Monday, July 15, 2013

Ave Maria Press: The First Spiritual Exercises

I must admit that I am not a big retreat guy. Don't get me wrong, I love the idea of retreats. I'm just awful at executing them properly. Instead of focusing on my relationship with God, I spend too much time looking at others on retreat. In doing this, I end up feeling inadequate, like I don't love Jesus as much as everyone else there. Then, when people start crying from joy and I remain dry-eyed, and I start feeling that other people can sense my feelings of inadequacy. I mention all of this because Ave Maria Press has published a book on the classic Ignatian Spiritual Exercises with a new twist.

The First Spiritual Exercises are a series of retreats designed for people looking to begin Ignatian Spirituality. Each retreat is designed to bring you closer to God and help you discern his will for your life. Each retreat is four weeks and comprises elements of Scripture, prayer, meditation, and contemplation. There are four retreats in all, and they all center around finding Inner Peace. Unlike most retreats, you don't have to perform the first before you can form the second through fourth. They are designed for wherever you are in your life at the moment. Specifically the four retreats are:
  1. Inner Peace in Divine Love
  2. Inner Peace in Darkness and Light
  3. Inner Peace in Friendship with Jesus
  4. Inner Peace in the Service of God
Each retreat takes four weeks. Monday through Thursday you spend anywhere from twenty to forty-five minutes praying while reading Scripture and meditating on it. There is also a weekend exercise to perform and receiving the Eucharist on Sunday. I wasn't entirely sure which one to choose, so I picked the logical choice and attempted the first retreat. I'd love to say that my entire life was instantly made better. However, that isn't how retreats work. If you make some steps in the right direction, then it is considered a success.

My favorite part of the retreat was the Program for Life on the last Saturday. In it, you reflect and answer what time you can take to enhance your family life, work life, personal life, prayer life, etc. Once you have finished answering these questions, you have your Program for Life. As the retreat reminds you though, you need to make it practical and sustainable or else you won't follow through with it. Remember, small steps are the key to success.

If the idea of going on a retreat intimidates you, then this is a book for you. If you're looking to learn more about Ignatian Spirituality, then this is a book for you too. I still think you should take the time and go on retreats with other people, even if it makes you uncomfortable. This is advice I am giving to myself as well. However, this a five star book that will get you started and might help you build up some courage and comfort for the group retreat setting. So pick up a copy, and make some steps toward Inner Peace with God.

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