Michael Hansen is an Australian Jesuit retreat leader who has plumbed the depths of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola. In the first half of this incredibly practical resource, he has fashioned four retreats, each one designed to help us obtain the gift of inner peace and a particular desire: to experience divine love; to live in the light of mercy, healing, or freedom; to grow in friendship with Jesus; and to be of service to others. Each retreat is centered in the Christian scriptures and in the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises.
Hansen states that the four retreats revolve around six great gifts from God:
1. The unconditional love of God
5. Freedom and
6. Friendship with Jesus
In the first part of this paperback, he provides day-by-day resources for four week-long retreats. Each day's there are instructions for preparation, an opening prayer, a statement of a desire, instructions for an imagination exercise, and prompts for a conversation with God.
The second part includes "guides and helps" for the retreats with substantive explanations of Ignatian approaches to examen, entrance exercises, twelve ways of prayer, spiritual journaling, spiritual conversation, and discernment of spirits.
Here are some statements, prayers, probes, questions that spoke to us as we were reading The First Spiritual Exercises:
• "I see how God works in creation and me."
• "I give thanks for the graces of this week and ask myself how I might express my gratitude in action."
• "I respond to God as a friend, beautiful creature, or lover."
• "I review my day, hour by hour, to see how God is working in my life."
• "What time can I take for enhancing work life? For finding God at work in it?"
• "Every other element in my body was created in generations of stars. Physically, I carry the story of creation within me."
• "Where am I dead, drained, grieving, or entombed?"