Friday, June 20, 2014

Prayer in Daily Life

There are two ways in which to make the full Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.
You can go off for thirty days, usually to a retreat house, usually with a group of people doing the same thing, and spend your time in silence, meeting with a retreat director every day to discuss your prayer life as you make your way through the pattern of prayer "exercises" suggested by Ignatius and deeper into relationship with God.  The advantage?  Thirty days of concentrated time with God.  The disadvantages?  Time, money, those sorts of things . . .
Or you can do what's often referred to as a "retreat in daily life" or a "19th Annotation retreat" (so named for one of Ignatius' annotations in the book used by spiritual directors to companion others through the Exercises) ~ stretch the 30 days to 30 weeks (or more), spend an hour or so a day in prayer, rather than several hours, and meet with a director each week rather than each day.  (This is how I did it.) The advantage: Daily life experiences becoming a part of an intense prayer life.  The disadvantage: Daily life experiences getting in the way.
Some folks make 19th annotation retreats in concert with others; many retreat houses offer them during the academic year, with varying degrees of contact among group members.  The advantages: Structure, expense, perhaps community. The disadvantage? The loss of the individuality of timing and often, therefore, of the journey itself.
I'm accompanying someone through the 19th Annotation these days.  We've been at it for about four months now, and I am remembering something my own 19th Annotation director often says: When you see someone's entire life becoming wound up in the prayer, you know the retreat is starting to take hold.
It's really and incredibly wonderful, to listen in as someone makes connections between the stories of the gospel and the events and challenges of his or her own daily life. and begins to find in every ongoing thing ~  family life, work plans, relationships, memories, celebrations, crises ~ threads of God's love and activity previously unnoticed.
This is the best thing I get to do.


  1. I want to do the Exercises again - but this time as the 19th annotation!

    1. Well, there is some precedent for doing them twice ;)

      Wouldn't it be something to have the opportunity to make them both ways?

  2. I began the 19th Annotation in September 2011 and completed it in early July 2012. I met weekly with my spiritual director (except for a couple of weeks when he was away) but he wanted me to take my time so I did. It was an incredibly transformational experience for which I am extremely grateful. Now I long to do the Exercises as a 30 day retreat although it really hasn't been very long since I completed the 19th Annotation. Blessings to you, Robin, as you walk that journey with your directee.

  3. I made the 19th annotation retreat in 1995 with a community of Benedictine nuns and then again in 2003 in spiritual director training. Two very different but powerful experiences. I've continued with the spiritual director "assigned" to me in 1995. Powerful, powerful. Thank you, Robin - still doing the happy dance that you are back!