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Spiritual Exercises S1

by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

MP3 Disc 1 Received from Breslin

These Sermons were taped by Daniel Peper who
traveled and taped Fr. Hardon from 1990 to 1995

  1. Day 8: The Purification of Our Lady and the Presentation in the Temple
  2. The Finding in the Temple
  3. The Hidden Life of Christ
  4. Day 9: The Two Standards

…meditation here for those who have not received ashes….I’d be happy to… and I actually still got to get mine. No priest around here, so I’ll have to find one. But…(10 second loss of recording)…to those who have not received them.

Secondly, at nine o’clock I’ve a call coming from Washington which I have to be on deck for, so from nine to about 9:15, I’ll be out of circulation. Then how many did you schedule for today?

Woman Retreatant:(cannot hear most of what she says)….”Dr. West”

Well, so, at any rate from 8:30 to 9:00 and until 9:15 for an hour or whatever, provided I…. How many?

Woman Retreatant: “Three”

O.K. I want to get my second meal today which I hope to get after we finish our conferences. Then, if anybody got a copy of that little leaflet on The Devil and Divine Providence, read it, because the Devil is part of God’s providence. Mysterious. We call it God’s permissive providence.

And then, to get ourselves in sequence, I believe, our first full day was last Wednesday.

Retreatant: “Thursday.”

Was it?

Retreatant: “We got a start Wednesday night. Thursday was our first day.”

So, Monday. We met on Wednesday a week ago, so the first full day was then Thursday; Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. Today, then, is the seventh full day.

Now we did go over, unless I’m mistaken, the matter, up to and including today, in our previous meeting. So that then today is the end of the seventh. Tomorrow will be the eighth day. Then tomorrow being Thursday… Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday…five days, or in terms of sequence tomorrow then is the eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh, twelfth….so we’ll then cover from the eighth to the twelfth day tonight, which means in Ignatian language, points for meditation; points meaning the preparation, the anticipation. This, by the way for four centuries, to be exact four hundred and fifty years, that authentic Ignatian Retreats are given. In other words, someone who is directing the Retreat gives what he calls the points for meditation.

The Spiritual Exercises, themselves, are St. Ignatius’ own summary of his own spiritual exercises. And that then has become the model for the Exercises ever since. And what then those who direct the Exercises are supposed to do is use what Ignatius put together as a summary of his own spiritual exercises.

I think we’ve said this before: the Spiritual Exercises that are now in print are what St. Ignatius used under divine inspiration when he first for almost a year made the first Spiritual Exercises. And then he continued refining them until almost the day of his death, so what we have now, which are called the Spiritual Exercises, are St. Ignatius’ own experience, beginning with his conversion and on through his, well, the year of his death, which was thirty-five years later. But then those who direct the Retreats are to use what Ignatius put together and then adjust, accommodate, conform, if you wish, to the people whom they are directing.

And just for the record, Ignatius also provided for those who want to make the Exercises, not only as you are doing, privately…those, thanks for coming, because it does help…but he even provided for those who cannot make the Exercises on successive days, so they would not be thirty calendar days in sequence. In other words, the Exercises can be made over a period of ninety or a hundred and twenty days, if necessary. There are certain days, maybe of the week or more, that might have to be skipped because of pressing duties.

At any rate, what we will do then this evening is cover up to eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelfth day, which five times three means fifteen meditations.

Let me repeat and emphasize: You are not making the Exercises if you spend at least an hour, an hour and a half a day in prayer. Am I clear? The absolute minimum. And three hours, whenever you can, or between an hour and a half and three hours.

So we will cover then….of course, we’ll meet on Monday. Yes, we will meet on Monday. I’m in the city.

And as I’ve mentioned, that I think Monday is… What day is that calendar day? March the 1st. I might, just by way of anticipation, tell you that March the 8th to the 18th I’m giving a seminar… ten day seminar to Mother Theresa’s Sisters here in Detroit. They’re coming in from different states, the Midwest region, which includes Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, and so on. They’re coming into Detroit for what they call a seminar. Now, I’ll be talking to them next Tuesday. In fact I’ve been called up by the Regional Superior in St. Louis. I hope then to be able to get back from that commitment by seven, but it might be 7:30. I’ll try to make it seven, if I can. That will be from the 8th to the 18th of March.

At any rate next Monday we’re meeting at seven and the following Wednesday which I think must be the 3rd, then, we’ll meet at seven.

If you will then follow me, the eighth day; the presentation in the Temple

Day 8: The Purification of Our Lady and the Presentation in the Temple

I’ll read a line or two, and then as I have been doing, not repeat what’s on paper, but bring out the focus of each meditation.

