Mark, you graduated the Spiritual Exercises in May, 2018. What would you say to those who commenced the Spiritual Exercises this Fall?
Be open to where the journey might lead. You may have begun with a specific plan or certain goals. You may however find yourself on a path you didn’t expect. I encourage you to go for it and to be open to what God wants to show you. The most important thing for me was learning to notice and to pay attention to how the Holy Spirit was communicating to me and then to respond.
What was a highlight in your 9 month journey?
The deep dive into Scripture. Growing up I understood God to be a strict disciplinarian. Through reading Holy Scripture and listening to how Jesus was speaking to me through the words, my image of God changed from a distant, punitive figure to an image of father with infinite mercy for my failures. I awakened to the realization that God is not remote, harsh, out there and far away. God is tender, kind, patient and within me helping me daily. I’ve discovered God is patient.
The Principle and Foundation was very impactful. Learning about indifference and practicing it was key. I’m less anxious and much more at peace. I find myself more present to the moment to address what’s at hand. It’s easier for me to let go of the things I can’t control and surrender my fears which creates a greater openness to allow the flow of life. When I bring myself back to the practice of indifference, things go better with my family, work, relationships and decision making.
What was your greatest challenge?
During the Spiritual Exercises my father’s health declined and I experienced a lot of disruption and difficulty at work. The Colloquy’s were a wonderful gift. These prayer exercises enabled me to connect to God and find stability in a deep and personal way. There were times I felt a sweet presence surrounding me and an internal warmth and peace that I drew strength from.
As you reflect back what were the outcomes of your journey with the Spiritual Exercises?
I moved beyond the rote prayers of my Catholic upbringing and entered into personal conversation with Jesus — much like I was sitting on a park bench next to him. I experienced being listened to and being affirmed by him.
Practically, I’ve become more patient with family and co-workers. I’m much more restful and have less angst and frustration. I’ve come into a deeper sense of rest and confidence in God. I’m more open to receiving grace on a daily basis. Previously I was much more closed, holding everything tightly.
For me the Exercises were a great experience, a time of real strengthening when I was going through a lot of transition. I’m very grateful for how the Exercises deepened my connection with Jesus.
Interview: Lyn Morse-Brown
Photo: Tom Morse-Brown