R e f l e c t i o n

Ignatius understood that he was standing on Holy ground.

He took off his shoes and he knelt.

Today, as we celebrate St Ignatius feast day, you may wonder about ‘Saint’ and

think ‘I am just in the pews, his way above anything possible for me’.

But this was not Inigo’s way.


We have many experts about everything, even in Theology, so much so that a

simple confidence may be lost to believe that we too can have the intimacy with

God that we desire. Ignatius advises the director accompanying the pilgrim “For

it is not so much knowledge that fills and satisfies the soul, but rather the

intimate feeling and relishing of things.” (Sp. Ex:1)


‘Inigo’ as he was known as a young man, recounts his story with God in a series

of prayers that he called ‘exercises’, a progression of steps, a series of unfolding

dispositions that he learned as a ‘student’ in God’s classroom of love. They are

not for reading about but living through. Inigo’s path is experiential, lived, and

that is the wonderful gift, they are not for fitting into but becoming, discerning

where is God now?


We ask to open our hearts to ourselves, paying attention to the

shifts/movements that are arise, the simple feelings of irritation, hurt,

peacefulness, the ‘desolations’ and ‘consolations’. There are always voices,

nagging, corrupting, usually concerned with our self-image, but what is the after

taste, are you consoled or dejected? Pay attention, ‘listen, what is happening

now, where is God?’ Stay close, where is relish, the intimate feeling?

Let God be our ‘expert’… the director ‘should leave the Creator to work directly

with his creature, and the creature with the Creator and Lord.’ (Sp. Ex:15)


Ahh… what is your heart saying now?


To talk of prayer, we talk of the life-blood of everything. It is the conversation of

the spirit moving amongst us today, in each heart and in each particular way we

are called.


We are in times of disturbance in the church, which is healthy, much about the

functioning of the church body must change. But for the faithful, or for those

called to this, we want to know ourselves, we want to be known by God, we

desire the intimacy, the lived deep faith of our experiences to live on the path

which is God’s way.


Suscipe, Ignatius radical prayer, ‘Take Lord receive…’ reflects God’s breath

living in Ignatius. How intimate is this love, how close and tender. We can know

that the Shepherd does come for each of us, in our ordinary day, in our

brokenness. In each decision, in each moment surrendered.


Very early in Ignatius’s conversion, in fact on his recovery bed with his life

shattered, he was surprised to find unexpected thoughts, desires arising in him,

‘movements,’ that were not the usual, and he took notice.


We are capable of taking notice when we are broken. When we suffer we are

helpless but available, ‘what is the way out?’ we wonder. Ignatius’s self image

was shattered, his pain tremendous, the pathway he had expected for his life

blocked. A book describing the lives of Saints appears in his life, and now he

finds a roadmap, something that he may become. His heart is awake.


The initial chaos. Upward and downward forces, conflicting impulses, stains,

clots, dense marks that need to be removed, ‘Ask for the internal knowledge of

my disorders and the disorders of the world’ (Sp Ex. 62)


His (and our) relinquishment is neither easy nor comfortable. It is done in

response to a longing, a ‘call’. Ignatius falls into a kind of madness as he

encounters himself. Don’t we all when we so want to be different and yet we are

as we are? Slowly, in time, we can understand that this is exactly how we are

loved, not because of our mad ‘disturbances’ of gaining love by doing and



Ignatius says in modern language ‘pay attention’. Our days and our entire life

are filled with openings and closings, expanding and contracting, defending or

yielding. But now, in this moment, where is God? Where are you invited, what

strange and difficult part of yourself must you know and relinquish to be with



Discernment is to weigh these movements; which is from God; which is from

oneself? By discerning we learn indifference, to know our closed and

preferential minds.


Preferences are about us.


In the darkness and night, we lose our way. At the same time, they allow us to

go far beyond ourselves and away from situations where we might stop

progressing: “Contemplate how the divinity is hidden” (Sp. Ex.196)

Many things will assault us, knock us to our knees, disable us entirely, but it is

here in our utter vulnerability that we find small or larger things of greater value.

We ask for the interior knowledge, where is God now, in us and in the world

around us? Is our heart beating…?


Caroline Coggins 26th July 2018
Caroline made the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius and spiritual direction training at St Beuno’s in Wales. She is an analytic psychotherapist, and a long-time yoga teacher in the Iyengar tradition. She is a convert to Catholicism and closely involved with St Canice’s Parish at Elizabeth Bay. She has experienced the power of Ignatian spirituality to form people, bringing those who are touched by it into a personal relationship with God.



Caroline and Michael