World War II was over and the sad man had been released from his army duties. He found new hope by joining the Jesuit Organization. Surely with deep concentrated thought and seclusion his original idea woud return.
Or at least that is what he was hoping for as he told me of this new experience.
“It was my good fortune to find that the spiritual exercises would come early in my indoctrination into the Jesuit Society.”
“The only thing that came prior to the exercises was learning the history of St. Ignatius and the Society of Jesus. To my great surprise I learned that there were several conspiracy theories about the Jesuits. Many of them centered on their banking system and their involvement with the natives of all three Americas; North, Central and South.”
“One man’s attempt to fill a void is another man’s conspiracy.”
“In the New World one void was the inability to borrow money for new construction such as homes, academies and public buildings. The Jesuits formed a banking system to fill this void. As a result they were accused of trying to fill the coffers of the Catholic Church at the expense of others.”
“The other void was the perceived lack of education within the Native American Communities. Surely the Jesuits could fill this void also. The perception was the opposite. It was deemed that the Jesuits were forcing their god upon the Native Americans.”
“The Spiritual Exercises were a sort of retreat.”
“We isolated ourselves with a senior Jesuit mentor for a period of one month. The purpose of the first exercise was to examine sin, both generic and those specific to ourselves. We would then find parallels between our lives and the life of Jesus.”
“Once that was complete we were taught how to make a commitment to the practices of Jesus. It was only then that we were told that this process would be repeated throughout our first year of Jesuit training. We also learned that we were to carry out these exercises for the remainder of our lives; however, without the seclusion of a retreat.”
“There were several exercises of prayer while contemplating the Passion and Resurrection. Each novice Jesuit was required to enter into a discussion with the mentor, or spiritual leader if you so choose that label.”
“The purpose of these discussions was to determine what the novice’s thoughts and emotions were while undergoing the exercises. This process was repeated for several exercises. The entire novice population of Jesuits agreed that this review of our spiritual being would be with us for the rest of our lives.”
“The thing that I found, but was not looking for while doing the exercises, was the amount of time we spent thinking about how the world works and especially how humanity has evolved within this natural world. Man has a relationship to God that can be found through these exercises of studying the life of Jesus.”
The sad man appeared so happy about this life with the Jesuits that I could not believe that this was the same man.
I broke into the middle of his story by asking “and yet, here you are, sitting in the middle of the woods; apparently unfulfilled. How could that be?”
The sad man looked me straight in the eye, shrugged his shoulders and tipped his head to the side as if to say “It is just one of those things.” And then he continued on.