Daily Archives: March 2, 2009

Read the First Exercise on Christian Classics Ethereal Library

I love the Spiritual Exercises. They are great for Lent and Advent. I first attempted them four years ago, at Lent/Christmas. I didn’t get very far, but what little I did helped me tremendously. I’ve come back a couple times since then, never getting past the first week or two.

I’m gonna try again this Lent.

But the first few days just totally shake the ground of what we’re told most places these days, even by the Jesuits themselves.

These days, the sin of presumption abounds. “Joel Osteen Catholicism”: “God loves everybody! Why would a loving God send people to Hell?”

We are to take for granted that everyone’s going to Heaven. Many modern forms of “spirituality” in the Church encourage this thought. Certainly many pastors do in their preaching.

Yet St. Ignatius (and most other saints) would call us to a quite different thought, the warning that Jesus gave repeatedly to the Jews:
Don’t think that, just because you’re a member of the “right group,” you’re getting a free ride to Heaven. Of those to whom much has been given, much will be expected.

The angels were given *one* chance to sin. ONE. And that wasn’t even sometihng we’d consider a “big” sin. It wasn’t like they were allowed to go around in Heaven till one of them decided to commit murder or theft or adultery.

No. The one sin that it took for the Angels to go straight to Hell was intellectual. Angels are pure spirits, and thinking *ONE* thought against God resulted in their expulsion from Heaven. ONE. *Think* about that.

I know I entertain sinful thoughts many times each day. I know I question God’s judgement at least once a day. If I were an angel, that would get me sent straight to Hell for all eternity. And yet I barely even think to mention such thoughts when I go to Confession.

God gives us so many chances, so many opportunities to change.

We complain that He hides Himself from Us. The angels had that one chance because they also had full knowledge. God hides Himself from us so we have the excuse of ignorance when we are judged. But those of us who know Him–or claim to–have less of an excuse.

He gives us the chances so we’ll actually change. Why don’t we?

General Rules of the Spiritual Exercises

A fundamental method of Ignatian spiritual exercises is the daily examination of conscience. St. Ignatius recommends that the exerciser keep a spiritual diary. On a particular day, one is to focus on trying to overcome a particular sin or bad habit. Upon rising, the soul will examine her [St. Ignatius, writing primarily for members of his Order, uses the masculine; I will use the traditional feminine gender of the soul as such] conscience and think about a particular bad habit. Once she has decided upon which sin to try and overcome that day, she will reflect upon the times that she commits it. She will make a line to indicate how many times she commits that soul, on average, per day, or how many times it was commited the previous day. This will be indicated by dots.

Throughout the day, she will keep track in her diary the number of times she has committed that sin using dots. In the evening, she will engage in a second examination of conscience, and reflect upon the number of times the sin was committed, filling in the journal, if necessary. The lines will be compared: the first line showing previous times per day; the second showing how many times *that* day the sin was committed. The soul will reflect on her progress or lack thereof.

When one is battling a particular sin, and recognizes it, St. Ignatius recommends that she bow her head briefly and strike her breast, “grieving for having fallen.”

While working on a particular sin over several days, the soul will keep track of the comparison between journal entries for those days.

If it takes longer, the soul will keep track of the progress over weeks.

It contains in it five Points.
First Point. The first Point is to give thanks to God our Lord for the benefits received.
Second Point. The second, to ask grace to know our sins and cast them out.
Third Point. The third, to ask account of our soul from the hour that we rose up to the present Examen, hour by hour, or period by period: and first as to thoughts, and then as to words, and then as to acts, in the same order as was mentioned in the Particular Examen.
Fourth Point. The fourth, to ask pardon of God our Lord for the
Fifth Point. The fifth, to purpose amendment with His grace.
Our Father.

St. Ignatius provides a basic guide for what constitute sins of thought, for rules regarding swearing, and for general sins against the Ten Commandments.