Thao Luyện Nhẹ Nhàng

Why and how to do the Lightworks

Tôi thao luyện nhẹ nhàng
Who do you say I am?
Phút hồi tâm
Chia trí trong cầu nguyện


Trang chính   TLNN

Why and how to do the Lightworks



Meeting with Fr. Joseph A. Tetlow, sj
(Rome - May 4, 2004)


A CLC group, called "Eccomi", has translated into Italian and done the Lightworks for the last two years. They wished to meet its author, Father Tetlow, who lives and works at the Jesuit General Curia in Rome. On May 4 Father Tetlow kindly came with us and gave us a talk, in Italian, about "Why and how to do the Lightworks". This is an English translation of that talk.

• • •

When Ignatius first started to "help the souls", he did not have a specific spirituality. He was a layman, without much instruction. Thus he started sharing with others his own experiences. But these were mystical. For instance he had an "illumination" by the El Cardoner river in which he understood how everything is given by the Father to us through Jesus. Ignatius tried to explain it to the ordinary people he met in Manresa. He told them about the Trinity. People could not understand a thing. Soon Ignatius realized that. He then tried to teach people very simple things: the Creed, the Our Father, the difference between mortal and venial sin. He soon had problems with the Inquisition: "How could he, not having studied theology, explain the difference between mortal and venial sin?" Ignatius answered: "I just know!"
     Gradually Ignatius found a way to introduce people to prayer. At first he thought, as many of us do, that people should meditate and contemplate like holy monks do. This is how they pray, this is what prayer should be. However people in the market place cannot pray like that. So Ignatius knew that he had to think it all over. What does contemplation mean? People will pray in simple ways. For instance, in the morning, when I start a busy day, I myself can only pray in a simple way. I cannot pray like the monks do. I look for the way that suits me: a get into my knees and say, slowly, the Creed, "I believe in one God, the Father almighty".
     Many people have a poor understanding of their faith. It is not enough to teach them how to pray. They need some instruction, not an abstract one, but a concrete one they can understand.
   Some years ago (September 1994) I had to undergo an operation in St.Louis which immobilized me for two weeks. That was the occasion to work on a plan I had: the Lightworks. These are exercises for people in the market place; people who cannot pray like the monks do.
     There are three Ignatian ways to pray: the Contemplation, the Meditation and the Consideration. The Contemplation is done for one hour, with the preludes. In the Meditation we choose a passage from Scripture, read it and get into it for period of one hour. The Consideration is more simple. When my mother was working in the kitchen, cleaning the beans, with her eye-sight on a middle distance, thinking about what I had done, what my father had said… that is "consideration".
     For instance, on the Genealogy of Jesus. It is not difficult at all. I can consider how some of his ancestors were sinners. The Son of God was born from these persons. Among my ancestors there are sinners too. What does the family mean to me? Furthermore, there are three groups of seven generations, but in the last one there are only six. The genealogy has stopped at Jesus. Jesus is the last one in a dynasty. Me too: I am the end of my family. This is interesting. This is something I share with Jesus. This is a Consideration. The reflections I offer in the Lightworks are meant to be just that: Considerations.
     As I said before, Ignatius at Monserrat did not know any school of Spirituality. Later on he learned from the Benedictines, Franciscans and Carmelites (his confessors); but at the beginning he did not have any specific spirituality. However he made a journey. Faith itself provided Ignatius with sufficient nourishment and light for his spiritual life.
     The book of the Exercises does not contain the whole of Christian faith. The purpose of the Exercises is very specific: "Helping me to take a decision without being influenced by hatred or any other passion". Many use the Exercises like the Aspirin: as a remedy for all ills.
     While in the Lightworks we are introduced into considerations about our faith. Some years ago I was offering the Lightworks to an excellent man. Right at the beginning he told me: "I have a problem with the Real Presence (of Jesus in the Eucharist)". I told him: "Alright! leave that aside for the moment and let us talk about Jesus and about His life". After some months considering and sharing on the truths of our faith, on grace, on the choices we do, on the need of God’s help and the difficulty to see what is the next good action I am called to do…, I asked him: "What about the Real Presence?". He answered: "I do not know, but it doesn’t matter". Oftentimes, people think they have this or the other problem or question, but not always these are their real problems.
     A lady who begun the Lightworks had some really serious choices to make in her life. However she told me: "I am OK! I feel wonderful!" It wasn’t easy to help her. Where should I start from? I suggested her to pray with John 8,1-10, the adulterous woman. I invited her to "consider" how Jesus wanted to save the woman. The other actors in the scene had other desires: they wanted to accuse and condemn her. But Jesus wanted to save her. The consideration was that Jesus had understood very well the situation and all He wanted was to save the woman. Little by little, with the considerations I was suggesting, the woman started to see where her real problems were. After some months she did some important choices.
     The Lightworks are for everybody. They gradually introduce them into prayer. We should speak more about our faith with others. In CLC there are many opportunities to share our faith, especially when everybody does the Lightworks.
     The Lightworks in ordinary life invite us to pray and consider every day on what is happening to us, praying about it. We may think that prayer is complicated. It is not. A layperson can pray with considerations. When I only have 10 minutes, I read the reflections, or the Scripture passage. I may understand something. I leave the rest for the following day. Jesus tells us that we have to pray always. Jesus did not know the Spiritual Exercises. What kind of prayer had He in mind? He knew the Psalms, which every good Jew learned by heart. The first Christians used to sing the Psalms. Sometimes I pray by singing: "Turn to me, O man, and be saved…" The best way to pray is the spontaneous one: when my mind is preoccupied I pray with the Creed, the Our Father, with the prayer of the Church: the Breviary, with the readings of the Mass. When I have to take a decisions I pray about it.
     Each one will find his/her own way. This way is flexible, can change. Rigid ways to pray become a problem: always a Zen prayer, or centering prayer. They think this is the only way to pray. The book of the Exercises proposes different ways of prayer. But even these are not the only ones. There a danger of thinking that these are the only ways to pray. For Ignatius, spiritual directors can do great harm when they try to impose on others their own way to pray.
     We are called by God to do what we can, not what we cannot.
Years ago I thought about running the Marathon. I should practice by running two hours a day and eating a lot. I decided to run just 4 miles a day. The same with prayer: we do what we can.
     Sometimes we need to pray more. A religious man heard they wanted to name him superior, and he felt great reluctance. For some months he had to pray a lot in order to overcome this resistance. There are times in our life when we need to pray more.

