It's that time of year again – the New Year – when most of us think about tackling new challenges or bettering ourselves in some way. It might be losing weight or writing that great American novel. It could also be getting in touch with your spiritual side or solving a problem in your personal life.
For Loyola Marymount University faculty and staff members, a personal spiritual trainer is just a phone call or an email away.
Searching for peace of mind and heart? Need help with decision-making or finding the perfect balance between work life and personal life? LMU’s Center for Ignatian Spirituality is there to help.
For more than a decade, the center has been where faculty and staff members could go for guidance through the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. The mission of the center is to help faculty and staff understand the principles of Ignatian spirituality so they can incorporate them into their work at the university. But recently, the center’s directors decided to offer another service – personal spiritual training.
The exercises are, essentially, “spirituality for busy persons” who are actively involved in the world. They are a means to making decisions in a state of true interior freedom. They include ways of meditating and contemplating, the use of thought, memory, and imagination.
The personal training sessions are designed to meet immediate individual needs and take only the time necessary to help accomplish a goal. The Spiritual Exercises usually take 30 or more weeks to complete.
Rev. Randy Roche, SJ, the center’s director, came up with the idea of adapting to spirituality the personal training approach currently so popular for physical training.
“One day I thought, ‘What if we could be personal trainers for people looking for help with a particular problem or who want to learn how to bring more reflection into their lives?’” Roche said. “We could offer a less formal version of the Spiritual Exercises for people who know they have a hunger and are looking for someone to guide them.”
Roche said most of the participants at the center are faculty and staff members with questions about how to reflect and get in touch with feelings as they relate to making choices. Others need help with striking a balance between thinking and feeling. Once the goal is accomplished, things don’t stop there. Participants can return for maintenance sessions or an occasional spiritual tune-up.
Anne Hennessy, CSJ., the assistant director of the center who also participates in the personal training program, said participants who come back for maintenance sessions want to evaluate how things are going.
They want to evaluate “How is God working in my life? When I meet a concrete set of challenges, how do I judge them given the graces received?” she said.
“My dream has always been that there will eventually be some faculty and staff who will do some of the training,” said Roche. Currently Roche and Hennessy share training duties with Bishop Gordon Bennett, SJ.
The personal training sessions are not the only new offerings coming out of LMU’s Center for Ignatian Spirituality.
In November, LMU faculty and staff found something extraordinary in their campus mailboxes, among the expected assortment of department notices and event announcements.
It was an invitation to Ignatian spiritualty in the form a beautiful publication, “Complativus simul in Actione (contemplative at the same time as in action).”
The small, beautifully designed volume featured amazing, 4-inch x 5-inch black and white photographs taken by university photographer Jon Rou with an old camera and processed like prints made by Ansel Adams.
The portraits of 22 employees from departments across the university – including President David W. Burcham, vice presidents, faculty and staff – the photographs were accompanied by personal statements from each participant about how Ignatian spirituality has been incorporated into their work, personal and spiritual lives.
“The Exercises made me confront, with highly uncomfortable regularity, the question of what is real. The glory and the great challenge of them was having a regular date with authenticity,” said John Michael Parrish, associate professor of political science, in his statement.
“Participating in the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises helped me feel God’s presence, peace and serenity in all areas of the campus,” said Dorothy Love, assistant director, facilities management.
These moving statements now comprise a new blog. “We’ve never done a blog before,” said Father Roche. “It lets people comment and add their own take on Ignatian spirituality and it’s open to anyone. We also are on Facebook and I am writing a weekly spirituality essay that is on our website.”
So, whether staff members want to undertake the full course of the Spiritual Exercises or get their feet wet with a series of personal training sessions, there are new things happening at LMU’s Center for Ignatian Spirituality.