SPIRITUAL EXERCISES PROGRAM IN TEN WEEKS

Noticing a growing hunger for spirituality and a desire for holiness I felt called to set up a Spiritual Exercises Program to satisfy this need. Therefore, I setup a Spiritual Exercises Program with the duration of ten weeks.

METHOD.   The method could be compared to a “Tripod”--- incorporating three basic tools: 1) A weekly talk or presentation on the Ignatian theme; 2) Group sharing on the meditations of the week with the assistance and guidance of a trained facilitator; 3) THE DAILY HOLY HOUR.   The very heart of the program was to commit to making a daily Holy Hour.

The ten weeks were broken up into ten basic Ignatian themes or topics to meditate upon during the course of the ten weeks. Following is a brief outline of these ten basic Ignatian topics.

1.     Week 1: Principle and Foundation.   The presentation consists of three basic ideas: 1) A brief biographical sketch of Saint Ignatius of Loyola; 2) Prayer Method.  The Ignation prayer method of the three powers of the soul is explained; 3) Finally, Principle and Foundation is explained.  After the topics have been explained the facilitators give the retreatants a binder with notes on the topic to start their retreat.

2.    Week 2: SIN.   The triple sin is explained for the meditation this second week. Furthermore, a short catechesis on sin is given, taken from Pope John Paul II’s document  Reconciliation and Penance.  Specifically the five effects of sin of the document are explained: Theological, Social, Personal, Ecclesial, and Cosmic. After this presentation the retreatants break up into small groups—about ten in number—then with the help of the facilitator everybody shares for a few minutes one of the fruits of their meditations.   Then off to work on the meditations for the second week.

3.    Week 3: Effects of sin and the four last things.   This week, following up on the topic of sin, the retreatants are invited to meditate upon the consequences of sin by meditating upon the sin of David. Furthermore, the meditation on the four last things is given: Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell.

4.    Week 4:  The seven Capital sins.  This week the retreatants are challenged to zoom in on their own hearts and see the disordered tendencies we all have as a result of Original Sin--- the seven Capital sins. Tan Publisher has an excellent booklet on the seven capital sins that are given to all. Every day a different Capital sin is meditated upon as well as the invitation to practice the opposite virtue! Lust and the importance of purity are highlighted—given that this sin has such a stronghold in modern society. Furthermore, Pope Paul’s encyclical “Humanae vitae” is given as supplementary reading.

5.    Week 5: Examination of conscience, sin and God’s mercy.   This week might be considered the apex of the Program. The reason being is the intense preparation we insist upon that all make a General Confession of their whole life.  Given that there has been such a weak catechesis, especially on both sin and Confession, we make a concerted effort to help them to make the best confession in their life by making a General Confession.  At the end of the week we get as many priests as we can to hear general confessions. This is probably one of the biggest struggles of the Program--- to get enough priests to hear these general confessions.  We have had more than 200 people making the Program; so imagine the need for priests for this monumental task. Hours and slots are set up for the people to come to make their general confession with respective priests available.  The peace and joy and outpouring of graces in this juncture of the Exercises Program is almost beyond explanation.

6.    Week 6:   The Call of the King and the five Joyful Mysteries.  Moving on in the Ignatian Scheme, the sixth week the Call of the King is given with the grace of being open to listening to His voice is presented. Furthermore, we introduce the people into Contemplation with the five joyful mysteries. By the way, during the whole course of the ten week Program we insist upon the silent but powerful presence of Mary. Actually we insist that they ask Mary to pray with them and pray for them.   The quickest, easiest and shortest path to Jesus is through the Immaculate Heart of Mary!  (St. Louis de Montfort).

7.    Week 7:  THE IGNATIAN CLASSICS!   The seventh week is the most packed week with respect to topics that we call the week of the “Ignatian classics”.    We presume to offer them the following meditations and exercises:  The Two Standards, the three classes of men, the three grades of humility, a Plan of Life/Reform of life. Also we try to gently introduce them into the process of making an Election of state of life--- only a brief touch!  We insist upon the importance of making these meditations well because these will be invaluable tools to be utilized during the rest of their lives to fight the good fight, and to run the good race so as to eventually win the well-deserved crown of eternal life.

8.    Week 8: THE PERSON AND LIFE OF CHRIST—THE LUMINOUS MYSTERIES.  The eighth week we arrive at the heart of the Public Life of Jesus. We insist that they beg for this special grace: intimate knowledge of Jesus, that you love Him more ardently, and follow Him more closely.  In other words, this week is aimed at getting know Jesus Christ in a personal and profound way, to fall in love with His Person and then be able to give up all to follow Him. Our hope is the words of St. Paul:  “No longer I who live but it is Christ who lives in me.”
                    
9.    Week 9: THE PASSION OF CHRIST.   The second to the last week we invite our people into the depths of the love of the most Sacred heart of Jesus—the contemplation of the Passion of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As supplementary sources we invite them to view the Film of Mel Gibson, the Passion of the Christ, as a means by which they can have graphic scenes to grab on to and to plumb the depths of the love of Christ.  With respect to the Passion of Christ, we underline the Ignatian point that Jesus in His excruciating suffering did not simply die for a multitude of faceless humanity. Rather, Jesus died for you  personally as if you were the only person in the world and He would do it countless times just for you. How precious you are individually in the eyes of God.

10.Week 10.  THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS FROM THE DEAD.    Jesus is truly risen from the dead, Alleluia!   The concluding week, following the Ignatian scheme, we give our people the Resurrection of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  We insist that they beg for that very special grace of the 4th week of the Exercises--- our tenth week!--- and that is most intense joy. Recall the words of the Apostle Saint Paul:  “Rejoice in the Lord, I say it again: rejoice in the Lord!” (Phil. 4:4)    We encourage the people to contemplate the Lord’s glorious victory over the devil, sin, and death by meditating on the Risen Lord. This grace of moral and spiritual victory is open to all!

11. WEEK 11. CONTEMPLATION TO ATTAIN LOVE.  At times, according to the Parish schedule and the church Liturgical year, we offer an eleventh week. In this week we encourage them to persevere in their daily meditations. We invite them to ongoing programs of formation to persevere in their spiritual marathon.  We offer Perseverance talks which I give every Friday--- ongoing formation in spirituality. We offer four-day retreats as well as eight-day retreats. We encourage them to read up on Ignatian spirituality--- especially Fr. Tim’s books, and talks as well as his book on the Founder of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary. Furthermore, we encourage all of them to seek out spiritual direction or accompaniment so as to persevere. We also offer periodic Holy Hours and Mass so that we can pray together as a family.

One last note of primary importance! During the course of the ten week Program we explain to the Retreatants the 14 Rules of Discernment in a simple way that our people can understand them as well as to apply them to their lives.

THE SPIRITUAL FRUITS OF THIS TEN WEEK PROGRAM!

1.    Deeper prayer life in general.

2.    Art of Meditation and Contemplation.

3.    Art of Spiritual Discernment.

4.    An excellent General Confession—often the best in their lives.

5.    Habit of prayer. No longer hit and miss but a solid habit.

6.    Appreciation for both Confession and the Eucharist.

7.    Love for Jesus and Mary.

8.    Ordering of the disordered in their daily life.

9.    Hope for the future. Evil surrounds us but God is the Victor!

10.Apostolic zeal.  A desire to share the Good News to others!