Spiritual Exercises Part I

After returning to Michigan from the single greatest experience of my life, I am finally able to breathe, soak in all the beautiful graces of God, and tell my story.

It all started on Sunday, February 3rd at around 9p.m. I was in Rhode Island with all my missionary sisters about to take on the greatest spiritual journey of my life. I walked into the chapel knowing that when I came out, I wouldn’t be speaking for 7 days straight. I felt pretty prepared, but at the same time, you can’t really be prepared for something like this. For my entire missionary year, I have counted so much on SPEX (spiritual exercises) to change my life by “fixing me,” and to make me feel on top of the world. I was counting on having an overwhelming experience of Christ’s presence that would blow my mind, and I would be on fire with the Holy Spirit. The reason I was hoping so much, was because I have been struggling with myself and was ready to give up several times. I didn’t even know who I was, yet I lived in an environment where everyone was so sure of themselves. I got so tired of living “underneath,” but I didn’t know how to change it. I came to the point where I made the definite decision that if spiritual exercises did not help me, I would go home…for good. Due to that conclusion, my expectations were sky high, and I told God exactly what we were going to work on and what I wanted to get out of it. I was in for a rude awakening.

On the first day, I literally could not wait for the first meditation. I was beyond ready to take in the message and feel the Holy Spirit come down and just take me over! When the moment finally came…it was the biggest letdown in the world. Fr. Thomas was preaching the basics of the basics. I felt like I had been learning about those things since kindergarten. I just went in the chapel and asked God, “What is this?” I decided just to pray about my own topics/desires instead of focusing on the meditation. My stubbornness was getting the better of me. That same day, Helen set up a table of books to choose from to read during the week. Now, I’m not much of a reader – I could probably count the number of books I’ve read on my fingers – but I felt like I should just peek. I walked over and just asked God to point something out to me. I was totally judging the books by the cover – again, I’m not a reader – but one title caught my eye despite the horrid, plain blue cover: Interior Freedom by Jacques Philippe.

The reason this attracted me was that for this entire year, I’ve been on a journey to find what it really means to be free and surrender to Christ. I couldn’t grasp the concept of it; let alone how to accomplish it. I thought I knew, but I never felt fulfilled, always empty. So I began to read this book, and I was completely amazed at how accurate it was to my life. I used it for my own personal meditations, and it slowly began to open my eyes and speak to my heart. After three days, this book was the only thing I was really holding onto. I still was not enjoying the talks, except for a few. At that point I figured something was wrong, and I needed spiritual direction, so I asked Helen if I could talk to her. I explained to her what I was going through and, long story short, the first thing she said was, “Honey child, honey child! Your expectations mean nothing! You need to let God run these spiritual exercises, not you.”

Oh snap. I was just like, “Oh……”

About Laura Gonzales

Laura Gonzales was born and raised in Atlanta, and attended Pinecrest Academy for 12 years. She is 20 years old, and currently serving as a Regnum Christi Missionary.
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