The Spiritual Exercises

The Spiritual Exercises are a very carefully arranged series of scriptural meditations and what St Ignatius called `Contemplations’ of the Gospels.

Over the centuries they have been used in the context of a long or short period of prayer spent in retreat to help people of all sorts to hear what God is saying to them now, through their past and present life as it is illuminated by the story of God’s love for the whole world. Ignatius set out a way of helping people to open up their reason and their imagination to that love. Some teaching on prayer suggests that either or both should be suppressed when people pray. Ignatius believed that both were given by God and could be offered to him for his use, and that he could speak through them both, if people would only learn how to let him.

“ The Voice of This Calling “, Anne Netherwood, SPCK p. 3

We are all mystics. It is our nature. Our truest sense of our selves is inseparably rooted in God, and our identity stems from our lived awareness of that union. Often we live unaware of who we are, the depths of ourselves are forgotten in the round of daily life. We forget God as our constant living source. Then our connection with God withers. But God is the Passionate One who desires us, and for whom every fibre of our being reaches out. Though we may live and die cut off from God, God never withdraws the divine love from us. The path to intimacy brings us into the awareness that we are created as desire for God, and that nothing or no one satisfies us totally but the One who desires us. When we discover ourselves as desire, drawn in desire by Desire, we discover a passionate God who not only wants to bring us to fullness of life, but shares with us the desire to bring everyone to that delight in life.

“ The Gift of Spiritual Intimacy “ Fr Monty Williams, sj Novalis p. 11

The Spiritual Exercises are the best means I can think of in this life both to help a person benefit him/herself and to bring help, profit, and advantage to many others. Even though you felt yourself to be in no special need, you will see how they will help you serve others beyond anything you ever dreamed of.

St Ignatius Loyola in a letter to Manuel Miona, Venice, 16/11/1536

Ignatius developed a program of prayer and reflection from his own experience of seeking God. His experiences of sharing God’s love with all sorts of people grew to become the book of ‘The Spiritual Exercises’. Ignatius gave three forms of his Exercises and we in turn offer them to you.

1. The Full Spiritual Exercises: 30-40 Days
The Full Spiritual Exercises is an individually-directed live-in retreat made over 30-40 days in a retreat centre. In an atmosphere of prayerful silence and surrender, one is drawn into a deeper relationship with God through daily prayer, reflection, liturgy and spiritual direction. This retreat is offered at Sevenhill CIS, Campion CIS Melbourne and Canisius CIS Sydney.

2. The Full Spiritual Exercises in Daily Life: 30 Weeks
The Full Spiritual Exercises can also be made over about 30 weeks in daily life. One makes the Exercises whilst living and working as usual. The retreatant commits to prayer and reflection for an hour each day and meets with his/her spiritual director once a week.

3. The First Spiritual Exercises
This retreat is made in daily life over four weeks. It contains first step exercises for beginners, new visions for searchers and solid food
for those desiring more in their interior life. This retreat is about simplicity with depth — simplicity in exercise, depth in desire and relationship. They are ‘everyday’ exercises in that one learns and prays exercises in this retreat that can be used with confidence and ease every day after it.

Our CIS team in collaboration with trained spiritual conversation guides give the First Spiritual Exercises to parishes, pastoral teams, prayer groups, teaching staff, ecumenical groups and individuals. Made in daily life over four weeks, these retreats build upon a commitment to daily prayer Monday to Thursday and Sunday Eucharist. Regular spiritual conversation in a group or individually, or both, is adapted to the particular needs and circumstances of those making the retreat.

If you would like to experience any one of these retreats in your parish, your group or personally, please contact the Loyola CIS team, Phone: 08 8364 3834 or Email: loyola@cis.jesuit.org.au.