The Year of Faith

As a means of encouraging believers to renew their faith and deepen their relationship with Jesus, Pope Benedict XVI declared a "Year of Faith" from Oct. 11,2012, through Nov. 24, 2013-a period that coincides with the 20th anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. Catholics around the world are encouraged to study and reflect on the documents of Vatican II and the Catechism of the Catholic Church during this time.

Education Of Desire: The Gifts Of Ignatian Spirituality

In accordance with Pope Benedict's declaration, and with the support of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Xavier University is contributing to the Year of Faith initiative by hosting a yearlong lecture series that explores how Ignatius of Loyola's Spiritual Exercises apply to Catholic life today. The series, titled "Education of Desire: the Gift of Ignatian Spirituality," examines the intersection between contemporary issues and the Spiritual Exercises, casting a new light on and inspiring new questions about contemporary moral issues.

The series is composed of six lectures from October 2012 to September 2013. The lectures, hosted in the Conaton Board Room, include a presentation followed by panelist responses and an audience Q&A.

The Spiritual Exercises

It took St. Ignatius more than 25 years to compose and revise the Spiritual Exercises into a handbook, which has since been printed into roughly 4,500 editions. The Exercises were derived from St. Ignatius' religious experiences and invite Christians to meditate on central aspects of the Faith in order to understand and apply God's will. The handbook, which is used by spiritual directors, guides Christians through the Exercises.

The handbook is divided into four "weeks," with each week representing a stage in the journey to spiritual freedom. The first week guides the retreatant to reflect on human sin, as well as God's boundless love. The second week centers on the birth and life of Jesus, and encourages followers to direct their lives toward God's will. The third week traces Jesus' death, and asks followers to reflect on the Last Supper. And finally, the fourth week examines Jesus' resurrection, and explains how to serve God in concrete, worldly ways.

In the past, Christians would go through the Spiritual Exercises during a month long retreat of silence and solitude. There, under the direction of spiritual guides, retreatants would contemplate and meditate to grow in union with God and to understand God's discernment.

Today, they are still taught to followers of Christ by spiritual guides, and involve daily prayers and exercises over a period of six to ten months. Sometimes, people choose not to complete the "full" exercises. Instead, they periodically retreat into the Ignatian Spirit for a few days to a full week, checking in with their spiritual guides to prepare prayer and spiritual exercises.