As I stated in the week 4 post, had I read the whole book before beginning the Exercises, I would have known that the Supplemental Matter was to be used during weeks 1 to 4. In addition to the Scriptures to be used for contemplation, there are also four subjects covered, which I will highlight below. There are similar vignettes in the weekly instructions, so I did not expect to find more in the back of the book that would be tied to specific weeks. To me, this highlights the need for our spiritual formation to be well organized.
Methods of Praying
Ignatius describes three methods of praying. The first method is structured prayer. In this method a person may pray through the ten commandments and/or capital sins for self examination. These sins are examined in light of the “three powers of the soul,” (memory, intellect, and will) and the five senses of the body. The second method is focused prayer. One places the body in a focused position, such as knelling, and slowly prays, focusing on individual words and phrases as one goes through the time of prayer. The third method is rhythmic prayer, where one prays a word with each breath. Both the second and third methods are for liturgical prayers, such as the Our Father, the Soul of Christ, and the like.
Discernment of Spirits
Ignatius describes four human states for which we should discern spirits. The first state is for the person moving from sin to sin, the enemy moves upon a person to see pleasure in their actions, while the Spirit of God “stings their consciences with remorse.” The second state is for the person who is working to purge sins, the work of the spirits is the opposite, with the enemy bringing anxiety and sadness and the Spirit of God bringing courage, strength, and peace. The third state is for the person realizing love of God; Ignatius calls this consolation. The fourth state is again an opposite of the last, it is desolation. This is when a person feels separated from God, and in a time of disquiet and temptation. Neither consolation nor desolation are permanent states. Ignatius also speaks of how the Spirit of God and angles work to encourage the believer. We should also be discerning of our own consciences to be aware of when we have truly sinned rather than merely suffering from a delicate conscience.
Distributing Money (Alms)
Ignatius’ rules regarding the redistribution of money have spiritual and practical sides. On the spiritual side, a giver should remember that the prompting to give comes from God, for the glory of God, and will reflect upon us at final judgement. Practically, one should give money only for proper and good uses and take time to consider before distributing money. Also, Ignatius is like John Wesley, in that he takes the position that is is fine to accept funds in order to distribute them, and also it is better to curtail one’s own expenses.
Thinking, Judging, and Feeling with the Church
This final section is a list of attitudes and actions Ignatius feels we should have as members of the Church. I will simply summarize them here, combining some of his related points.
- Take an attitude of of willing obedience to the Church, presuming that they are being led by the wisdom of God, rather than one who questions every edict which comes down from its leaders. He does not state that there is never a time to question, and this balance is relevant today as denominations make decisions on homosexuality.
- Regularly participate in meeting together for worship and in the sacraments. This rule reminded me of John Wesley’s “Duty of Constant Communion.”
- Live and praise correct sexual behavior, whether that be virginity, celibacy, or marriage.
- Keep the vows we give to the Lord and each other.
- Pray together with all the saints.
- Participate in the seasons of the Church.
- Our church facilities should actively engages the senses (Ignatius focuses on the visual) to draw people closer to God in worship and understanding.
- We should engage in theology that primarily engages in practical Christian living and that which primarily engages in scholarship.
- Be cautious about setting someone up on a pedestal.
- While me must not neglect teaching the doctrine of salvation, we should be careful about how we teach and discuss grace, the will, and predestination, so that people will not become lazy.
- Love is the greatest commandment.
This is a continuing series as I go through The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius.
- My Spiritual Exercises
- The Spiritual Exercises: The Pre-work Warm-up
- The Spiritual Exercises: Week 1
- The Spiritual Exercises: Week 2 part 1
- The Spiritual Exercises: Week 2 part 2
- The Spiritual Exercises: Week 3
- The Spiritual Exercises: Week 4
- The Spiritual Exercises: Supplemental Matter
- 8 Attributes in Effective Spiritual Formation: Lessons Learned from Saint Ignatius
©2012 Paul Tillman