When I was home for Thanksgiving I had the opportunity to stop into the local Catholic bookstore. I had been looking for a book with which I could make an informal spiritual retreat. Well I found exactly what I was looking for in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. I began on Sunday, and let me tell you:
It’s stinking amazing.
Right from the get-go, it shows you just how delusional you are if you think you are living a holy life. I just wanted to swallowed up into a deep hole after the daily examens on the first day. The other exercises, of which, I have been doing one each day, have all been focusing on the effects of sins and of the reality of hell. It really cultivates a sense of shame.
Wait, a minute, isn’t that kind of depressing? Actually not! At first glance it might seem contrary to the Gospel, but understanding the utter rottenness of sin only serves to stir up repentance, contrition, and utter gratitude for the rich and abundant mercy of Christ! I can’t think of a week when I have experienced the mercy and patience of God more than I have this week, a week when I’ve daily contemplated sin. I’ve never been more motivated to seek Jesus in the Eucharist than I have this week, and I long each night for morning to come so that I may experience his love in the daily Mass.
If you’re still looking for some kind of spiritual practice for this penitential season of Advent to prepare your heart for the coming of Christmas and for the second coming of our Lord, its not too late to begin practicing the exercises of the St. Ignatius. You can find the full texts here, just keep in mind that they were intended to be lead by a retreat leader for a group of persons on a long retreat, so adapt them to fit into your life.