Do you know how to pray? Do you know how to discern the will of God? How do you best fulfill the mission of your life and give God the greatest glory? These are among the most foundational questions in life. One of the best ways to answer each one of these questions in your life is through the spiritual teachings of Saint Ignatius of Loyola.
Between the years of 1522–1541, Saint Ignatius of Loyola completed what has come to be known as one of the greatest spiritual masterpieces of all time: The Spiritual Exercises. This relatively short book is packed with deep insights and guidelines for one who wants to grow in holiness by encountering God on a 30-day retreat. In a sense, this retreat is the “mother of all retreats” on account of its length, method and depth.
In our day and age, within our fast-paced society, few people are able to go off and enter into silence and solitude for 30 days and to thus benefit from the fruitfulness of the full experience of Saint Ignatius’ retreat format. However, many people today are searching for ways to deepen their relationship with our divine Lord.
The goal of this current three-part book, Probing the Depths, is to present the wisdom and spiritual lessons set forth by Saint Ignatius in The Spiritual Exercises in a format you can incorporate into your daily life throughout the Liturgical Year. A summary of the three parts of this book is as follows:
Part One presents a brief introduction to the life of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, offers an introduction to his masterpiece The Spiritual Exercises, and gives an overview of ten lessons taught by Saint Ignatius in The Spiritual Exercises. These lessons provide a basis for his unique spiritual approach and will be exceptionally useful in a practical way, especially as it pertains to daily discernment and fulfillment of the will of God. These chapters should be read and re-read so that they become practiced in your daily life.
Part Two of this book contains sixty-nine guided meditations on the topics Saint Ignatius recommends for his 30-day retreat. These meditations were written using the methods of meditation, contemplation and application of the senses that are taught by Saint Ignatius. These meditations are arranged according to the Liturgical Year of the Church, which makes it possible to incorporate them into the daily rhythm of your life. A more detailed explanation of this arrangement of the meditations is found in the Introduction to Part Two.
Part Three of this book provides some additional prayer material that can be used throughout the year. Specifically, it provides three forms of examination of conscience, a daily and weekly examen format based on the five points of Saint Ignatius’ Daily General Examen, and some morning, afternoon and evening prayers.
In his initial instructions for the retreat, in the 18th and 19th Annotations, Saint Ignatius acknowledges that some people will need to adapt these exercises to their state in life. Thus, for those who live a busy life in the world, the Exercises may need to be extended over many weeks rather than completed within 30 days. Therefore, these meditations have been adapted to meet this need.
If you do not make a weekly holy hour of adoration, the meditations and prayers in this book can also be used on a regular basis during your daily and/or weekly prayer time in any quiet place. However, the meditations are written specifically with a holy hour of adoration in mind.
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About the Author
"John Paul Thomas" is the pen name this Catholic priest chose in honor of the Apostles Saints John and Thomas and the great evangelist Saint Paul. This name also evokes the memory of the great Pope Saint John Paul II.
John is the beloved apostle who sought out a deeply personal and intimate relationship with his Savior. Hopefully the writings in this book point us all to a deeply personal and intimate relationship with our God. May John be a model of this intimacy and love.
Thomas is also a beloved apostle and close friend of Jesus but is well known for his lack of faith in Jesus' resurrection. Though he ultimately entered into a profound faith crying out, "my Lord and my God," he is given to us as a model of our own weakness of faith. Thomas should inspire us to always return to faith when we realize we have doubted.
As a Pharisee, Paul severely persecuted the early Christian Church. However, after going through a powerful conversion, he went on to become the great evangelist to the gentiles, founding many new communities of believers and writing many letters contained in Sacred Scripture. His letters are deeply personal and reveal a shepherd's heart. He is a model for all as we seek to embrace our calling to spread the Gospel.