During his recovery from a war wound, Ignatius of Loyola experienced a conversion and vowed to serve the One Heavenly King and not earthly kings. However, this conversion did not come about immediately or without work. He began to read religious writings such as Saxony’s Life of Christ, Voragine’s Golden Legend, and Kempis’ Imitation of Christ.
After healing, he set out on a pilgrimage to Manresa for several months where he had another religious experience of transformation. He toured the Holy Land then set off for the University of Paris to study. During this time, his zeal for Christ grew, his doctrine matured and eventually he would develop a society that we know today as the Jesuits.
It was no easy task to join this society. Jesuits were called to be missionaries for Christ while living in a life vowed to poverty receiving the use only of the alms given to them. Before candidates were accepted to take on this call, they would be put through a series of Spiritual Exercises. Eventually, these exercises were released to general laity as Ignatius recognized the importance of spiritual practices in seeking God’s will and people’s continued conversion.
One passage in The Exercises reads, “During these Spiritual Exercises when a person is seeking God’s will, it is more appropriate and far better that the Creator and Lord himself should communicate himself to the devout soul, embracing it with love, inciting it to praise of Himself, and disposing it for the way which will most enable the soul to serve him in the future”.
Today, we have a plethora of practices and opportunities to grow in our own faith through Spiritual Disciplines. In John Wesley’s Sermons, Journal, and Letters, we can find several Spiritual Disciplines or Means of Grace. Wesley encouraged the use of meditation, prayer, fasting, study (of scripture), works of mercy and worship. In our busy society today, we tend to focus mostly on worship and prayer. During this time of Lent, I encourage you to seek other disciplines and practices that might be new and bring you closer to God.