We interviewed Kathy a year after she completed the Exercises to discover what happened.
How were you feeling as the Spiritual Exercises came to a close?
I was hungry to know more. I’d been awakened spiritually. I’d connected to Jesus more deeply and in many ways, I felt like the journey had just begun. I didn’t want to go back to life without a regular prayer structure. I wanted to continue deepening my experience of Jesus and have someone to talk to about it, and I was intrigued to know more about St. Ignatius and the Spiritual Exercises. So, I decided to join Prayer Companions, for graduates of the Spiritual Exercises. The class checked the boxes for what I was looking for.
How is Prayer Companions different from the 9 month retreat in everyday life?
We meet as a group once a month, September through May. During the month we read assigned texts to learn about the dynamics and graces of the Spiritual Exercises. We use our journals from the 9 month retreat to reflect and deepen our awareness of how Jesus met us during the retreat and we journal how Jesus encounters us as we reflect and read. So, the main difference is, I meet monthly with a group instead of weekly with a prayer guide and I’m reflecting on my experience of the Spiritual Exercises whilst learning more about them.
What are the highlights of Prayer Companions for you?
Sharing insights from the readings with each other and describing how Jesus encountered us. It’s amazing to listen to how others experience Jesus through our common reflections and reading materials. It makes me joyful that others have profound moments with Jesus. It’s also illuminating because other peoples’ experiences are different to my own, which means I get to know Jesus through another lens.
It sounds similar to how Jesus appeared to different disciples right after the resurrection. They also got to share with one another how Jesus met them, right?
Right! Two things happen for me: I receive insights from others about Jesus and how they were affected by Him and secondly, I don’t feel alone! We connect with each other through our individual and common experience of Jesus within our prayer. It’s strengthening, encouraging and exciting all at the same time!
Tell me a little more about the texts you’re reading.
Draw Me Into Your Friendship by David Fleming, S.J., contains a literal translation and a contemporary reading of the Spiritual Exercises. Personally, the book helped me intellectually to better understand the Spiritual Exercises.
Spiritual Freedom by John English is a wonderful guide that unpacks—in a gentle way—how practicing the Spiritual Exercises brings us into greater confidence in Jesus’ love and interior peace. I’ve loved grabbing a mug of coffee and a blanket and curling up on my couch with this book.
What else has been meaningful for you in the Prayer Companions class?
When we’re led as a group in guided Ignatian prayer. The leader talks about the scene and invites us to imagine every part of it: the environment and all the details, what people are wearing, where they are placed and to sense what the atmosphere feels and even smells like. As the leader guides us through Scripture to imagine the scene, I forget I’m in a room of 20 people and I find myself there in the bible passage experiencing it.
How do these guided prayer experiences affect you?
What’s fascinating is that I think Jesus is just speaking to me but, through the Holy Spirit, He’s speaking individually to each person in the room. I learn different perspectives during feedback which often gives me more to contemplate and take to prayer. Sometimes I’m challenged, shocked even, and I know I’m being called to wake up. I get a clearer picture of how I’m not following Jesus. I’ve certainly grown in self awareness and the ability to notice, and to pay attention to the movements of the Holy Spirit within me.
What would you say to others contemplating next steps following the 9 month retreat?
There are options for continuing your Ignatian journey if you want to go further. Prayer Companions is one way to learn more about the Spiritual Exercises, to deepen your relationship with Jesus and to continue experiencing spiritual growth. Another option is to find a certified Ignatian spiritual director, which is what I did. I benefited from both the Prayer Companions group experience and regular one on one meetings with my spiritual director to process my prayer.
Interview and story by Lyn Morse-Brown, MB Creative