Monday, August 20, 2012

The Purpose of Ignatian Repetition

The following was posted this morning on the dotMagis blog of Loyola Press, from which I've "borrowed" the title of my post: 

Howard Gray, SJ, explains why much of the prayer in the Spiritual Exercises is repetition—multiple meditations on the same subjects or scripture passages.

The repetitions are efforts to engage mystery, to center on the depth of riches within revelation, and to discover how God specifically invites this particular man or woman to find the meaning of a gospel event for him or her.

In other words, the aim of Ignatian repetition is to personalize prayer. For example, a person hears Mary’s yes in Luke 1:38. In the initial encounter with this scene, the yes of Mary may have been admirable, challenging, and vaguely inviting. In the course of the prayers of repetition, the man or woman making the Exercises may begin to feel drawn to pronounce his or her own yes, to recognize a developing attraction to stand with Mary in personal solidarity with her kind of discipleship. Such a movement will lead in time to a willingness to stand with Mary beneath the cross of her son.

Howard Gray was my director through the Ignatian Exercises. This quotation took me back to a morning as I sat in his office, talking about my prayer of the preceding week, and he said, "You're not finished with this yet, are you?"

"No," I responded in relief, grateful to have been heard and understood, and to know that there was no requirement to "move on" ~ to know, that, in fact, a deeper immersion was called for.

"So stick with it for this next week," he suggested.

I don't remember the substance of the conversation at all (although I'm sure that I could find it in one of the several journals I filled that year).  

What I do remember is how much I learned about prayer from that brief interaction ~ how important repetition is in prayer, how essential it is, in plumbing our relationship with God, to reflect, to wonder, to savor, to wander around, to repeat.  Again and again and again.


  1. taking another look at Ignatius myself of late, in part nudged by what you've been writing -- and I thank you!