Jesus tells us in the Gospel that, ‘A sound tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit’ (Mt 7: 18). Evidently, any botanist who claims a tree to be defective, even though it visibly produces appetizing and nutritious fruit, would be considered mad. He would be taken as a liar or a charlatan for making such an unfounded affirmation.
This is also what happens within the spiritual garden of the Church. Throughout the centuries, diverse schools of spirituality – as so many trees – have been planted there, and have produced magnificent and varied fruits. Besides nourishing the members of their respective foundations, some of them have also extended their benefits to other religious families, and even to the lay faithful, who have had the opportunity to profit from the sacred sap of grace that flows forth with diverse manifestations, continually encouraging people to seek the perfection of charity, that is, sanctity.
One of the particularly privileged trees of this generous sort was the one planted by Saint Ignatius of Loyola through his Spiritual Exercises. With a quick look at a list of saints from the last five centuries one can see what fruits this method has produced, and why the founder of the Company of Jesus is honored with the title of Patron of the Spiritual Exercises.
Now then, what should we think of Francis’ affirmations regarding the traditional and official manner of performing the spiritual exercises? Read on…