In the spiritual direction program in which I trained, the academic year begins with a September week-end retreat: an introduction to the program for first-year students, an introduction to the internship year for second year students, and a launching into the world for those completing the program.
During the Sunday morning mass, the homily is replaced by words from the graduation class. My class of September 2009, a cantankerous lot inclined to debate, could not agree on a speaker to represent us, and so we decided that we would all speak ~ limiting ourselves to two minutes each (there were fourteen of us.)
Yesterday, I found the sheet of lined paper on which I had scrawled what I had to say:
Tradition ~ my word. We have become part of a remarkable tradition.
Imagination being a big part of Ignatian spirituality, what I imagine is Ignatius at his desk in Rome, putting the finishing touches on the Exercises and thinking, In 450 years, somewhere on the North American continent, which we Europeans have only just encountered, there will be a woman ~ a Protestant, a group which is only just emerging ~ who will have some questions and be making some decisions ~ and she'll be about as adept at decision-making as I was on that donkey ~ and will need some help, and so I will send forth my little volume, and somewhere it will find its way to her.
It was like sending a message in a bottle ~ and the Exercises did make their way, and continue to do so, from Ignatius, to his immediate followers, to theirs through the centuries, to the person who gave the Exercises to me ~ and now from me to those with whom I have the immense privilege of sharing them.
My director always uses Ignatius' own language and speaks in terms of giving, rather than directing, the Exercises. I think that one of the reasons is that they are indeed a gift, the gift of the Holy Spirit through Ignatius to the whole church, the gift of one person being present to the journey of another, a tradition of gift passed down through the generations ~ a tradition in which we are all now embraced.
Image: Ignatius the Pilgrim, Wernersville (PA) Jesuit Retreat Center