The Purpose of Ignatian Repetition

"The aim of Ignatian repetition is to personalize prayer." - quote on repeating pattern background

Howard Gray, SJ, explains why much of the prayer in the Spiritual Exercises is repetition—multiple meditations on the same subjects or Scripture passages.

The repetitions are efforts to engage mystery, to center on the depth of riches within revelation, and to discover how God specifically invites this particular man or woman to find the meaning of a gospel event for him or her.

In other words, the aim of Ignatian repetition is to personalize prayer. For example, a person hears Mary’s yes in Luke 1:38. In the initial encounter with this scene, the yes of Mary may have been admirable, challenging, and vaguely inviting. In the course of the prayers of repetition, the man or woman making the Exercises may begin to feel drawn to pronounce his or her own yes, to recognize a developing attraction to stand with Mary in personal solidarity with her kind of discipleship. Such a movement will lead in time to a willingness to stand with Mary beneath the cross of her son.

—as excerpted in An Ignatian Spirituality Reader, edited by George Traub, SJ

11 Comments on The Purpose of Ignatian Repetition

  1. So.

    I read this post and debated whether to blog about it.

    I read the lectionary texts for a couple of weeks hence, when I’ll be back from vacation. The Syrophenecian woman takes Jesus to task and calls him to a broader understanding of ministry. She’s right. “What am I gonna do with that?” I wondered.

    I read some commentaries. I still wondered.

    A parishoner emailed to take me to task for something – most graciously, but still. I called her. She was right.

    I decided to write a post about the value of repetition.

    I thought about the text and the woman giving Jesus a hard time.

    I thought about the woman giving me a hard time.

    Repetition in prayer and reflection. Yep.

    • Maybe Jesus recognised this brave lady as a feisty soul and teased her a little with his banter. Or not!

  2. The ironic thing is that the specific “broader understanding of ministry” that I messed up was something I had learned to do from Howard Gray, and I STILL blew right by it.

    Some of us require a LOT of repetition in all manner of ways!

  3. My director on the Long Retreat told me that “repetition” means “to ask again”. At first, I found repetition to be rather irritating. But afterwards I was sorry to be irritated so quickly. God is so patient…

  4. Repetition in prayer leads us to merge with the transcendent. Through the transcendent to the infinite, and to GOD, who, most likely, was there all along.

  5. I am struck by the repetition leading me to see myself in the Scripture story. That all around me is the call to experience Jesus and myself in conversation entering the depth of dying and rising to live a new life. Thank you.

  6. Christopher Reeves once said that in repetition you find new things. You always find new things when you use repetition as a form of “lense” to find God. Isn’t much of our lives a repetition? Thank you for this lively reminder. Peace and AMDG.

  7. Repetition – is a powerful practice in Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism. Millions of devotees in South Asian countries draw strength and inspiration from reciting spiritual mantras.

  8. Repeating and repeating the retreat in different weeks – has opened my heart to the suffering and joy of Mary and Jesus dignified Yes – also the joy – so much joy in the yeses – I am amazed as to what has happened to me. I’m in the 29 week of the retreat, my relationship with God has changed – I am human seeing how human I am – with the promises of God the divine – the love for Jesus and the prayer life is humbling as I walk the crucifixion and worried about Mary and how she was doing – washed my Lord body so she would not see the wounds as much and laid him to rest. Thank you for this site and what it had done for me.

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