Andy Otto over at Godinallthings.com has a great piece today on the “Fifth Week” of the Spiritual Exercises, that is, the rest of our lives after we have completed a version of the exercises. Retreat people sometimes call this the 4th Day (every day beyond their weekend retreat).
The graces we gain on a retreat experience are ours forever and what we need to do is to recall them. Just as there are patterns that trip us up again and again, there are also amendments that we have made that have helped us to break those patterns.
I often say that noticing the evil one lurking behind me is a key grace I have gained from the exercises. Being able to recognize the voice that tells me “you’re not good enough, you’re not strong enough, or smart enough.” Many of those who sit before me in direction say the same. As my friend John often says, “The devil knows me real well” and therefore will know just how to keep us in the pattern of desolation, especially during difficult times.
Mark Thibodeaux often talks about the difficulty at time identifying desolation and consolation. “Sometimes it looks like consolation, but it is desolation…which we call “false consolation.” And sometimes it looks like desolation but it is really consolation, which we call “difficult consolation.”
Time often gives us the opportunity to better discern which it is. The relationship where we are having a great time with someone else can just be a “disordered attachment,” that doesn’t lead to deep commitment or even loving response. The career where we feel some resonance can fail to live up to the ideas of magis, where is does not push us to do more for God.
The Fifth Week is much like JVC’s motto “ruined for life.” After an experience like JVC, many report that they can no longer go back to their old ways of seeing the world. Simple living, care for the impoverished, being more socially active…are now new patterns of being. The same can be said about the exercises. Once unhealthy and healthy patterns are uncovered, we can not go back to seeing the world as we once did. With new eyes we move forward into the fifth week…the rest of our lives, where we are now awakened by God’s presence more obviously and with intention on our part.
So let us pray today for our fifth week experience. May it always harken us back to the lessons of the exercises and bring us into a more perfect relationship with God and others.