Surely, the most important thing in any man’s life is that he reach his final goal, that he fulfill that ultimate purpose for which he and the entire human family were created. Should he fail in achieving his final end, all his life and work will have been in vain. As we know, man’s final end is nothing less than eternal participation in the love and beauty of the Godhead. All joy, all love, and all beauty experienced in this life are but a pale reflection of their source: that infinite joy, love, and beauty that is the living God.
Why the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius?
From his intense pastoral activity in various fields, Father Lanteri soon realized that the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius were the most powerful and effective means of implanting in the hearts of the faithful a desire to reach this final goal of union with God. He saw in the Spiritual Exercises an extraordinary tool for changing lives, bringing the faithful out of their spiritual indifference and lukewarmness, and impressing the truths of the Gospel on the minds of those who have heard that same Gospel Sunday after Sunday without effect. In the words of Lanteri, the Spiritual Exercises are “a most powerful instrument of divine Grace for the universal reform of the world, and an extremely effective means for conquering hearts, even the most hardened.” Again in Lanteri’s words, the Exercises provide “a sure method for everyone to become a saint, a great saint, and to do so speedily.”
The central idea behind the Spiritual Exercises is the recognition of the need that man has of setting aside certain periods of time for deepening and strengthening his relationship with God. Within the Exercises he is enabled to view and evaluate his day to day existence in relation to his final end (eternal union with the Living God) and to take concrete steps toward achieving and helping others to achieve that end. The inner peace acquired during the Spiritual Exercises keeps him alert to even the slightest advances of the Holy Spirit, and helps him to answer generously the promptings of grace. In this atmosphere as in no other, communion with God in prayer can be nurtured and developed, and the lessons learned therein carried over to his daily life.
Father Lanteri was instrumental in restoring the Sanctuary of St. Ignatius near Lanzo so that it could function as a retreat house for lay people and priests. Lanteri and his disciple, Fr. Luigi Guala, preached the Spiritual Exercises there for the first time in September 1807. The fruits of holiness that the Spirtual Exercises produced in that place were extraordinary. Countless figures noted for their holiness preached or received the Spiritual Exercises there, including St. John Bosco, St. Joseph Cafasso, and St. Leonard Murialdo, as well as 22 others who are undergoing the process of being declared saints by the Church! From these incredible fruits, together with the fact that Lanteri himself received the inspiration to found the Oblates while making a retreat, we can understand Lanteri’s great conviction concerning the spiritual power of the Exercises.
Indeed, what could be more important than living our lives, and helping others to live their lives in communion with the Creator? What more vitally necessary and urgent work could there be than that of bringing men to the knowledge, love and experience of God in their daily lives? How could anyone seek a more meaningful calling, a higher purpose?
This, then, is our spirit, our mission. It is the vision that stirred the young Bruno Lanteri and that makes us who we are: Oblates of the Virgin Mary, working toward a rebirth of true spirituality in today’s world.