Making the Exercises – last interview with St. Ignatius

This interview takes place in the Spring of 1529 while walking in the St. Barbe area of Paris.

Thank you, Inigo, for agreeing to make a last interview. This feels an important moment as I hear you’ve finished writing up your notes into a book called ‘Spiritual Exercises’.

Yes. I’ve put everything together in one book – a book of exercises.

Exercises?

Walking around the theology faculty here at St. Barbe is just one way of exercising among many! And it takes a certain period of time, depending on your physical stamina. My ‘Spiritual Exercises’ also allow for everyone’s different ways of praying. And similarly, they take different lengths of time for different people.

Since our first interview over eight years ago, you’ve gone through a lot: physical collapse, noticing and distinguishing God and ‘the Enemy’, finding freedom, using your imagination in prayer, following through your choice of a new way of life.

Wow! But things do take time, don’t they? I’ve divided my ‘Spiritual Exercises’ into hours, days and weeks. Hours of prayer, days of deepening prayer, and themed weeks. All of this is flexible and happens when it happens. Studying in Paris is teaching me the grace of setting things out in a systematic way. Experiencing things in my life is teaching me the grace of reflecting on how God works. Putting these two together seems right; content with process, history with mystery.

Have you added anything further to all your notes since studying here?

Yes. The world is changing fast. You’ve no doubt heard of Luther and Erasmus and their followers? My ‘Exercises’ aim to reform the Church from within and I’ve added parts that make that very explicit. You may have heard of the ‘Enlightened’ group and those who put their personal experience and freedom above everything? My ‘Exercises’ aim to integrate experience within common Church practice.

So you’re not a heretic after all!

Indeed. But making the ‘Exercises’ is so much more than putting the content together. ‘Making the Exercises’ is a process, something people actually do for themselves. And just to prove my point, here’s Peralta, Castro and Amador coming towards us. They’ve just ‘made the Exercises’ and how their lives are changing!

Inigo and his three friends greet one another as they walk past.

I am very interested in this little book of yours. Are you hoping it’ll be printed like all those other books around?

There are loads of books at the moment. No. Unlike some of the manuals of prayer, the ‘Spiritual Exercises’ are primarily not for the pray-er themselves.

Sorry, but I don’t understand?

Again, the ‘Exercises’ are a process which happens within a person. The book works as an aid for the one who accompanies the person ‘making the Exercises’ and doing the praying. For example, the process begins when God gives someone the desire to grow in their Christian life, to get to know Jesus better, to be freed up so they can choose to live out their faith more fully. This big-heartedness and openness to God is the start.

And then what?

Noticing this, the one accompanying offers some initial suggestions, what I call the ‘First Principle and Foundation’, and a reflective tool I call ‘Examen’ – a good place to start.

This sounds like quite a commitment, both for the one ‘making the Exercises’ and the one accompanying them.

Yes. I have just finished accompanying Castro. He took a month and is now changing his life-style, and feels called to work in Spain when he’s completed his studies.

And what about you, Inigo. What will you do after Paris?

I don’t know. But I’m not alone. Over these years there’s grown quite a group of us and I’m beginning to get a sense that we might have a distinctive part to play. Conversations with my room-mates Pierre Favre and Francis Xavier suggest that the time is ripe for action. I’ve enjoyed helping Lainez, Salmeron, Alonso, and Rodrigues – so, we’ll see.

Following you over these years, I’m staggered to see how much you’ve changed.

In some ways nothing has changed. God made me the way I am, just as God made you the way you are. In other ways, everything has changed! Getting in touch with my true self and heart’s desire all those years ago is the key which is still unlocking the presence of God in my life and always bringing out the best in me. And you?

I didn’t think I’d be saying this today, but I’m actually quite keen to ‘make the Exercises’ for myself. Any chance we might….

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