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  • Gregory Vigliotta

The Review of The Prayer Exercise

The Review is a distinct spiritual exercise used in the Spiritual Exercises by which the pilgrim reflects on his/her own experiences of the prayer. The Review is an instrument that helps us notice what happened which helps us to discern our own spiritual movements that were taking place during the Exercise.

St. Ignatius recommends "After an Exercise is finished, either walking or sitting, we are to consider for a quarter of an hour what happened during the prayer time. If poorly, I will ask the cause of the failure; and after I have found it, I will be sorry, so that I may do better in the future. If I have succeeded, I will give thanks to God, our Lord, and next time try to file the same method."(SE 77)*

Writing down our noticing during the exercise this review helps us to put our down what occurred and to name our experiences and to respond from our encounter with God.

Without a review of the experiences of grace, those moments are left at the unopened door of our memory, and will thereby be forgotten, yet not forgotten by God.

The Review Process has three aspects that are important to be attentive to. The key question we ask ourselves during the review period is, What happened in me during the prayer exercise. Here are a few suggestions.

1.The Before: How and why did I come to prayer?

  • How was I when I came to prayer?

    • Rested, tired, hungry, stressed, content, distracted, or excited?

    • Did I feel excitement, hesitation, or unsettled?

  • What was the grace I desired?

    • My requests, my needs?

  • What were my expectations?

2. The During: How was I during the prayer, and what came up for me.

  • Was my prayer more in my head (thoughts, analyzing, searching) or heart (felt senses, responding) or moving between both?

  • Where was I comfortable or uncomfortable during the period of prayer?

  • Was I distracted? With what?

  • What stood out as the significant interior movements*?

  • What reactions, feelings or thoughts occurred to me during the period of prayer?

  • Where did I sense God’s presence?

  • What were the insights, promptings, and or graces received?

3. The After: Taking notice of what came up and how has it affected me.

  • Where am I now after this prayer time?

  • Do I have feelings of consolation, dryness, or desolation?

  • What did I learn about myself? About God?

  • Is there something that I should return to?

  • Where am I being drawn to?

Importance of Writing by Hand

If you are used to writing on the computer, you may initially feel some resistance to writing by hand. Handwriting (as opposed to typing) slows us down, helps us maintain a meditative frame of mind, and keeps the intuitive and subconscious parts of our brain engaged. Typing on a keyboard, on the other hand, lends itself to linear thinking.

The Use of the Review Notes

  • Recording notes of our prayer experience is also helpful in preparation for our meeting with a spiritual director.

  • After a retreat, these reflections become a keepsake we can return to long after the retreat ends.

*Interior movements consist of the interactions of our intellect, will, and affect (felt feelings or emotions, moods): thoughts, images, insights, feelings, emotions, moods, urges, impulses, desires, imaginations, attractions, longings, inclinations, and even resistances that spontaneously arise within us.

(Sources: Karen Shields Wright, Gregory Vigliotta, John A. Veltri, S.J. (Orientations Volume 2: Part A, pages 12-24), and *Louis J. Puhl, S.J. (Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius)

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