Question: What is your experience about lay people doing the Lightworks? What do they find out? What happens?

In the book "Choosing Christ in the world" at the end of each week there is a summary of the graces many receive. Each person, however, is different. Some people just want to pray. After a period of time, doing the Exercises they realize that they need to do some choices. Prayer is a means not the purpose. If this method of prayer helps, it is the right one. If not, I should change the method. The same thing with the Lightworks done in a group. They make the sharing easier. Faith should be shared. Illuminism is a typical illness of our time: "I think my faith is only mine". But my faith is not "mine", is "our" faith. I can contemplate the mysteries of Christ by myself. However a better way to do it is in a group. The faith experience of the others enriches mine. It is possible to do the Lightworks alone. But is it better to do them with others. Doing them in a group is, therefore, better.
     Obviously everybody should know which topic we use this week. We all agree on the topic for the personal prayer and for the sharing. We all pray on the same Scripture passages. If last week somebody could not pray on theme the group agreed upon, it is OK; he/she leaves it for next year. But this week we all pray on the same passage so that we can share the outcome of the prayer with the group. Nobody comprehends the whole truth. My friends comprehend another side of the truth too. For instance about the Genealogy: one sees something, another sees another.
     The Lightworks are like the Breviary: the whole Church prays with the same Scriptures passages. It is the prayer of the Church. The Lightworks are the prayer of the group. The group can also use the themes from Choosing Christ in the World as Lightworks. In the same way: this week everybody prays on the same theme. Though I might wish to remain another week on one theme, I don’t, because I go along with the group. This is what Ignatius meant with the annotation 18. In one group I directed in St. Louis we did this journey for ten months. Every three weeks we met (more often was impossible). It was a rich experience. Some members of the group went through some problems with their adolescent children, and sharing with the group they could say things they haven’t admitted even to themselves. Because the group was welcoming.

(Transcribed and translated by J.Elizalde sj)

  Tôi Thao Luyện Nhẹ Nhàng  -   Phẩm
  "Who do you say I am?"  -  Trần Quân, SJ
  Phút hồi tâm  -  Huyền Đan
  A Most Excellent Ministry for Today  -  Company Magazine


Lạy Chúa,
khi đến với Chúa

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lạy Thiên Chúa duy nhất và chân thật.

Sau khi được ở với Ngài,

con sẽ xỏ giầy vào,
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con sẽ đeo đổng hồ,
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Graham Kings





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