This day is devoted to three events in the life of Christ before he began his public ministry. Notice, these three meditations correspond to Christ’s, as you may say, his hidden life, even though the certain meditations are called the hidden life, but the word hidden life of Christ has two meanings. It means Christ’s life up to his pubic ministry. That is the basic theological meaning. It wasn’t exactly hidden, because even at Bethlehem he was obviously seen and then in his presentation, of course, he was seen; then, finding in the temple at the age of twelve. He was not all that hidden. Theologically speaking, the hidden life of Christ covers everything from his conception in Mary’s womb to when he first began his public ministry which began with his being tempted by the devil in the desert. So the first thirty years of Christ’s life are called his hidden life.

First then, the purification of Our Lady and the presentation of the Child Jesus. As you know, the second of February has three liturgical names. It is called the Feast of the Presentation. It’s called the Feast of the Purification. It’s also called the Feast of Candlemas; the Feast of the Candles.

So this first meditation on the Purification of Our Lady, on the Presentation of the Child Jesus also has a third meaning, namely, it is the Feast Day of the Candles.

Why? Because at the presentation what did Simeon say? He spoke of Our Lord as what? As the light. And that, by the way, is the reason why from the first century on, the Catholic Church has been using candles.

Anybody got a copy of the New Testament here?

Man: “Yes, Father.”

Thank you.

Man: “You’re welcome, Father.”

So, the Presentation. Here is what Simeon said; that’s Luke, Chapter 2, verses 29 to 32. Said Simeon: “Now Master, you can dismiss your servant in peace. You have fulfilled your word for my eyes have witnessed your saving deed displayed for all the peoples to see; a revealing light to the Gentiles.” That’s it. Verse thirty-two: “a revealing light to the Gentiles, the glory of your people Israel.”

Over the centuries and we can say until the end of time, the Catholic Church will use candles to symbolize Christ. That’s what the candles symbolize; symbolize Christ and the Light, the Light to all nations. A light of course. What kind of light? A light for the mind; a perfect synonym, for Christ as light is Christ as the Truth. The mind needs truth. And Christ revealed the truth. In other words he revealed himself. I believe I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating: We can safely say as believing Christians and Catholics that everything in this world, its highest function is to symbolize a mystery of faith. The highest function of everything in the visible world is to symbolize, or if you wish, signify a mystery of our faith. Thus, light for bodily eyes symbolizes the light that the human mind needs without which the human being could not be saved. What is that light? It is Jesus Christ who identified himself as the Truth.

We go on.

I’d like to hold onto these if I may. Notice, there are three parts to that first meditation: purification and presentation, then Simeon’s Nunc Dimittis, and then Anna, the prophetess. The Nunc Dimittis is of course the Latin for “Now, O Lord, you dismiss”. And how we need, how we need to know…and may I recommend…this being the first day of Lent….over the years, I think I’ve said this more than once, more than one Lent I’ve spent in memorizing the Gospels. If you work really hard, you can memorize a whole gospel, St Mathew, in one Lent. Of course, you have to keep repeating it and using it to keep it in the memory. Then maybe next Lent, Mark. That’s shorter. Then Luke. Then John.

It is invaluable to be able to have memorized the Gospels. Remember, I told you whatever we memorize becomes part of the treasury of our mind. Hear it. Whatever we memorize becomes part of the treasury of our mind. From the time we memorize anything, what we have as we casually say memorized, becomes part of our mind. It effects, influences, enlightens everything, everything we shall ever think. And I can say not only for the rest of our lives here on earth, for all eternity.

The memory is a priceless faculty, especially what that which I memorize is the revealed word of God. The Nunc Dimittis prayer that we should all pray that we’ll be able to say before we close our eyes on time and open them on eternity; “Now Lord, dismiss your servant in peace.”

Then, Anna the prophetess, and no coincidence this: that a woman along with Simeon, the man, symbolize, the two of them, the two genders of humanity. Both were privileged to see not only the child as a human, well, we can’t say human being….we don’t usually speak of Christ as a being human being. We can’t, theologically. But, both a man and a woman, and remember, she was a widow. And, I cannot tell you how much the prophetess, Anna, means to me. My mother was widowed when I was a year old. She at twenty-six, and her name was Anna.

So the Presentation has entered my life from infancy.

