The Spiritual Exercises: Themes and Dynamics (Episode 3) — ‘The Person, Task and Function of the Retreatant’ with Fr. Ramon Bautista, SJ



Episode III of Radyo Katipunan 87.9 FM’s “The Spiritual Exercises: Themes and Dynamics” aired last Friday evening, July 23, focusing on the Person, Task and Function of the Retreatant.

Streamed live via the Ateneo de Manila University campus radio’s official Facebook page, the third part of Fr. Ramon Bautista SJ’s Ignatian Year lecture series emphasized how the full 30-day Exercises ‘is not meant for all’; the 30-day Retreatant’s Three Essential Qualities; the Director’s challenge of ‘taking the Retreatant where he is’; and shared a Detailed Checklist to be utilized when screening for the 30-day Exercises.

                Going over the 30-day Retreat’s strict demands of solitude, five hours of daily prayer, self-confrontation and utmost transparency, Fr. Bautista underscored the importance of complete preparation with the example of St. Ignatius and the young companion St. Peter Faber- who dealt with confusion, anxiety and insecurity.

“As such it is the responsibility of the director to screen their retreatants well and determine whether indeed, they can handle these demands or not. We can see Ignatius’ concern for tight screening for the 30-day retreat, when we recall how long he prepared Peter Faber for his long retreat. Ignatius wanted to give the Exercises to Faber but he knew he should be patient and not hurry,” explained Fr. Bautista.

“Commentators tell us, it took Ignatius four years just to prepare Faber, before Ignatius finally decided to give the full 30-day complete Exercises to him. With quality guidance from Ignatius, Faber was eternally grateful to him, affirming Ignatius as an excellent spiritual guide and director.”

Recounting his many years of giving retreats, Fr. Bautista then identified the capability to faithfully discipline oneself to stay in silent prayer; the capability to do prayerful introspection; and sufficient emotional-psychological strength, as the key qualities that worthy exercitants must possess.

“Ignatius tells us indeed, faithfulness and constancy to time and place matters so much when doing these Exercises. When we say prayerful introspection, it involves being mindful, being extra attentive to one’s inner movements of consolation and desolation- paying attention to them, identifying them, owning them,” reminded Fr. Bautista.

“The Exercises explicitly involve taking a real, hard look not only at one’s gifts and grace, but also at the same time, one’s sinfulness, shadows and brokenness. Part of this scrutiny and confrontation with self, would include the breaking down of some of our emotional defenses. That’s why many retreatants cry- sometimes out of pain, sometimes out of joy.”

Apart from following the Exercises’ overall prayer structure, Fr. Bautista also noted how Directors must balance this out, by “taking the retreatant as he is, where he is”, putting a much higher priority on his condition and interiority.

Before concluding his hour-long talk with St. Peter Faber’s detachment prayer, “I Beg of you, My Lord”, Fr. Bautista provided helpful guide questions that Directors may use, when screening Retreatants- focusing on their genuine desire; disposition to silence and prayer; honesty and transparency before self, others, and God; capacity to articulate inner experiences; and composed state of mind and heart.

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

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Watch Episode 3 on YouTube ( via the link below