A person in the first phase of the fourth stage of life realizes that events are not as fortuitous as they seem at first glance. This is what has happened to me when wanting to share some highlights of the experiences of the Itineraries which we have adapted from the original Exercises and which, in these past years, I have accompanied in various groups.
How did this adventure of updating the Exercises come about?
If I remember correctly there were certain anniversaries and other significant events that ignited within me the need for this updating.
The first event was the 50th Anniversary of the Proclamation for a Better World by Pope Pius XII the 10th of February of 1952, and which was transmitted by Vatican Radio. February 10, 2002, all local groups held special encounters and celebrations.
In October, 2003, a Congress for Spirituality was held in Rome, and its motto was “Spirituality of Communion for a world in solidarity”. There was a first phase of preparation in the local groups, where we were invited to listen to the various experiences in parishes and dioceses regarding their realities and the horizons that the Diocesan or Parish Renewal Projects opened up before them. I don’t wish to evaluate this congress at this moment. But I must point out my frustration, disappointment and disillusion, on that occasion, not necessarily to express my disapproval, but because it triggered a search for what no one seemed to want or could not pursue. The Congress was an accommodating exultation of the supposed benefits of the projects, instead of taking on the topic of Spirituality as the initial convocation seemed to point to. Maybe I can make myself clear with what follows.
Another possibility that confirmed the search for the Spiritual way was Fr. Lombardi’s birthday, 1908-2008, and the International Convivenza that followed in the year 2010. I had the opportunity of participating during the preparatory period as well as during the event itself, which allowed me to revisit, with a different attitude, Lombardi’s writings, notes and memoirs. It was then where “Alas!” I said to myself, “here is the source…!”. That was where we needed to drink if we wanted to renew the charisma expressed, particularly, in the Exercises. My new attitude began in the new questions that I had regarding my own resistance to the projects, particularly in the Church of Europe. I now understand much better that it was not a resistance to the change regarding the pastoral agents. My feeling today is that the “water we offered then, did not quench their thirst”; however to this resistance I must add the challenges that the church and society presented at that time which without any doubt, needed to find light in the confrontation itself. It was a true challenge that with distance, time and psychology to shed light on it, I can understand how something so necessary had to happen in order to cross through the shadows and express the limitations of the projects, accepted until then as a total belief, within the Promoting Group. Today I feel free to say that the projects, today, are not the only expression of our charisma.
My search found a way out, I saw a light that was weak at the horizon, but served as a beacon to avoid the stumbles in the dark. The General Direction at the time, with Fidel Suárez as Director, decided to establish a series of commissions and one of them was the updating of the Exercises. The first success in this task as coordinator of the commission was to recruit Luc Lysy, a priest from the Southern Belgium group who not only accepted the task but felt totally interested and committed to it in spite of his many responsibilities. I must thank Fidel, for the support received since we started this endeavor; we both searched for help among the Jesuits, speaking first with the General Fr. Adolfo Nicolás who assisted us financially and led us to a meeting with Fr. Giuseppe Piva, also Jesuit, who was part of the commission for the updating of the Exercises of Saint Ignatius. For me it was a gratifying experience to meet with people that had experienced the former exercises. I can’t forget Juan Pedro, the first General Director, after Fr. Lombardi, recently departed, and Juan José Genovard, a priest from Spain, who has been in Puerto Rico for many years. I appreciate their contributions and the follow ups; we would have liked to share more experiences and knowledge, but distances and personal situations made it difficult for us to meet.
What Luc and I first did was peruse the documents pertaining to Fr. Lombardi’s Exercises. Due to his faithfulness to St. Ignatius, which he mentioned often both written and spoken, we also decided to revisit the writings of St. Ignatius. It was there that we found one of the clues, that Fr. Lombardi experienced naturally, characteristic of the Ignatian spirituality, which many of us collaborators did not, I should say: “Without a conversion of the person there can be no conversion of the Church”. (Translator’s Note: Unable to locate the exact quote in English).
The commission has elaborated and experimented, up to the moment, three itineraries that do not relate exactly to the three moments of the previous Exercises, which in turn related to the method of “See, Judge, and Act”. Now the Itineraries are an opportunity to experience a relationship between the three itineraries, which is complementary, but not necessarily as succeeding steps. The prophetic Vocation and Mission of the Promoting Group is seen and is carried out in the DISCERNMENT OF THE SIGNS OF THE TIMES, as the foundation of our service. We began gingerly within our own groups (Belgium and Spain). A rehearsal at the International level, in Rome (2004) left us with a few kinks and limitations that needed to be worked out in order for them to be shared. For that reason we supported the Local Groups, in their efforts to carry out the experience. The Mexican group has adopted the proposal and we feel that can cooperate to share the experience.
We feel that the moment has come to open the Itineraries to others. As a first step, the commission and some people who have experienced the Itineraries, wish to share SOME HIGHTLIGHTS that come about from the experience. We wish to promote a dynamism that can encourage, awaken, open new questions, and preoccupations so we are able to share them and guide people towards the experience of the Itineraries. In the commission we are aware that we have received the task of offering people and the Local Groups, the means for the whole Promoting Group, to express the charisma of Fr. Lombardi, as he did in his time, with the Exercises.
Here are some of the highlights that we share now, but that we will continue to publish every two months:
- The center of attention, the human being and the world.
- Discern the signs of the times, today.
- You have said … exercises?
- To live one’s own everyday life.
- The story facilitates the encounter
- When we listen to the spoken word, this generates a force of growth.
- The spirituality prevails to the pastoral one.
- The Gospel, a particular faith experience.
- Harmonization of the exterior with the interior (the without, with the within).
- The Itinerary, a way to experience.
- Accompaniment that is also witness.
Personal reflection and sharing
- What memories and experiences can you evoke from the “previous” Exercises, and which topics would you point out?
- How have you experienced the relationship between the Exercises and the service that you offer within your Local Group?
- What are your thoughts regarding the updating of the Exercises?
 “Una obra en su contexto”. Text by Luc Lysy.