Father Gregory Cleveland, author of Awakening Love: An Ignatian Retreat with the Song of Songs, belongs to the community of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary and is the executive director of the Lanteri Center for Ignatian Spirituality. He conducts a ministry of spiritual direction, including training and retreats.
DC: What inspired you to write Awakening Love?
Father Cleveland: I wanted to explore the profound connections between the mysticism of the Song of Songs and the Spiritual Exercises [of St. Ignatius of Loyola]. I’ve been formed in [his] spirituality and his Spiritual Exercises… As I prayed with the Song of Songs, I realized many of the themes parallel the themes of the Spiritual Exercises. The Holy Spirit has certainly inspired me to make the connections between the two books.
DC: What will someone gain from reading this book?
Father Cleveland: Anyone who reads this book will gain a wealth of knowledge about the interior life of prayer. The Spiritual Exercises are a kind of complete manual of the spiritual life that tell us so much about the journey to sanctity. Most importantly, the book helps to dispose the reader to the experience of God in prayer.
DC: How can the lay faithful make a retreat amid their many responsibilities?
Father Cleveland: St. Ignatius, in his brilliance, created a way to adapt the retreat experience. Instead of going away for a set period of days, he said that someone could make a retreat in daily life over a period of weeks… That requires a strong commitment on the part of retreatant to pray for a solid hour each day and meet with a spiritual director on a regular basis.
DC: Can Ignatian Spirituality be incorporated into a layperson’s life?
Father Cleveland: [Many believe] Ignatian Spirituality is more fitting for priests and religious. Actually, [it’s] tailor-made for the active individual with its goal of finding God in all things, whether in prayer, apostolic activity, or our daily routines… We withdraw from the world for a retreat, or period of prayer in our home, to concentrate entirely on Christ. We return to the world renewed in the Spirit to serve Christ in our work, play, study, family life and socializing with others.