Prof. Paul Mariani (English) (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)
Mariani recently published Thirty Days: On Retreat with the Exercises of St. Ignatius, a journal he kept while following the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, on a silent retreat during early 2000 at a Jesuit residence in Gloucester.
The Exercises are organized according to five major themes - creation, mankind, the kingdom of God, Jesus Christ, and the Trinity - and are designed to lead retreatants through a series of meditations, beginning with reflections on the disorder and chaos of one's own life and progressing to a series of meditations on Christ's life.
Living in a small room with minimal furnishings, Mariani spent 30 days praying and reflecting, while also reading some of the masters of Western religion. He discussed his spiritual direction in daily meetings with Rev. John J. Bresnahan, SJ. By the time he finished, Mariani had 480 diary pages, which formed the basis of his book.
"It was never done like this before," said Mariani of Thirty Days. "We have any number of commentaries on the Exercises, almost always by Jesuits. But no one has actually written a book describing the transformative experience of the Exercises on a day by day basis.
"It was scary at first," said Mariani. "I wasn't sure what I was going to learn about myself." But the act of writing, he found, actually became an aid to understanding his spiritual journey.
As the retreat progressed, Mariani said, his concerns about the prosaic events of life gave way to a heightened level of prayer and introspection.
Thirty Days contains observations on Mariani's past and present life, spiritual meditations on the Scriptures and other writings and an autobiographical commentary he hopes will help readers on their own spiritual journeys.
"This book is very special to me because it's the first time that both my analytical and imaginative sides came together," he said.
The regimen of silence and prayer during the retreat was "very powerful," Mariani said. "I learned more about myself doing this than anything I've ever done."
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