The Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola, the bedrock of Ignatian Spirituality.
The origin of the Exercises is found in Ignatius’ own personal experience of conversion and prayer. An avid journal keeper, Ignatius recorded particular ‘spiritual exercises’ he felt could be of benefit to others. Through a process of reflection, Ignatius produced a small manual of considerations, meditations, contemplations and notes to help others advance their spiritual life. Within a short period of time the Spiritual Exercises became renown for their transformative effect on those who received them.
In the Spiritual Exercises, we are invited to contemplate the life and mission of Jesus and deepen this experience through accompanying Him in his life, pain and resurrected joy – as we experience in our own lives.
Spiritual Exercises can be taken in either of the following four ways:
- First Spiritual Exercises
- Field Hospital Spiritual Exercises
- Full Spiritual Exercises as a Retreat in Daily Life
- Full Spiritual Exercises at Sevenhill over 33-days
What are the First Spiritual Exercises?
The First Spiritual Exercises (FSE) combines the two ministries of spiritual conversation and spiritual exercises, akin to the form of the spiritual exercises given most frequently by Ignatius and the early Jesuits to anyone of good will.
These questions helped create the First Spiritual Exercises:
- What do I desire?
- Where can I find life?
- What is my true face?
- What is under my feet?
- Do I have to be strong to serve?
Humble Service & Deep Inner Peace
The First Spiritual Exercises help a person ask for and receive inner peace. This inner peace is utterly unmistakable. I feel the love of God so overwhelmingly unconditional, so gently intimate, that I am left with a deep-seated peace that will survive all sorts of trials, selfishness and loss.
FSE Retreats & Spiritual Conversation
The FSE is a four-week retreat in daily life, with a choice of four retreats. It involves a commitment to daily prayer from Monday to Thursday and a Sunday exercise. Retreatants usually meet weekly during the retreat and share their experience in spiritual conversation facilitated by trained guides. The FSE can always be adapted to the particular needs and circumstances of those making the retreat.
We can connect you with local spiritual conversation guides who give the FSE to parishes, pastoral teams, prayer groups, teaching staff, ecumenical groups and individuals. We work in collaboration with CIS teams, CLC and other Ignatian partners.
Praying an FSE retreat can bring us swiftly back into relationship with a personal God and the meaning and direction of our life journey. It slows us down, to reground us in what matters.
The FSE offers life through listening and conversation. A single story from another can change us for life. Such stories reach deep and catch us up, to transform and nourish. And our life stories carry life for others. The FSE is full of deep stories – our stories, the story of the universe, of people in great need, of intimacy with Jesus.
If you would like to experience one of these retreats in your parish, your group or personally,
First Spiritual Exercises Retreats
In these exercises, we reflect on our experience of God’s gift to us. In remembering such gifts, we become open to gratitude and response. The exercises begin with our experience of love and teach us how to bring those original feelings into the present. Come and experience this journey into divine love.
These exercises take us in prayer through the mysteries of love, sin and mercy, healing and freedom. They track through the dark side of our humanity and life journey. But in doing so, with God’s tender love, they also provide us with a sure route to greater faith, wholeness and intimacy with God. Indeed, they lead us to a profound friendship with God. Come and experience this journey into the mercy of God.
‘Some friends play at friendship but a true friend sticks closer than one’s nearest kin.’ (Proverbs 18:24)
Using sacred symbols for each exercise, begin with the first acts of divine friendship, the creation of the universe and ourselves, and end with the last act of friendship, our eternal union with the Trinity. In the core of the retreat, we pray ‘friendship’ exercises that help people we know in need. Come and experience this journey into divine friendship
The core of this retreat is praying the Beatitudes, gifts of the Spirit, works of mercy and more in a way that draws naturally on our own experience of these gifts in our lives. We are encouraged to ask for the grace we most need now. Come and experience this journey into a more fruitful service.
What are the Full Spiritual Exercises?
St Ignatius wrote this director’s manual for giving the Spiritual Exercises out of his own experiences over the time he was in the cave at Manresa, and subsequent to that, even when he was studying in Paris. He first gave the full Exercises, over 30 days, to a few of his fellow students even before meeting Francis Xavier and Peter Favre. This intensive retreat then became a standard part of Jesuit formation (along with experiences in various apostolic works and a pilgrimage). Nowadays the 30 Day retreat is open to all Christians along with the 33 Week adaptation.