The Finding in the Temple

Then, the finding in the Temple. This is the only occasion in which Christ spoke from his conception to his public ministry where the words are recorded in the Bible. Of course, Christ did speak. However, and over the years in telling people, if there is one faculty that we better master as the fruit of the Spiritual Exercises, it is the faculty of our speech.

This is a safe statement: Not just most, I believe all human beings talk too much. What’s too much? Well, that God wants us to say. And there’s one resolution… by the way we’ll be coming back to this. I’m not beyond making, pardon me, recommending resolutions for those who make the Exercises. There’s one resolution I recommend to all of you: Before these Exercises are over, make an inventory of how you use your speech: how much you talk, whom you talk to, what occasions do you speak? And, on or at, what do you say? When, where, and how? Read in this context the third chapter of the letter of James: talks about the tongue… “the same tongue with which we bless God, we can curse.” And says James: “the most difficult faculty for a human being to control is the tongue.”

In other words, the finding in the Temple teaches us many things. But one thing I want to make clear is that Christ said only a few words. And what did he say? First of all, whom did he speak to? Now he was, we are told, in conversation with the Rabbis of the Temple. But as far as recorded words go what is recorded about what did Christ say? What did he say?

Retreatant: “Did you not know I must be about my Father’s business.”

Is that all?

Retreatant: “Why do you search for me?”

I don’t have my hearing aid on.

Retreatant: “Why were you searching for me?”

“Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that….” O.K.

And that simple statement of Christ, remember, the only recorded statement in the Bible of Jesus Christ for the first thirty years of his stay on earth.

And meditating, by the way…let me tell you…it is not how much you cover in terms of the number of words say as recorded in the Scripture. You can meditate not for an hour, but for a day, or for a month on one word!

In other words, it is to penetrate into the meaning. And this is what the meditations are mainly about. To ask our Lord to enlighten: “Lord, what are you saying?” And what he is telling me. And we can all be told, “Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?”

Over the centuries, especially the contemplative saints, like John of the Cross, Teresa Avila, have written extensively on the hidden God. God’s ways are mysterious. And if even Our Lady….we don’t want to use the word “chided”, but at least she was enlightened by her Divine Son.

Clearly, she did not grasp…searched for him for three days. And as a Mother, “How come? How come?” And among other reasons why Christ was not lost…he wasn’t lost…but, even his Mother did not understand why he did this. And he did it to teach not just her, but us, that what God wants to do in our lives may be painful. And his divine purpose may be hidden from our eyes.

If there is one thing we’d better learn and this is…I’m not exaggerating…a hundred lessons from the one meditation of the Finding in the Temple…this is just one: It is to learn that Christ does things in our lives which we do not understand.

We are forever trying to understand, dare I say, everything in our academically intoxicated society. I’m watching my language. Our academically intoxicated society wants to understand everything! That, in plain Anglo-Saxon, is madness! And the one thing we’re all not to prone to try to understand is the meaning of suffering; the meaning of pain. Let’s not be stupid. The deepest pain is not in the body, as Mary’s pain in quote “losing her Son” was not in her body, but in her spirit.

Trust God, he has a purpose.

And there’s such a thing as believing in the future, which is one of my favourite definitions for the virtue of hope. Believing in the future, that God has a purpose in the future for what I am enduring now.

The Hidden Life of Christ

Notice, this is the second meaning of hidden life. In other words, the primary meaning is the one we gave: First thirty years of Christ’s life on earth. The more particular and common place is the life of Christ after he returned from Jerusalem and then remained with Mary and Joseph for the next eighteen years.

And there we have three profound mysteries revealed. The obedience of Christ; the evangelist tells us that Christ then went back with Mary and Joseph after having found him in the Temple. He was obedient to them; God obedient to his creatures. And that’s the real test of obedience: People will casually say, “I obey God”, but don’t tell me to obey a human being. From St. Peter on, all the popes were human beings, and some were very human, human beings. And that’s one reason in God’s Providence why Peter made a fool of himself, to put it mildly, by denying his Master after having been promised that he would be the Rock. No rock he during Christ’s Passion. In other words, Peter, like the rest of us, didn’t want to suffer. Nobody wants to suffer. But, and this is in effect what a person does who refuses the Cross: denies his Master. And not coincidentally, and during Christ’s Passion.

Then, the growth of Jesus. When we speak of his growth, we mean with the Evangelist, growth physically, growth, we may say, mentally. Christ did acquire knowledge from sense experience, and most mysteriously, growth even in divine grace. Clearly Christ as a man, received grace as man. “And he grew in grace.” We’re dealing with a mystery.

We go on.

