Beginning on Sept. 23, the Spiritual Exercises have served as a monthly online retreat program that invites Jesuit schools, parishes, and ministries throughout the greater Los Angeles region to join. The program’s most recent event took place on Oct. 14 as a gathering for students and teachers to experience the Spiritual Exercises of S t.Ignatius through prayer, faith-sharing, and discernment. The key topics discussed during the event mainly revolved around the need for racial equity and how the community can connect the teaching of St. Ignatius to prevalent social issues.
Matthew Schaeffer, Director of Campus Ministry, said, “The ability to find God in all things through doing the examen has been very impactful for me and many many others. This is because it allows us to be ‘contemplatives in action’ as St. Ignatius says. We find God in the ordinary events of our daily lives.”
The Spiritual Exercises serve as a system based on discipline, order, clear goals, and objectives as well as the importance of self-direction. For years, Loyola has hosted activities such as retreats and reflections, offering guidance through spiritual conversations and providing spiritual direction in line with the Spiritual Exercises for faculty, staff, board of directors, parents, and alumni. The goal of this event was to foster a capacity for critical thinking, dialogue between faith and culture, and companionship to create agents of change and Ignatian leaders.
Theology teacher John Ahean said, “I think it’s especially important during these times to see where God is present, even if it takes effort to do so. With so many people struggling with isolation, depression, stress, and anxiety, it’s vital for people, especially students, to feel a connection with other people and most importantly with God.”
The Spiritual Exercises serve as a resource to confront God and connect with one’s faith. During these unprecedented times, these Spiritual Exercises can help the students, faculty, and staff find comfort in confusion.
Ahearn added, “You don’t realize how important connections are until you lose them. Like normal exercise for the body, the Spiritual Exercises help us in working out our souls and make us more connected spiritually. I do believe that this experience will make us stronger and more resilient, but we will also hopefully cherish and appreciate the contacts we do make and enjoy being connected once this pandemic has passed.”
Loyola emphasizes the importance of adhering to and practicing the Spiritual Exercises, as their impact on members of the Loyola Community continues into off-campus life and well into the future.
Campus Ministry Assistant Christian Astran said, “As our current seniors and alumni grapple with the complex challenges of a world that is rapidly changing and places every increasing demands on graduates of Loyola High School, I think that it is extremely important to see the Spiritual Exercises as the animating center of self-reflection and growth for every single graduate of Loyola High School. The Spiritual Exercises offer a road map for discovering the hidden parts of a person’s heart and I would hope that all of our students learn to use the Spiritual Exercises, whether implicitly or explicitly, as a basis for their own self-reflection in the complex world of 2020 and beyond.”