July 31, 2013



Exodus 34:29-35

Today marks the conclusion of the 30-day retreat at IPF. The Spiritual Exercises are a gift from Saint Ignatius of Loyola, who the Church venerates in memorial today.

Exactly ten years ago I myself made the 30-day retreat. During the Spiritual Exercises I came to know the person of Jesus Christ in a way that was far beyond my expectations. I met His mother and fell in love with her, consecrating my heart, my life, and my priesthood to her. The 30-day retreat was a game-changer. It saved, healed, and restored my priesthood. It taught me how to pray. It revealed to me my deepest wounds. It shed light on the darkness of my sin. It brought me out of fear into the freedom of a son of God.

During those sacred days I had two companions who walked with me every step of the way: Francis of Assisi and Ignatius of Loyola. We spoke to each other as one man speaks to another. We laughed. We sang. We prayed. We spent hours around a campfire which lives within my depths of my spiritual senses. We looked at my life ... my history ... my strengths ... my weaknesses. And ... from birth to death to resurrection we accompanied Jesus through the stories of the Gospels.

I don't know what kind of priest I would be today if it weren't for Ignatius of Loyola ... nor am I convinced that I would still be a priest today, for the temptation of grass greener on the other side of the fence would certainly have continued to sing to me. Today is one of the most important days of the year for me, for today we celebrate the life of a man who without I would be lost.

Many people ask me about Ignatius, Ignatian spirituality, and the Jesuits. Many people, especially seminarians, say things like: "I like Ignatius, but I am not a Jesuit." Here's the thing: there is a profound distinction between Ignatian spirituality and Jesuit spirituality. Jesuit spirituality is most apt for the members of the Society of Jesus (S.J., Jesuits). Their spirituality is grounded in Ignatius, but is really more about the Constitutions that founded the religious order.

On the other hand, simply put Ignatian spirituality is "finding God in all things." The brilliance of Saint Ignatius is that he found God in all things: in his prayer, in his ministry, in the excitement of spiritual direction ... but also in the ordinary monotony of administrating the fastest growing religious order of his time.

Most of us remember Saint Ignatius in the images of his recovering from surgery where "his eyes were opened just a little". Most of us remember Saint Ignatius in the images of the cave in Manressa, Spain where he learned about the spiritual life and wrote the Spiritual Exercises. However, did you know that Saint Ignatius spent most of his priesthood in a dusty apartment on the Via degli Astalli in Rome? Saint Ignatius spent the last 18 years of his life as the founder and Superior General of the Jesuits. That means he spent the last 18 years of life as an administrator: he wrote letters, he dealt with personnel issues, he negotiated with the Church. And ... yes ... Saint Ignatius was a master of finding God in the midst of all of that.

As the one of the most gifted spiritual directors in past 2,000 years, Saint Ignatius gave us the most often used blueprint for retreats. Saint Ignatius would certainly encourage you to "get away" for retreat and receive deeper intimacy from God. However, if Saint Ignatius were to speak to you today he say this: find God in the midst of your ordinary life. Saint Ignatius would remind you that God is in changing diapers, God is in paying bills, God is in trying to stay married, God is in sitting in traffic, God is in your marriage, God is in your family ... God is in your ordinary.

Happy Feast day. Yes, today I want to celebrate Saint Ignatius ... and believe me, you want to celebrate Saint Ignatius. Here's the good news ― God is in your ordinary. Don't look for Him in far off places ... don't look for Him in fantasy or the future ... right now ... in the present moment ... in your life ... God is in your ordinary, in every detail of your life.

© Fr. Mark Toups, 2013


Today, the 169 seminarians conclude their course on the Liturgy. Today the men will take their oral exams assessing their mastery of the material on the Liturgy. The 22 priests and seminarians here for the Spiritual Exercises conclude the program today ... fittingly enough on the Memorial of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. Today they conclude their "Transition Days", learning how to talk about the retreat with others. ... Flying home tomorrow ... looking forward to returning home to Thibodaux on Saturday. See you all this weekend.


"[The Church] invites us to live our ordinary life as a journey of holiness, that is, of faith and friendship with Jesus continually discovered and rediscovered as Teacher and Lord, the Way, the Truth and the Life of man."
― Angelus Address, January 15, 2006