The Ninth Day: The Two Standards

The ninth day: The Two Standards. You’ll notice once you start the second week and into third week, then, we call them periodic interruptions in following the sequence of Christ’s life. They’re not really interruptions. They are key meditations; call them interludes between reflecting on the life of Christ. And this is one of those interludes: the Two Standards. And not coincidentally, it just didn’t happen that I got that little thing on The Devil and Divine Providence…I just got it a couple of days ago…and that I should be distributing this when you are to be meditating on the Two Standards, because, what are the Two Standards?

The Standards, call them banners, call them flags, in Ignatian language, banner. So we speak of following the banner, flag.

So there are Two Standards: those of Christ or rather that of Christ and that of the Devil. And I didn’t plan this because it’s some years since I wrote the article of which this is a reprint that you got.

For the purpose of this meditation, let me just, instead of going over each of the three meditations, let me speak more broadly about this ninth day which is all about the Two Standards.

What is critically important in our lives to recognize is that it’s not only that Christ called certain people to follow him. That is what most people think when they talk about following Christ. No! Christ calls, but he calls in order to send. The two words in Latin: vocare et mittere, or the nouns, vocatio and missio. In English, just the translated of the Latin: vocation and mission. What is vocare? To call. What then is a vocation? It’s a calling. What is mittere? To send. Or the noun mission. Christ calls certain people in order to send them. That’s why we are here. If I didn’t believe you people had a vocation to be sent by Christ to bring the Gospel to others I wouldn’t let you waste my time and I wouldn’t waste your time. And my one hope is that I’m not mistaken.

However, it is not only Christ who calls, and then calls in order to send, the Devil also calls in order to send. So much so that a number of the Fathers of the Church speak of the mystical Body of Christ, and the mystical Body of Satan.

And St. Augustine, leave it to Augustine to say this…St. Augustine says: And the state is used, has been used since the time of Christ. The State has been used as the mystical Body of Satan. Do you hear me? What a statement!

In other words, the Devil, shall we say, inspires certain people to follow him. But not just to follow him….no…so that then he having trained them given them both….well formation and instruction which is what we’re talking about here, having both formed them in his ideas and instructed them, trained them, then he sends them out to the whole world. To do what? To seduce people to follow Satan.

By the way, read and read carefully. I didn’t plan this, but I know what’s in that article that I read it or re-read it. Every person in mortal sin is an agent of the devil. Do you hear me? Every person in mortal sin is an agent of the devil.

To see that is to see an awful lot of what’s going on in the world today. He don’t have priests. And sadly even remaining in the active priesthood denying the very Christ who ordained them.

You’ve all heard about Padre Pio…one of his many quotable statements: Says Padre Pio, “Every Catholic priest is either a saint or a devil.” I wouldn’t dare say that. Padre Pio did!

And let me tell you, the Devil sure uses consecrated persons, ordained persons, as his agents. Let me tell you, the Spiritual Exercises are not pious rhetoric. This is real!

Consequently, the three meditations for the one day on the Two Standards are meant to bring out that just as Christ has his followers who then he sends to extend his Kingdom, so the Devil has his followers to send them out to extend his Kingdom. And the Devil is doing a masterful job in the modern world.

Let me tell you, having been ordained forty-five years a priest, I taught my own Jesuits theology for twenty-five years, of course, I have lectured on the Evil Spirit many times. But not until, I would say, our day have I become as aware of the power of the Devil as in our day.

This is our Faith. There is no other explanation under Heaven for abortion except the Evil Spirit. No other. There is none other.

As I’ve told people I’ve taught, especially the non-Christian religions: All non-Christian religions outside of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are polytheistic; many gods. But all these gods and goddesses…and the most malevolent deities in polytheistic religions, the most malevolent are the female deities. They’re the most malevolent and they demand…this goes back to the earliest reaches of recorded history…they demand sacrifice of children. Do you hear me? This is part of my standard course in Comparative Religion.

For us who have the Faith, they’re not evil deities. Oh, no! Those are demons whom these people worshiped as gods. As you see, this is enough for at least a one semester course.

We go on.

The Tenth Day: The Three Classes of Men

The Tenth Day: The Three Classes of Men. Needless to say, this means three classes of human beings. The feminists have sensitized even sane people! Isn’t that true?

So, there’s three classes of human beings. I want to spend some extra time on this tenth day. And, by the way, going through the twelfth, aren’t we?

What does this day’s three meditations… what does it presume? It presumes that we all have what we call inordinate attachments to creatures.

End of CD

Copyright © 1998 Inter Mirifica

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