As my husband and I get older we have come to truly appreciate the importance of physical exercise in maintaining a certain level of health and fitness. Our desire is to continue to have a full and active life well into our senior years and beyond. To that end we maintain a weekly workout regimen. But as you know, when you work out, after awhile your body acclimates to your current level of activity and you need to change up your routine a bit to continue to reap the benefits. The same can be said of our prayer life.
If we desire to continue to grow spiritually we need to tend to our prayer life. We may have our daily devotional or prayer regimen in place, and that is good, but every now and then we can benefit by modifying it a bit. We may need to dig in even deeper, especially if things have become stagnant. The Ignatian Spiritual Exercises are designed to do just that.
Some call the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises a "school of prayer", others a way of learning spiritual discernment and still others a way to live more fully into your Christian faith. I say the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises, when done correctly, is a transformational prayer journey that will help to birth Christ more fully in you. In the ISE you do much more than reading or studying scripture. The exercises involve among other things praying with scripture. The exercises train us to grow in interior freedom by making us aware of disordered attachments in our lives, and then helping us to discern better so that we can respond more generously to God's call on our lives.
In Spiritual Direction Ministry we often talk about ones calling and invariably a lot of us will confuse our calling with our vocation. Let me help clarify the difference between the two. Your vocation can be your calling but not necessarily so. For the most part Vocation is defined as our job or career, a place where we get raises and promotions, pay our mortgage, take vacations and retire. Our Calling is often bigger than our vocation in that we see our work through the lens of Christ and His work. According to guest blogger Mark Dawson for the Institute of Faith, Work, and Economics, our "calling is not about striving for success in a particular field or job, instead it is about people and eternity." He goes on to say that our calling is not about deciding what we want, but rather about discovering our role in God's redemptive drama. As an example, my current vocation is being an Optometrist, my vocation helps pay my bills. My calling is being a Spiritual Director. In both of these roles I get to help people see things better. In my vocation as an Optometrist I help people see the natural world with more clarity by skillfully using lenses to help bring things into focus. In my role as Spiritual Director I get to help people see the spiritual world with more clarity by skillfully helping them to focus on the presence of the Holy in every aspect of their lives. In my calling I am doing my part in helping to fulfill God's plan of seeing people mature more fully into the image of Christ.