The Review is a distinct method or spiritual exercise used in the Spiritual Exercises by which the pilgrim reflects, by oneself, on his/her own experiences of the prayer exercise just finished and notices, by oneself the spiritual movements that were taking place during the time of the prayer exercise. The Review is an instrument that helps us notice what is happening in prayer that eventually empowers us to discern our own spiritual movements.
The review period is separate from the time of meditation or contemplation. The key question we ask ourselves during the review period is," What happened in me during the prayer exercise?"The purpose of the review is not to recall what insight or ideas we had during our prayer. Instead, the review period should focus on the movements of our feelings.
Our feelings during prayer illustrate for us how God is communicating with us. God increases our faith and feels near during moments of joy, peace, love, gratitude, and hope. These are movements of consolation. Feelings of fear, anxiety, boredom, or anger often arise in us when we feel distant from God. St. These are movements of desolation. Therefore our review should focus on the interior reactions that flowed through our heart during the prayer exercise itself.
The Review Process has three aspects that are important to be attentive to. The key question we ask ourselves during the review period is," What happened in me during the prayer exercise?" Here are a few suggestions.
The Before: How and why did I come to prayer?
How was I when I came to prayer?
Rested, tired, hungry, stressed, content, distracted, or excited?
Did I feel an excitement, a hesitation, or unsettled?
What was the grace I desired? My requests, my needs?
What were my expectations?
2. The During: How was I during the prayer, and what came up for me?
Was my prayer more in my head (thoughts, analyzing, searching) or heart (felt senses, responding) or moving between both?
What stood out as the significant interior movements*?
What reactions, feelings or thoughts occurred to me during the period of prayer?
Where was I comfortable or uncomfortable during the period of prayer?
Was I distracted? With what?
Where did I sense God’s presence?
What were the insights, promptings, and or graces received?
3. The After: Taking notice of what came up and how has it affected me.
Where am I now after this prayer time?
Do I have feelings of consolation, dryness, or desolation?
What did I learn about myself? About God?
Is there something that I should return to?
Importance of Writing by Hand
If you are used to writing on the computer, you may initially feel some resistance to writing by hand. Handwriting (as opposed to typing) slows us down, helps us maintain a meditative frame of mind, and keeps the intuitive and subconscious parts of our brain engaged. Typing on a keyboard, on the other hand, lends itself to linear thinking.
The Use of the Review Notes
Recording notes of our prayer experience is also helpful in preparation for our meeting with a spiritual director.
After a retreat, these reflections become a keepsake we can return to long after the retreat ends.
*Interior movements consist of the interactions of our intellect, will, and affect: thoughts, insights, feelings, emotions, moods, urges, impulses, desires, imaginations, attractions, longings, inclinations, and even resistances that spontaneously arise within us.
(Sources: John A. Veltri, S.J. Orientations Volume 2: Part A, pages 12-24, Louis J. Puhl, S.J. Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius)
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