A Background of ‘The Spiritual Exercises’ with Fr. Mon Bautista

Radyo Katipunan 87.9 FM’s Ignatian Year Talks, featuring Fr. Ramon Bautista SJ, began last Friday evening, July 9, with a comprehensive backgrounder on St. Ignatius’ famed masterpiece—the Spiritual Exercises

The first episode of a 10-part lecture series entitled, “The Spiritual Exercises: Themes and Dynamics”, covered the definition of Christian spirituality; revisited the ‘signs of the times’ of 16th century Europe; recapped the life of a young Ignatius leading to his conversion experiences; and retraced the inception of the book of the ‘Exercises’ itself.

“Spirituality should touch, affect every aspect of our being—the way we think, believe, relate and the way we love,” detailed Fr. Bautista in his online class’ opening.

“Every school of spirituality has its own set of terms, its vocabulary. Jesuits anywhere would understand ‘Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam’ or ‘Examen’. We also need to pray our spirituality, and a big advantage for Jesuits and those into Ignatian Spirituality, is we have our text of the ‘Exercises’. And hopefully, we can all the more live out, the very ‘spirit’ of our spirituality.”

Looking closely into St. Ignatius’ historical setting, Fr. Bautista highlighted how the “fascinating times” of the Renaissance, Exploration of the New World and rise of the Ottoman Turks, all coincided with Spain’s “Golden Age”—where commerce, literature, architecture etc., all flourished after the Reconquista led by monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella.

This world of “chivalrous romances between lords and ladies, jousts, duels”, as Fr. Bautista described, would heavily influence the teenage Ignacio, who hailed from a Basque family of minor nobility and was then serving as a court page under Juan Velázquez de Cuéllar, treasurer of Castille.

“This way, the young Ignatius exposed himself to feudal values and ideals, such as fidelity, fervor, courage, commitment and generosity. But the other side of this, was vain ambition, pride, gambling, womanizing—a life of immorality,” noted Fr. Bautista.

Captaining the severely outnumbered Spanish forces versus a 12,000-strong French contingent at the fortress town of Pamplona, Ignatius would then suffer a debilitating leg injury that would leave him convalescing for nine months at Loyola’s Casa Torre and making the subsequent pilgrimage to Montserrat—events that would completely alter his life’s direction.

“With much time for reflection, spiritual reading, and self-confrontation in Loyola, Ignatius became more mindful to his interiority—what was moving him from within. This included his holy desires, doing penance for past life, imitating the saints, serving Christ, and especially visiting Jerusalem,” explained Fr. Bautista.

“There in Montserrat, Ignatius gave away his mule, his fine clothes and robes and put on sackcloth—saying goodbye to his previous sinful life. He made a vigil of arms, offering his sword and dagger to God and Our Lady. All these indicated that Ignatius indeed, had undergone serious inner transformation.”

As the renewed Ignatius set out for the Holy Land, it was a detour to the town of Manresa—where he would go on to stay for 11 months—that gave birth to his finest work. Taking inspiration from primary literary sources such as ‘The Life of Christ’, ‘The Golden Legend’ and ‘The Imitation of Christ’, Fr. Bautista underscored the crucial role of “illuminating grace” in Ignatius’ composition of the Spiritual Exercises.

“Early Jesuits would use the expression ‘unction of the Holy Spirit’, to describe the divine inspiration Ignatius received at the time when he was writing. How could a rough and ignorant knight produce such excellent work that would be a classic in Christian literature?”

“To produce something so valuable and beneficial for our spiritual conversion and interior life, it must’ve been the Holy Spirit and its special inspiration that enabled Ignatius to create such a magnum opus,” he added.

Receiving much “illumination, enlightenment and insight”, Ignatius would also experience a major shift towards the “interior life” during his stay in Manresa—realizations that would ultimately shape his masterpiece.

“Ignatius now emphasized the interiorization of truths, ordering of values, an attentiveness to what was moving him from within—which he would later call ‘consolation’ and ‘desolation’. Ignatius would incorporate these into the Spiritual Exercises’ basic framework. Because of this, Jesuits consider Manresa as the ‘cradle of the Exercises’,” described Fr. Bautista.

“The Spiritual Exercises: Themes and Dynamics” will air on all Fridays of July and August, at 8pm. 

For announcements and the latest episodes of the 10-part lecture series, follow Radyo Katipunan via facebook.com/radyokatipunan 

YouTube Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SfnE3GnuN-U

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