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In the footsteps of Christ: my experience of the Spiritual Exercises

by Ignatius Zulu NSJ  

 From The Companion - Xavier House Novitiate Newsletter (Zambia - Malawi Province)

18096e3a2d734b57cd27f630946faea1What does it mean to walk in the footsteps of Christ? How can I walk in those footsteps? These are some of the questions that were in my mind before doing the Spiritual Exercise, questions that I felt had to be and were answered by the end.

The thirty days prayer period was for me a comprehensive period, spending five hours per day on meditations. When you do the math, this translates into one hundred and fifty meditations, which would be equivalent to five months of daily one hour a day meditations although we had two days in between for repose.

That should kind of give you an idea of the spiritual enrichment that comes with doing the Spiritual Exercises. I began my walk in the footsteps of Christ by reflecting on God and His unconditional love for me. It was during this time when I came to realize and know the greatness of our God. The week moved on to reflections on the Principle and Foundation which is St. Ignatius's meditation on the purpose of life, the pinnacle point being my general confession. Indeed it was a moment of rebirth, of feeling and experiencing a new beginning with a focus on learning how to walk with Christ. After this experience, not only did I desire not to offend Jesus again, but I also wanted to follow him more closely and more dearly.

As I entered into the second stage of the Spiritual Exercises, I had some experience of the first fruits of my "exercising": my heart was filled with the peace and love of Jesus Christ. It was during this week that my image of Christ appeared; an image of Christ the navigator and me, the driver. I myself was driving a car with Christ to a destination (salvation), a destination which I did not clearly know but Christ the navigator knew exactly where it was located and how to get there. During this journey, I got to have honest conversations with Christ (heart to heart). Through these conversations; we got to know each other. Further on as driver of the vehicle (my life) I had certain responsibilities which I needed to take care of for the car to move e.g. refueling (prayer), washing the car (confession), etc. This image quite cleared for me as regards to the relationship I was to keep with Jesus in my life.

Further on, by meditating on the scenes of the Gospel, I felt myself penetrating deeply into the intentions of Jesus, i.e., into his spirit and his basic principles, which are utterly opposed to those of the world: poverty and humility over against greed and pride. As I learnt more about the way of Christ, I soon felt an attraction to Jesus like that of Ignatius of Loyola. Naturally this led me to make an election of the life that I felt being called to live the whole of my life.

Coming to the third week, I felt that all the good desires and intentions that had been aroused in the prior stage need to be purified in the experience of death on the cross.

Throughout the passion I remained close to Jesus, offering myself in solidarity with Him. I saw an innocent Christ abandoned by all. But Jesus had the strength of faith, the spirit of love, and an enormous hope that God would ultimately act for the benefit of all humankind. This also made me to meditate on the cross of Jesus, present in many forms, both in my life and in the world.

In the fourth and final week, the resurrection called me to a new beginning, working again for the Kingdom. The grace I was asking for was the grace of consolation, of joy, and the new surge of life that the risen Christ gives to his followers. I had experienced with Jesus the way of the cross, and now I was sharing in his joy.

As I approached the end of my walk in the footsteps of Christ, I felt the joy of having a dream fulfilled and I gave thanks to God Our Lord for this enriching experience.

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