Accompanying on a pilgrim path

8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Isaiah 55:8-9New International Version (NIV)

I have just had perhaps the most satisfying time spiritually since I came to Launde. I have just accompanied a pilgrim on some of the Exercises of St Ignatius. I say ‘some’ because we are not doing the Exercises in the way they are usually done, in a Thirty Day silent retreat, but in three lots of ten days over a three year period. We just completed what is called the “First Week,” and it was a stunning experience.

St Ignatius really developed what we call spiritual direction but I have also heard him described as the first psychologist. He had amazing insight into the movements that go on inside people emotionally and spiritually: movements towards what is for our good and healing and movements which are self-destructive; movements outwards towards God and others or away from God, inward, self-obsessed, negative and isolating in character. St Ignatius also refined ways of praying that had been around for some time; a few going right back to the Desert Fathers and Mothers of the 4th century. These include the slow reading of scripture, stopping and waiting every time a word or phrase wake an affective response, to allow the word or phrase more deeply into one’s heart (Lectio Divina); the imaginative reading of scripture in which the reader is invited to enter into a story from the bible as if he or she were actually present; and, finally, the Examen of Consciousness – a time at the end of each day when the one who prays pauses to consider what has gone on inside himself during that day. Where did he feel most alive or most dull? Where did she feel most aware of God or another human being or the natural world? Where did she turn away? All of these exercises have the power to bring scripture to life, give a vivid, lived experience of God and convert the heart in a way which is deep and permanent.

During the Ignatian Exercises, the participant is guided step by step, day by day through Jesus’ life and their own life, reflecting deeply on both as they ponder all that God has given to them. It takes courage and commitment, as you would expect. But the journey for both pilgrim and guide is usually one of entry into the love of God that is beyond and above all human understanding and yet as close as breathing.

Launde Abbey will be doing the Second ‘Week’ of the Ignatian Exercises in November 2015, but we will also be offering six places on the First Week. Details are in the 2015 Programme on the website. You are very welcome to apply