One of the many joys and benefits of ministry at the Jesuit Retreat Center is the luxury of having time available to develop new themes for retreat ministry and also for publication. For example, these months of the pandemic has given me time to write about various aspects of retreat ministry and Ignatian Spirituality.
In the spring of 2016, I submitted to The Way, a journal of spirituality published by the British Jesuits, some insights from the Autobiography of St. Ignatius concerning how God communicates confirmation of our decisions. The late Cardinal Carlo Martini SJ of Milan discovered and subsequently developed these ideas during a retreat he preached for the California Jesuits in the summer of 1991 at Santa Clara University. During that week-long experience, I found Cardinal Martini’s interpretation of Ignatius’ Autobiography to be particularly pastoral and insightful. In the intervening years, I used these insights in my class on Ignatian Spirituality at the high schools where I taught, but I have never encountered Martini’s insights on the experience of Ignatius referenced in any publication. Thus, I expanded upon Martini’s insights and wrote this short article, entitled, “The Thing Has Been of God”, published by The Way in April 2016. An excerpt follows:
“Through the example of his life experience, and reflecting thirty years after the initial composition of The Spiritual Exercises, these two significant paragraphs from the Autobiography represent a more specific or developed presentation of the topic of God’s confirmation. Within these paragraphs, Ignatius describes five basic criteria for confirmation:
1. Clarity, for God is not opaque (he saw clearly a likeness)
2. Long-lasting, for God is not fickle (he never again had even the slightest complicity)
3. Outward manner (realized from the outside the change that has been made inwardly in his soul)
4. Profit to others (he did their souls good)
5. Desire to serve (great impetus towards serving Our Lord)
These five criteria for confirmation provide a very valuable and objective filter by which one can understand the whole of the Autobiography as a spiritual document. Not every one of these five criteria may apply to each instance of discernment that Ignatius has chosen to record for our benefit and example in this dictated document.”
In January 2021, The Way published another article of mine, “Do Not Let Your Hearts Be Troubled”, based upon remarks made by the late Archbishop John Quinn of San Francisco. Archbishop Quinn delivered a morning of reflection at Los Altos to the Board of Directors of the Jesuit Retreat Center in October 2016, and he based his reflections upon the Last Supper discourse found in John’s Gospel. I have never encountered the Archbishop’s insights in any other publication. Consequently, I expanded upon the wisdom of his comments concerning Chapter 13-17 of St. John’s Gospel. An excerpt:
“Jesus was keenly aware of the dangers that he faced. John’s Last Supper scene specifically states that ‘Jesus was troubled in spirit (John 13:21)’. Jesus subsequently warns his disciples twice in the Fourteenth Chapter of John: ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled (John 14: 1, 27).’ How did Jesus respond to the various ‘troubled times’ that he confronted? What example and advice does Jesus give to his followers who also face their own personal or communal ‘troubled times’, whether those in the first generation of the Christian community, as described above in Chapter Twenty-One of Luke’s Gospel, but also to believers down through the centuries?”
As Jesus faced his “troubled times”, these chapters provide a seven-point strategy for all Christian in every age in how to enhance and witness to one’s faith in whatever “troubled times” one encounters. These points are particularly helpful in providing a spiritual response to the pandemic and other pressures we face in todays’ world.
Fr. Kevin Leidich, a native of San Francisco is an experienced Spiritual Director and has been a member of the JRC Pastoral Staff since August 2014.