The mystery of wonder involved in the Spiritual Exercises – a retreat to grow in union with God and to discern God’s will, developed by St. Ignatius of Loyola – consists of meeting people in their spiritual journeys with God. The wonder includes accompanying with love and compassion, helping people remember they are precious creatures of creation.
During this retreat, there are realizations. For instance, we could realize that we are living souls of God, forgiven by God’s loving mercy. These relizations are classified as moments of “wonder” because it deepens the relationship between us and Christ through his presence. I have personally experienced this “wonder” on my own journey accompanying others on their journeys.
I had the privilege of accompanying a professor from Loyola Marymount University in California through the Spiritual Exercises in an eight-day retreat. Her credentials and solid faith intimidated me. She had had no prior experience with Ignatian Spirituality. To better help her, I suggested a couple of scripture passages, and asked her to go on a walk with Jesus as a prayer period. To my surprise, when she returned from her prayer, she seemed as if she’d been praying with Ignatian Spirituality for decades. It may seem obvious that her individual experience is unique to her. For instance, during my own spiritual journey into Ignatian Spirituality, I prayed for an encounter with Jesus, and it happened. In my prayer I spoke with Jesus, face to face. And then to hear this professor’s prayer experience while knowing my own affirmed for me how each of our encounters with God is as individual as we all are.
This is a type of spiritual “wonder” remains around us to help us awaken the great sleeping majesty of our wordless stories of encounter with Christ as a presence among us. “Wonder” acts as a companion for the voyager of Ignatian Spirituality.
Along with awareness, the Spiritual Exercises allow moments of grace and growth to happen while contemplating God’s presence manifested through actions. Prayers, for example, function as a moment of “wonder” because they allow us to see God in everything and recognize God’s presence. The Spiritual Exercises provide the opportunity to experience conversion, discovery, and encounter with Christ, teaching us that, while we are all sinners, we continue to have God’s love and mercy. In order to meet Christ, one must be vulnerable and open to God’s presence.
God is the cause of our contemplation. And Ignatian Spirituality serves as the oil that lubricates the engine of our relationships with God in His totality as men and women for others with “wonder.” Prior to my experience of the Spiritual Exercises, I had a solid vertical relationship with God where I believed he sat on a throne in Heaven, never coming down to meet me. In fact, I believed I needed to be pure and holy to come to God. Ignatian Spirituality helped me develop a horizontal relationship with God where I can meet him in everything and everywhere. Together. Hand in hand. As partners.