Last week, I left off with St. Ignatius in Manresa. There he discerned his vocation to the priesthood and wrote down his experiences in prayer and discernment that would become known as “The Spiritual Exercises”. These begin with the idea of “First Principle and Foundation” in which St. Ignatius insists that we need to recognize God as our loving creator whose unconditional love seeks a radical response from us. In this response we should find a positive sense of God, self and creation, and this would lead us to desire the freedom of a child of God: free from sin and free to advance in fulfillment, virtue and holiness. The exercises then move onto what he called the “Via Purgativa”. There global and personal sin are examined and the need for healing arises from guilt, fear, and poor self-image. This should cause an experience of conversion from sin to a loving relationship with God. This relationship in turn should bring about a sense of discipleship, where the call of Christ the King is heard.
In the second week, one enters the “Via Illuminativa”. Here, contemplation should begin as an effort should be made to contemplate Jesus in the Gospels. The composition of place becomes a means to move from a discursive type of meditation to a contemplation. This should lead to a profound choice to follow the Lord which is usually flushed out in the famous meditation of the “Two Flags”. This is considered by many as the pivotal point of the exercises where one truly undergoes self-emptying and decides for spiritual poverty and humility in service to the Lord; thereby rejecting evil, greed, worldly honors and pride in loyal and faithful service to Christ. (to be continued)