Pray the Ignatian Steps
In between Alter Hall and the CLC/Library, there are a series of steps including a statue of St Ignatius, the founder of the Jesuits and creator of the Spiritual Exercises. As we embark into Holy Week and contemplate the person of Jesus, consider Ignatius’ relationship with Jesus:
Ignatius had a great devotion to the person of Jesus.
While in prayer one day, he saw Christ with a cross on his shoulder, and beside him was God the Father, who said, "I wish you to take this man [meaning Ignatius] for your servant."
Jesus said to Ignatius, "My will is that you should serve us."
Ignatius was also told that his group was to be called "the company of Jesus," willing to go anywhere and focused on doing God's will. Thus, he named his order the Jesuits.
His greatest legacy is his Spiritual Exercises, which has been in constant use for 460 years. The Exercises lead a person through four "weeks" (a flexible term) of meditations and prayers.
Examining one’s own life is the object of the first week; greater knowledge and the love of Christ, the second; freeing the will to follow Christ, the third; and releasing the heart from worldly attachments, the fourth. Imitation of Christ and attachment to God are goals for the exercises that reflect the ambitions of Ignatius from his conversion.
There are exactly 10 steps, starting at the front of Alter or the Library to the statue of St Ignatius.
As a reflective prayer to prepare us for Holy Week, consider these 10 reflections modeled off of the Spiritual Exercises and Ignatian Spirituality, one for each step leading to the statue of St. Ignatius on Xavier’s campus.
(It may be helpful, but not required, to slowly walk the steps while reflecting on the following prompts)
The first part of the Spiritual Exercises calls us to deep examination of our state of life and what’s around us. As we begin, take a moment to reflect upon and name whatever you are most grateful for. Think about both the big and small things in your life that fill you with gratitude.
Next, take a moment to examine what is filling your life right now. What is occupying your thoughts, your mind, your heart? Include both worries and preoccupations, undone tasks, concerns about the future, as well as where you have found joy and positive energy recently. What are the things that are taking up a lot of space in your life, and what are the things that aren’t taking up much space, that perhaps you would like more time for?
Where has God shown up in your life recently? How much time or space does God hold in your life? How much intentional time do you take for prayer or reflective practices? What are some prayer or reflective practices that have been helpful to you in the past? What people, places, or things have made you feel God’s presence more deeply?
We have not always acted as if we believe that we are loved. We have not always treated everything in our lives as a gift. We sometimes fail to respond to God’s offer of love by failing to love God and love our neighbor. Sin is the failure to bother to love. Sin is not simply the things we do but also the things we fail to do. Ignatius traces all this to a lack of gratitude—failure to recognize everything as a gift to be cherished, fostered, and shared. For Ignatius, ingratitude is the root of all sin. It is, in the end, the failure to love as God has loved us. What are some ways you have failed to love? What are some ways in which you have fallen short recently of the person you want to be?
It is important to have trustworthy people in our lives that we can rely on for guidance and to help us come to know ourselves better and engage a continual growth process that leads us to freedom and fulfillment of our deepest purpose. Who are those people in your life? Who would you identity as your closet companions or allies? How do they make you the best version of yourself? Take a moment to give thanks for their presence in your life.
Ignatius’s hope for people engaging with the Spiritual Exercises was for them to have a clearer sense of God’s active presence in their lives and a felt knowledge of God’s love. How would you describe your current relationship with God? If you were to engage a deeper relationship with God, what would need to happen? What would you hope for from that relationship?
One way of getting to know God is through the gospel stories of Jesus. Pick one of your favorite or well-known gospel stories. If you don’t have one, a suggestion could be the parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) or any of the healing stories found in Mark 5. Read the passage and place yourself in the story, as a participant or an observer, and notice what you feel, think, and observe. Based on that imaginative exercise, what do you sense of Jesus? What is encounter with Jesus like? How do the gospel stories resonate with your own experience of who God is?
We all need healing and forgiveness at different points of our life. Where do you need healing right now? Is there someone you need to forgive or ask forgiveness of?
As we contemplate Holy Week and Good Friday, reflect for a moment on the suffering Jesus endured as an act of solidarity with you and the world. Where have you suffered recently? Can you identity another person or group of people who is suffering, whose cries are not being attended to. Take a moment to lift up this person or group in prayer.
Ignatius believed that all contemplation must lead to action. We are encouraged to contemplate God’s love not abstractly, but in ways that help us see God’s love actively in the world and work to embody that love. How can you be a light and love for the world? What is your role in seeking justice? Where do you find hope? How are you called to action?
Reflection by Spencer Liechty