I’m at the Martyrs’ Shrine for the month of May. I feel privileged to be here. I’m a Jesuit based at La Storta Jesuit community in Pickering (which for many years was the home base for some of the Jesuits who ministered at the Shrine). I’ve been involved for two years with the annual 30 day retreat for the young men participating in the Spiritual Year at St. Augustine’s Seminary in Toronto. That’s a year preceding entry into actual seminary formation. The hope is that the Spiritual Year will help provide a spiritual underpinning for the men before they actually begin their seminary formation, a foundation that will help them to find stable ground in a world of flux.
I feel very grateful and privileged to have a role in the spiritual formation of men whose life decisions will be made in the context of such serious prayer. My experience last year and again this year is that of being edified. Edification was an important quality for St. Ignatius of Loyola. We are spiritually or morally uplifted by people who are edifying. These seminarians are a source of encouragement for my spiritual life and they give me hope.
I referred earlier to a 30-day retreat. These young men are experiencing a long retreat that assumes silence and prayerfulness. The retreat is rooted in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits. The Jesuits from France who travelled to New France and eventually gave their lives had also experienced the Spiritual Exercises. It was that experience which helped to make them so zealous about their ministry here.
I’m grateful to Fr. Knox and his staff. They have welcomed us with hearts that are wide open. Martyrs’ Shrine is not a retreat centre. But it is an appropriate place to pray with the Exercises. This is sacred ground. It is holy ground. It’s sacred and holy because of God’s actions in creation, but also because of the martyrs whom we celebrate here.
I’m consoled to witness these seminarians experiencing the gifts of this sacred place, the gifts of the martyrs. I have no doubt that their desires will be positively influenced by the intercession of the martyrs who are celebrated here. Ignatius hoped that this experience would effect a person in a powerful way, to help bring about a changed approach to life. That is why I love working with the Spiritual Exercises, especially when they are undertaken by young men and women who have the potential to bring good changes to the world. Please pray for the nine men praying in this space all month.
Fr. Phillip Shano, SJ