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Disciplines of a soldier for Christ

01 November 2011

Sister Gillian reads a commendation of Ignatian methods


Discovering the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius
Larry Warner

BRF £10.99
Church Times Bookshop £9.90

IN 1521, a worldly young Basque nobleman, Iñigo de Loyola, par­ticipated in a battle against invad-ing French forces at Pamplona in northern Spain. In the course of the fighting, Iñigo’s legs were shattered by a cannonball and he was carried from the battlefield, alive but help­less, and transported to his father’s home.

There he spent the next nine months in slow convalescence. Pinned to his bed, frustrated and bored, Iñigo called for some books of popular romance to while away the time, only to be presented with the Carthusian Ludolph of Saxony’s Life of Christ and Voragine’s Lives of the Saints. For sheer lack of any­thing more appealing to hand, he began to read, then to reflect, and, finally, to pray. Thus began the pro­cess of conversion by which this soldier-courtier was transformed into the man we now know as St Ignatius Loyola.

One enduring result of Ignatius’s conversion was a book that he called the Spiritual Exercises. In it, he lays out a plan for a 30-day retreat based on his own path of spiritual dis­covery: a period of withdrawal and reflection spread over four weeks. Each day, the retreatant would meditate on some incident in the life of Christ, examine his or her fidelity to Christian values, and make a deeper commitment to God’s service.

Above all, Ignatius conceived his Exercises as leading others, as they had him, towards making a life-choice. They would provide a catalyst for discerning God’s will in every circumstance, and move people to follow that will wherever it might lead. Ultimately, they would open the heart to love.

In Discovering the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius by Larry Warner, Ignatius’s text is re-presented in a modern format and with the needs of people today in mind. Warner himself is an experi­enced Ignatian retreat-giver, and there is a solidity and assurance to his presentation which inspires con­fidence.

As in the case of the original, this is not a book for armchair spiritual reading, but a manual for those who wish to incorporate the Exercises into their life. But Warner is mer­ciful to those whose time is limited, and rich in sug­gestions for alterna­tive modes of practice where neces­sary. Larry Warner is an Evan­gelical, founder of “b”, with a par­ticular interest in resourcing minis­ters and pastors. Into that slot his book might well be taken.

Sister Gillian is a Carmelite nun at Quidenham in Norfolk. She is a translator for www.dailygospel.org .

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