Group Retreat Day based on the Spiritual Exercises

On 6 April, the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola was introduced at Monash University, Clayton campus by Jesuit scholastic Robert Morris. This was the first time a group of 16 participants both students and non-students had a chance to learn and practice the Ignatius meditation. This can be applied to our daily prayer life to find God.

As physical exercises are needed for strengthening the body, spiritual exercises are needed to strengthen spiritual life to build a profound relationship with God. The first spiritual exercise was to contemplate Saint Ignatius’ life. The director also suggested ideas to reflect the Ignatius story to our own life to help us realise how God has been working in our lives. After the first exercise, we gathered to share our experiences and feelings.

Next was ‘Daily Awareness Examen’ exercise to review our day. During the Examen, the participants were invited to look at our day as a ‘slow movie’. This would help us to recognise graces from God to give Him thanks and times we were less grateful to God in our days.

After the lunch break, the participants learnt the Imaginative Contemplation way to pray with the Gospel. The director read a short passage of John’s Gospel about ‘Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene’ very slowly. We were invited to close our eyes and imagine ourselves in the Gospel’s scene. We could choose to be a character or just a bystander watching what Jesus, Mary Magdalene, Peter and John were saying and doing. Going through the way of Gospel imagination helped us to listen to Jesus and converse with Him. We also had chance to share our experiences after praying with the Gospel contemplation.

The last method called Discernment of Spirits was introduced to all participants to help us recognise signs of the Good spirit and signs of the Bad spirit. This would enable us to examine ourselves at the end of day.

Through sharing after each of the short spiritual exercises, the director and participants understood different experiences of our practices and feelings. Practicing these spiritual exercises daily by reading the Gospel for a short time everyday can help us to build a close relationship with God.

The retreat day concluded with the Mass which was celebrated at the small chapel by Father Lawrence Foote – chaplain of Monash University.

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