A Weekend Retreat by Fr. Larry Gillick, S.J.
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These Retreat Conferences begin with a short introductory prayer followed by a thirty-minute conference based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Though the retreat was shared with seventy men at the Jesuit Retreat House near St. Paul, Minnesota, the spirit and direction of the retreat is for women and men of all Christian faiths. Poems used during the conferences are taken from the book Gitanjeli by Tagore.
This retreat may be made in a variety of ways, by individuals or a group:
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There is no Owner's Manual for our relating with God; God does the initiating of this relationship. We put ourselves in postures of receptivity and availability. We are all in "recovery" from the results of choosing those things which are not good for us. We can fear what God is going to take from us, but the truth is that we watch and wonder what God is going to give us. "It takes reckless courage to face our personal abyss." Silence of body, mind and heart might be fearful at first, but silence becomes communication in time. Psalm 139
Ignatius experienced his own exercise of spirit after being forced to retreat from battle, he advances into a more interior retreat. He asked of himself and through the Spiritual Exercises invites us, to ask the "big questions". A retreat is a time to refocus by praying with the journey of answering these "big questions". What does God do while we pray? God is love? What does love do? God can not keep God inside and silent. We are the found-finders. Our image of God fashions our image of ourselves which can leave us with a sense of "spiritual inferiority". Luke 19 1-12
The "big question" here is about why am I here. Availability to God's love is one answer. To "praise, reverence and serve God" is another answer, but what does that mean? Loving God, what does that mean? Is the First Commandment really possible? Loving God has something to do with reverencing our limitations which are part of being a creature. Perfection differs from excellence and love differs from approval. God in Christ invites not demands. Ephesians 2, 1-10
Spirituality, and so, the Spiritual Exercises are not so much about the externals as they are centered around Jesus' converting our attitudes. Externals are about inferiority while we are invited to interiority. Our actions flow from inside attitudes. Attitude Modification is the beginning of behavioral modification. Prayer can be the hearing of God's name by which God knows me. My identity is the foundation of my actions. A good tree will offer good fruit. Our conflict is between what and who I say I am and what and who God says I am. Being met is prior to external change. Isaiah all of chapter 62
God reverences our resistance to our being holy and truly human. God will never give us anything which will render God obsolete. We want, desire, demand, and can long for what is bad for us, but we want it still. God saves us from ourselves. Satisfaction is a "satis-fiction". Being incompleteness is a spiritual experience of God's goodness. We need reminders that we are not God. "Enoughness" begins with the gift of being a beloved creature, but ends with our sin of ingratitude and shame. Insecurity leads us to God or to ourselves. Matthew 14, 27
We have human default-patterns and gravitational pulls to which Jesus offers options. Vengeance, jealousy, anger, violence are some of the reactions we know well. Jesus is the continuation of God's breathing over the chaos and bringing about order. Jesus constantly interrupted the lives of people to invite them to another kind of "planet". Matthew chapters five, six, and seven.
We are invited to a "faith-life" against which our technical advances work. Faith is a way of seeing which is different from seeing through a microscope. The Spiritual Life depends on our theology. Our theology as Christians does put us in a holy tension. Faith leads us to a trusting of a God who loves us and we trust that love, but with tension. Living our faith is a fragile pilgrimage. Holiness is not a series of actions, but a gift experienced in our fragility. What does "discernment" mean? What did Jesus do? What do I do? There are two ways of solving the question about who we are; what is our identity. The way of the Evil One or the way Jesus offers us. Ignatius offers two pictures of the Devil and Jesus offering ways to live, dependently or independently. Where do we get our identity? Galatians 5 13 to the end
We are invited in Ignatian spirituality to a recovery from and a discovery for. The heart itself is a sign of "un-fullness". Emptiness seeks for that which can not fill it. Our kneeling place, our holy place is where we encounter the empty in everything, and of course, we do not like that all the time. We can only grow deeper when we are dis-satisfied with the shallow. Would that the relationship with God made all life easy, it does not. We still have fears, longings, frustrations, and always the questions about whether God is with us. Luke 9, 23 and Luke 12, 22-32
This is a conference given in preparation for the celebration of Individual Confessions. The conference centers around the theme of this sacrament, as with the other six, involves a past leading into a future of mission. Each sacrament of the Church celebrates the presence of Jesus in his involvement in the important times of our lives. Alienation and need for reconciliation are very important times for us and so there Jesus is present for the healing from and preparing for our living that grace. Dis-orientation is sin and re-orientation is the grace of this sacrament. Luke 8, 26
This conference presents prayer with our memories; not healing them, but feeling them as the gifts they can be for us. God is always at work, but we can easily miss the artistry. We go into the future of faith by re-viewing God's faithfulness to us in our pasts. We have not unwrapped all the gifts we have received yet. Lamentations 3, 22 Psalm 23
We long for God and God longs for us. We see Jesus and in him, the Father whom Jesus came to reveal. Jesus came to serve rather than to be served. He sets the table, invites us to be seated and then tends us. He is the "great" , because he has chosen to be the lesser. The closer he came to his suffering, the more he revealed himself as "servant". Luke 22, 24 and John 13
Jesus as the "new Adam" lives to his death obediently, that is "listeningly" . As Adam refused to live according to what he had heard, Jesus lives who he has heard himself to be even on to death. Alienation is reversed by the sign of contradiction, the Cross-. The cross and Jesus' death is a consequence of his "decision" to be who he is. There are consequences in our lives as well, to our being his disciples. John18, Philippians 2 and Romans chapter 5.
The consequences of the refusal of Adam and Eve are reversed with the rising of Jesus. Hiding becomes revelation, alienation becomes community and work becomes mission. Jesus rose from the tomb so as to untomb all from fear separation and a sense of meaninglessness in human living. Instead of being banished, there is a sending forth. The "garden of disobedience" is replaced by the "garden of Resurrection". Those were hiding in the same room were not a community; when Jesus offers them his peace; they leave the room and their fears to spread that peace. John 20 and 21
When ending prayer we are a bit more real and sent out into the world which is by our prayer, more real as well. How can we stay more real to ourselves and others? We pray for "our daily bread". The noise around us can take much from us and prayer is a way to retrieve that which TV; radio, Internet and stereo can take away. We are to protect our "good spirits". Discipline is an act of love. The Spiritual Exercises are never finished; they are always beginning the process of recovery. WE can examine our consciousness of God's presenting "daily bread" by praying with our shoes, putting them on and taking them off. Psalm 131