The Craft of Letting Go
1. Let go your desire for information.
During the course of the FSE you may discover that you would like some information or instruction on the gospels, church teaching or spirituality. To follow this urge with immediate research or reading during your retreat will take you out of it and away from God. You will do better to note your questions and follow them up after your retreat (Spiritual Exercises 18).
2. Let go your desire for scripture study.
With the solid scriptural foundation of each exercise, you will receive a very good overview of the Gospels and their content, as well as insight into christian relationships and action. In the FSE, prayer texts are used to seek the desire of the exercise and to bring a person into relationship with God. Study of the same scriptures will be a temptation and distraction, and is best left to after your retreat. (Spiritual Exercises 2,4,18).
3. Let go your desire for faith education.
The FSE retreats do not have faith formation as a primary aim, but they do, quietly in the background, teach you almost all of the key Christian beliefs and values. Ignatius always gave both the FSE and similar exercises for adult faith formation in twin, parallel, mirrored ministries. Today, there are good adult faith formation programs available outside the FSE. So during your retreat, simply let your faith formation happen, without effort, while you focus on receiving each exercise and it’s graces (Spiritual Exercises 18).
4. Let go your suspicion of the sacraments.
Each FSE retreat has a Sunday Eucharist exercise. During these retreats, you will also be invited to receive the Sacraments of Reconciliation, Healing and even Baptism. Ignatius makes the sacraments an integral part of the FSE because he experienced God powerfully through the synergy of sacrament, prayer and service. If you have been away from them awhile, why not experience them in your FSE.
Alternative exercises are given for those faith traditions or spiritualities without sacraments. (Spiritual Exercises 18).
5. Let go quick results in Examens.
Each of the four Examens in the FSE is introduced precisely, in rhythm and beat, with the exercises made each week. The Reconciliation and Healing Examens may be preparation for sacraments of reconciliation and healing, or similar rituals. The Awareness and Particular Examens bed your daily life into God’s action in the world. After learning these Examens, you will pray them, without fuss in the background, and they will support you and all your exercises. Although graceful at first, the examens find their real power over time and regular practice (Spiritual Exercises 18).
6. Let go of your distant God.
Ignatius notes that your Creator and Lord desires you to approach and come nearer so that you can be ready ‘to receive graces and gifts from his Divine and Supreme Goodness’ (Spiritual Exercises 20).
7. Let go your normal ways of prayer.
During the FSE you will be taught many ways of prayer. Some or most may be new to you. Each exercise is built around the best way of prayer to bring you into the desired relationship with God. So using your normal ways of prayer as well during the FSE may cut across the dynamic or union you experienced in the exercise that day. Better to put aside your regular ways of prayer until after your retreat. Then you will have a greater choice of how to pray in future (Spiritual Exercises 18).
8. Let go your huge plans.
The goal of the First Spiritual Exercises is to take just one generous step in the right direction, not necessarily to make a major life change. Small, desired, slow, planned, confirmed, savored, realistic, free, habitual, fruitful steps are at the heart of these retreats. Only in this way can your progress be found, maintained, and kept (Spiritual Exercises 18).
9. Let go all anxiety.
The First Spiritual Exercises hopes to bring you a certain peace of soul. This deep inner peace is a spiritual consolation and a gift of the Spirit. Over your retreat, the FSE may stretch you in your desires, take you into new territory, loosen that which binds, and place you, sometimes a little awkwardly, into new relationships with God. This interior growth and renewing change may unsettle you, but in the end, God’s inner peace will assuredly dwell in you (Spiritual Exercises 18).