of him after he died. Since St. Ignatius understood the battles and physical rigor a foot-soldier must undergo, and he came to know the new King he must serve, he realized that there is a spiritual battle waging all around us - and he knew that our SOULS must be prepared for this war.

I don't have enough time or enough space to repeat the content of the meditations, nor should I. And I don't have enough time or enough space to reveal all the things God spoke to my heart about. But I will leave you with a few (short) reflections that I find worthy to pass along. I do this not for mere informational purposes but rather to give you something that you can take and hopefully apply to your own life. Because the major thing I was awakened, once again, to this weekend is that our time here on earth is short. With the way our world is turning and the spiritual battle that wages around and against us, we can no longer be on the fence. We must choose for or against Christ and whether or not we will conform our lives to His.

The major thing I realized this weekend was that my prayer life this past year has been simply awful. I have used every excuse under the sun to wiggle my way out of praying. But it caught up with me. Every time I would be quiet and focus on Christ the very things that convicted my heart came up and I would turn away. So, I tried to practice not only exterior silence this weekend with the rule of "no talking," but also interior silence. I turned off my mind with the arbitrary things that filled it and let Jesus approach me as he wished. I expected nothing from Him and I wasn't looking for a booming voice or a conversion moment. I just wanted to be. And I found that what Jesus wants from me is quality time, just as I would give my husband or my 3rd graders. He wanted my attention and He wanted to give me His attention. Prayer really is the major lifeline that keeps us attached to Jesus. There is no getting around it, no matter what we may think. Prayer is commitment. It is practiced. And it is not necessarily done out of feelings. It is a turning of our souls to the one who gave us our very life! So, I promise to do all I can to battle the temptation not to give both quality time and the moments of my day to Jesus.

Without getting to long here, I will simply outline a few other questions and reflections I find worthy to pass along:

~What is time and what is eternity?
~Is my relationship to the things around me leading me to or away from Christ?
~Prayer is not an option
~Why do I exist?
~The Beatitudes is the Constitution of Christ's Kingdom
~What has Christ done for me and what should I do for Him?
~What moves my life?
~The problem is in knowing too much about God that we forget to get to know Him
~If I face the judgement of my conscience NOW I can attempt to avoid the judgement of God LATER
~When others see me do they see Jesus?

"Lord, may I know You to the degree that I love You, and may I love You to the degree that I never cease to follow You."

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