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Why Ignatian spirituality?

The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius – the basis of retreats beginning next summer at The Cloisters on the Platte – offer a unique, sometimes life changing approach to prayer designed to draw people closer to Christ and make decisions based on God’s will.

That’s the way two priests who lead retreats based on the spirituality recently described the experience.

"There is time to slow down, be silent, hear God’s word away from your habitual places and be receptive in a new way," said Oblate of the Virgin Mary Father Timothy Gallagher, St. Ignatius of Loyola Chair for Spiritual Formation at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver.

Part of the experience is a discernment of God’s will and finding ways to make decisions free of other attachments, said Jesuit Father Andy Alexander, director of the Collaborative Ministry Office at Creighton University in Omaha and a leader of some Ignatian retreats being offered by Cloisters officials as the retreat center is built.

A participant in one retreat described a change in prayer life this way, Father Alexander said: In the past, "I’ve talked at Jesus. This weekend, he was in my room."

Developed by St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, the exercises often are offered by religious groups as a 30-day retreat. But a variety of groups and retreat leaders have created adaptions with an emphasis on reaching lay people, with retreats of varying length, or daily sessions of prayer over several months.

And next year, people will be able to attend three-day, Ignatian-based retreats at The Cloisters on the Platte retreat center being built along the Platte River by Joe Ricketts, a native of Omaha and founder of TD Ameritrade. Ricketts said the spiritual exercises resonated with him at his first Ignatian-based retreat about 30 years ago, and now he wants "thousands of others" to have a similar opportunity.

"It’s my favorite form of prayer," Ricketts said. The Spiritual Exercises "make you more responsive to Jesus Christ and help you experience a closer relationship with him."

The retreat center could benefit many people, Father Gallagher said, and it "sounds like it will be a very lovely facility."

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