132. The Second Period

 

We keep the same structure for the five exercises as in the First Period. The contemplations are on the “Presentation in the Temple” [268] and on the “Flight to Egypt” [269] from Appendix B, “The Mysteries of the Life of Jesus Christ” [261-312]. Following these two contemplations there are two repetitions and the “application of the senses”.

133. Note:

At this juncture of the Exercises it might be helpful to try some change something in our rhythm of doing it. Maybe try another time of the day for prayer or similar “in order to attain better what is desired” [133]. This might be the case particularly in the secluded form of the Exercises, where on the second and third day doing only one repetition instead of two and so having four exercises a day can help to be more rested for the very important Fourth Period. We repeat again our conviction that God guides the retreatants during the Exercises and they can help each other efficiently in directing the retreat.

To extend the Exercises we can use “The return from Egypt” in [270], contemplating it twice.

 

134.              The Third Period

 

In this period we use for contemplation the “Hidden life of Jesus” [271] and the mystery of “Finding the child Jesus in the Temple” [272] with the usual structure of repetition and application of the senses.

Before beginning the Fourth Period we need to find time to reflect on the following material:

135.              Introduction to the consideration of different states of life

Throughout the Spiritual Exercises the expression “states of life” refers to our vocation we desire to discern and decide for or what we have already chosen and now want to strengthen and better the way we live it. This vocation first of all is the basic choice of married or religious life but it can mean also a major feature of life as a profession, occupation or job. Not every person who goes through the dynamic of the Exercises does it for choosing a state of life, but to find a way to clarify, deepen and strengthen the vocation already lived and to discover new horizons, motivations, inspiration and healing through this means.

For the kind of decision we deal with here we want to mention something that concerns that fact that the “Finding Our Way” presentation of the Exercises is made for companions and typically for married couples. The common goal for which all companions begin the Exercises is to live better their life. That general goal might be concretized in something they decide together. It might be that they enter the Exercises already with the desire to resolve a personal situation. Also if doubts are rising about their vocation, during the Exercises the companions can find possibility to deal with it[1]. In each case they will help each other as spiritual guides, for which role the companions qualify first of all because of commitment of love toward each other. Secondly, they know each other well, which is an important support in the discernment and decision-making. Certainly God will be present in a special manner in their encounters and will help them directly to support and advise each other in an enlightened manner. In case of married couples the grace of God, which is operative in their marriage is also an important factor that makes them excellent candidates for spiritual guides of each other. Love always helps us to know better the beloved person and to see him or her in a true light; in love there is the will for the major good of the other as well for the common good.

During the entire process of “Finding Our Way” it is very important the moment of sharing between the companions about the movements they experience in their own spirit and mind or see in their common life and relationship. The Second Phase is time for discernment and decision in a special manner, so the companions particularly need each other to understand what is going on since many times we cannot see ourselves so well as the other person who loves and knows us. This time is a good practice as well in listening and giving feedback to each other. It is very important to learn to give and receive sincere feedback so that it is not hurtful but a serene and open moment.

As we proceed with the contemplation of the life of Jesus, we arrive to a time of recognizing what decisions we need to do in this particular moment. Then we enter properly in the discernment process what we describe later on. This process is at the heart of “Finding Our Way” and once we learned it here in the Exercises we will use it again and again. We could say that we need to live the discernment, live in discerning love where our companion is a co-discerner to recognize “God’s will” for us. As we see with two eyes better, so two persons discerning together might get a clearer understanding of their decisions and help each other to a better self-knowledge and a loving knowledge of God.

 



[1] “If doubts arise in the retreatant regarding vocation, they should not be skirted but should be dealt with in the context of the retreat” (Cowan-Futrell, “The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola,” p. 104).