Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Another method of meditation is Ignatian. St. Ignatius Loyola lived from 1491 to 1556. He is most famous for founding the Society of Jesus or the Jesuits. Ignatius was also a master of the spiritual life and can teach us lessons for our own prayer life. Ignatius provides us with a model for prayer in his Spiritual Exercises. Ignatius recommends that we first start our time in prayer by asking God to help and direct us to focus on Him. Next, as we begin our meditation on a subject or Scripture, Ignatius recommends imagining the setting so that it will be easier to stay focused on God. The final stage of preparation is to ask God what we would like to receive from our prayers. If we notice in our lives a common sin or disturbance, we want to ask God to separate us from these. Or if we desire to grow closer to God, then we should ask God this at the beginning of our time for prayer. All of these practices at the beginning of our time for prayer show the great importance of preparation for prayer. Just as we prepare for other activities in our lives, so, too, with prayer we need to be prepared.
As we begin to go deeper into our prayer, Ignatius advises us to be flexible in our meditation. First, we might consider the various connections to the subject of our meditation. This might include the Old Testament themes that are connected to the New Testament passage on which we are meditating. Ignatius describes this practice as using our memory. If this type of approach doesn’t work or we would like to move on, we might use what Ignatius refers to as the understanding. By this approach, the connections of the first type of meditation are related to our lives and actions. We might also move to a final approach to meditation that Ignatius describes as the will. In this approach, we can meditate on the feelings that arise from the given Scripture passage, or implications of that passage that arise from the first two approaches of meditation. We might even look at how our lives might be changed or what additional things could be done based on the connections of the passage to our lives. These changes or additions, Ignatius calls resolutions. The multiple approaches that Ignatius uses teach us that, when we pray, we must use what works and not stick to that which is not helpful in our growing closer to God.
Finally, Ignatius instructs us to conclude our time-set-aside for prayer by remembering what has happened, looking at what resolutions we might have made, and thanking God for our meditation. Therefore, we learn from St. Ignatius not only importance of regular prayer, but also the need for preparation, for flexibility, and for a proper ending in prayer.
In Jesus through Mary,
Fr. Adam Streitenberger