For the 2nd year in a row, I’ve been given the privilege of being a spiritual director to seminarians of St Augustine in Toronto as they quietly pray through the Spiritual exercises of St Ignatius at the Shrine. To be honest, the privilege of directing the exercises at all is a tremendous consolation on its own. As you may well know, the 30 day period of silent prayers can transform the lives of many people. However, from the Spiritual Director’s perspective, to have someone trust you with their personal story and their journey through Ignatian prayers is a very unique gift. But then you add the location of the Shrine to this experience, and suddenly my own experience of these days of prayers intensifies a bit more.
For starters, I feel that coming to the Martyr’s Shrine is like stepping out of our messy world’s reality and allowing ourselves to be enveloped by a greater spiritual reality that shapes our experience of the exercises. Certainly for the Seminarians, while there are sometimes issues with a lack of silence at the Shrine (it’s kind of hard to pray quietly in the silence when there are 5,000 Vietnamese pilgrims all around you).
Thankfully that particular distraction only lasts a day, but there no doubt many others!), being directed on this exercises in this place can be a uniquely uplifting. Even being in the Church, praying with the relics of these heroic martyrs of the faith can be quite powerful for them. (One does not have to be a Jesuit to appreciate the ways these men gave their life for Christ). Equally life giving, and nourishing for their prayers is their ability to allow themselves to be lead by the Holy Spirit to meet the saints that are honored on the property. For example the Brébeuf prayer garden has a way of reaching of helping these young men to enter a little more deeply into prayer.
As for me, I’m inspired in the way the Shrine can help non Jesuits celebrate the richness of our contribution to this country’s history. I’m deeply touched in the way this land helps these men experience the richness of Catholic and Ignatian spirituality, and am eternally grateful for this opportunity to be on this land for the short time that I am here! My gratitude for the staff, and the priests that are here, ensuring that this story continues to be told!
Bro. Daniel Leckman, SJ