Finding God Through Ignatian Spirituality
A conversation with Ellen Zaeske, Program Coordinator, Ignatian Retreat
How Ignatian contemplative practices guide us through daily decisions that define who we are and what we do with our lives.
How do you explain Ignatian Retreat? Ignatian Spirituality is rooted in the conviction that God is active, personal and present to us. We don’t have to withdraw from the world to a quiet place to find God. God’s footprints can be found everywhere — in work, relationships, family, friends, sorrows and joys. It is often said that Ignatian Retreat trains us to find God in all things.
Can you describe one of the most common Ignatian practices? One of the spiritual disciplines is examen – a discipline for daily discernment. Once you get in the habit of using examen, you really develop spiritual eyes, and can see and pay attention to the movements inside of you. You reflect and ask yourself, in the last 24 hours, when did you feel connected or drawn to God in something – where did you feel consolation? Or alternately, where did you feel pulled away from God – feeling desolation?
How do you get started with examen? There are different formats, and everyone may feel the Spirit differently. But I like to first give thanksgiving – reflect on what I’m grateful for in the last 24 hours. Then ask the Spirit to help show me where I might have fallen short, where I wasn’t fully participating in God’s will, to recognize that and to ask for forgiveness. Then I pray for the next day. Longtime Ignatian Retreat practitioner and author Fr. Mark Thibodeaux uses five steps – the Five R’s of relish, request, review, repent and resolve – to structure his examen. (See graphic below.)
Can you share a personal experience with your own Ignatian practice? St. Ignatius calls on us to pay attention to our interior movements, our feelings and what we’re noticing, which may be counterintuitive to the way we operate in the everyday rational world. Recently I was asked to do a small group event, one hour away from home. I mistakenly left all my materials there and realized I had to present to the group in a different way. I walked in to the building and thought, “I’m enough.” What we learn in Ignatian discernment is intuition, so I asked, “If that is you, Holy Spirit, then Yes!! You are enough!” If the Holy Spirit is saying I’m enough, then that was consoling to me. I had peace. My old self would have been frantic and filled with desolation. To have been consoled that way allowed for something else to happen. I had complete divine peace. The Holy Spirit was in charge, so who am I to panic? God’s got this. This is what intuition looks like. I recognized where God is active, where God’s footprints are. Practicing consolation/desolation has really been the tool for me, the thing that developed my spiritual eyes.
Before Ignatian Retreat I don’t even think I could describe my relationship with God. Being more attuned to God’s activity in your life beyond the meditation aspect sets you in a new space. For many people Ignatian Retreat is their first time in contemplation. It’s countercultural in that way, especially in our modern world.
If you’re interested in Ignatian Retreat at Christos, take the first step by contacting Program Coordinator Ellen Zaeske, by email at [email protected] Click here for information sessions held in summer 2022.
About Ellen Zaeske
Ellen Zaeske, MS, M.ED., is a retired Christian counselor and worked as a Clinical Nurse Specialist in Psychiatry. She is a graduate of Christos Tending the Holy (TTH), class of 2005. She was the Christos Fargo TTH Program Coordinator 2017-2022. She was certificate trained as an Ignatian Retreat facilitator (2006), and has facilitated the Ignatian Retreat the past 16 years, individually and in a small group. Ellen was certificate trained as an Ignatian Retreat facilitator trainer (2020). She is a member of Evangelical Spiritual Directors Association and Spiritual Directors International. She is married, with two adult children, and lives in Fargo, ND. Experiencing and witnessing the spiritual transformation that occurs with the retreat has been a blessing and a joy!!!
Fr. Mark Thibodeaux, SJ, uses the Five Daily R’s as a roadmap for daily examen prayer: Relish, request, review, repent and resolve.
(From Reimagining the Ignatian Examen: Fresh Ways to Pray from Your Day)