by Monty Williams, SJ
Reviewed by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D.
It is the best of times! People today are looking to connect to God in a deeply personal way. The Gift of Spiritual Intimacy offers us a guide to a world of mystery. It allows us to discover a life of integrity and passion that can transform not only our own lives, but also the world we live in. This book is based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola (1492-1556) who founded the Jesuit order, this book integrates the insights of contemporary spirituality with the experience of living in a post-pandemic world.
The author states:”The path of intimacy invites us to journey towards grace. The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius give us a guide to that path. They dispose us to be open, to accept, and to participate in the Divine Love that labors to bring all to the fulfillment of their desire.” Really the pandemic has made us all mystics, it is our nature. Our trust sense of ourselves is inseparably rooted in God, and our identity stems from our lived awareness of that union. Often we live unaware of who we are, the depths of ourselves are forgotten in the round of daily life, we forget God as our constant living source. Then our connection with God withers. Bit God is the Passionate One who desires us, and for whom every fiber of our being reaches out. Though we may live and die cut off from God, God never withdraws the divine love from us.
Incarnation enters broken and closed myths of security, civic and personal freedom, institutional acceptance, and established ways of behaving and allows us to see in those broken and closed myths the possibilities of redemption. Broken and closed myths, and even open myths, do not offer the possibilities of redemption. It is a gift. It is the offering of a God who desires our intimacy. However we live, that gift is always there, whether we acknowledge it or not, live, that gift is always there, whether we acknowledge it or not. Each of the Exercises has a list of questions to contemplate in prayer.
Ignatian prayer basically consists of three parts. First is the preparation for the prayer. Here we choose a suitable place and time for the prayer. We read over or consider what we will pray about. We ask for the grace we are seeking, and we ask the Spirit to enable our prayer. This disposes us to the state of praying. The second stage of the experience of the encounter with God. Anything can happen here. The third stage is the reflection on the experience. Did we receive the grace for which we prayed? How was it given? What were the moments of consolation and desolation in this experience? Why are those moments significant?
This book divides each exercise in this way. The first part disposes us to the prayer. The second part gives us the material of the prayer, while the third part present a series of questions to help appropriate the prayer. These three stages are all part of Ignatian prayer, but each has its own style and mode of operating. Each builds on the previous stage, and the final stage completes the prayer experience. Avoiding that stage causes God’s communication with us to be incomplete. We look back to discover what happened to us and how God speaks to us now, taking unto ourselves more passionately and intimately the experience of the Exercises. Sometimes it is only years later that we come to understand what happened to us in a particular prayer period. It is only in the process of living and reflecting that we come to the understanding of what has been given. This is a book meant for all who are willing and grace-filled to live the Exercises of St. Ignatius and transform the world!