THE SPIRITUAL EXERCISES
St. Ignatius Loyola, Founder of the Society of Jesus, underwent a profound experience of God during his stay in the little town of Manresa in Spain in 1522. His heart’s desire was, as a lay person, to share with other lay people this same experience. As time went on he wrote a small book to assist in doing this. He called this book of directions The Spiritual Exercises. It was intended to help the person who directed another in a structured thirty-day or even 10-month long program of prayer and contemplation.
All Jesuits make the full thirty-day Spiritual Exercises. St. Ignatius also provided for people to make the Exercises over a 10-month period. Over the centuries the Jesuits have adapted the Exercises into shorter individually-directed retreats of six to eight days, and into conference or group retreats of a few days’ duration, in which the director presents various themes of the Spiritual Exercises to a group of people, who pray on their own over the material presented. The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius are usually experienced in these shorter adaptations, but occasionally people are moved by grace to give themselves to the full Spiritual Exercises in the form of a Thirty-Day Retreat or as the 10-month Spiritual Exercises in Daily Life
Some of the major themes normally addressed in the four weeks or phases of the Exercises are:
- – God’s unconditional, ever-faithful love.
- – Sin: our failure and the failure of the human family to respond with love to God’s love.
- – God’s ever-greater love, mercy and forgiveness.
- – The person and life of Christ.
- – Our call to discipleship, ministry and friendship with Jesus.
- – Knowing Christ more intimately, loving Him more ardently, following him more faithfully.
- – The ultimate expression of God’s love.
- – The suffering and death of Jesus for us.
- – The victory of Jesus over death.
- – His sharing His joy with us.
- – Being missioned by Jesus.
- – Being empowered by His Spirit.