The aim of this spiritual experience, Ignatius writes in the introduction, is to ‘prepare and dispose the soul to rid itself of all inordinate attachments, and, after their removal, to seek and find the will of God in the disposition of our life for the salvation of our soul.’ During the retreat the Exercitant (as the participant is called) discovers those things in his or her life that are getting in the way of his or her relationship with God, and learns how God communicates with him or her, revealing how this one unique individual can live life to the full with God.
The Spiritual Exercises are divided into four phases or ‘Weeks’ (not actually 7 days) each of which builds on the last.
The first week of the Exercises is a time of reflection on our lives in light of God’s boundless love for us. We see that our response to God’s love has been hindered by patterns of sin. We face these sins knowing that God wants to free us of everything that gets in the way of our loving response to him.
The meditations and prayers of the second week teach us how to follow Christ as his disciples. We reflect on Scripture passages: Christ’s birth and baptism, his sermon on the mount, his ministry of healing and teaching, his raising Lazarus from the dead. We are brought to decisions to change our lives to do Christ’s work in the world and to love him more intimately.
In the third and fourth weeks we meditate on Christ’s Last Supper, passion, and death. We see his suffering and the gift of the Eucharist as the ultimate expression of God’s love. We meditate on Jesus’ resurrection and his apparitions to his disciples. We walk with the risen Christ and set out to love and serve him in concrete ways in our lives in the world.
The two primary forms of praying taught in the Exercises are meditation and contemplation. In meditation, we use our minds. We ponder the basic principles that guide our life. We pray over words, images, and ideas. Contemplation is more about feeling than thinking. Contemplation often stirs the emotions and enkindles deep desires. In contemplation, we rely on our imaginations to place ourselves in a setting from the Gospels or in a scene proposed by Ignatius.
Flowing through the Exercises is the practice of the discernment of spirits This means that the Exercitant notices the interior movements of his or her heart, and discerns where these are leading him or her. A regular practice of discernment helps them make good decisions.
All the characteristic themes of Ignatian spirituality are grounded in the Exercises. These include a sense of collaboration with God’s action in the world, spiritual discernment in decision making, generosity of response to God’s invitation, fraternity and companionship in service, and a disposition to find God in all things. Spiritual integration is a prominent theme of the Exercises: integration of contemplation and action, prayer and service, and emotions and reason.
Full Spiritual Exercises as a retreat in daily life
Not all of us are able to set aside time to go away for 30 consecutive days to make the Enclosed Silent Retreat.
For those people who are focused on prayer and who desire to deepen their relationship with God, one way of making the Exercises is through the 19th Annotation, also known as The Retreat in Daily Life.
One of the advantages of the Retreat in Daily Life is that the person is able to live and work in their own environment and yet still pray and make the Retreat over a period of approximately 30 weeks.
- A commitment needs to be made to a daily prayer time (of approximately 1 hour)
- Daily Examen, which is prayed at the conclusion of each day.
- To meet once per week with a Spiritual Director who acts as a guide along the way.
One of the blessings of this Retreat is that all of our daily life can be integrated into our prayer and the Spiritual Exercise of that particular day, also that this Retreat does not conclude on a particular day, but lives on in us as we continue to reflect, discern and grow through our individual experience of God in our day to day activities.
Those who have made Retreat in Daily Life found that they have a continued desire for prayer. Their discernment and thought patterns have greater clarity, their prayer life has deepened, and they have a better understanding of their own self and their journey with God. Moreover, they are clearer about their personal vocation and how God desires to utilize them as a collaborator in building the Kingdom.
Full Spiritual Exercises at Sevenhill (over 33 days)
For those who desire to immerse themselves in the Full Spiritual Exercises, we offer the 33-day retreat through Sevenhill Centre of Ignatian Spirituality. In this silent retreat, the exercitants meet once every day with their Directors and engage in the methods and models of prayer provided by St Ignatius in his text, The Spiritual Exercises.
Scheduled retreats are offered during the year.
We offer the Spiritual Exercises to religious and lay people from all walks of life, who are already familiar with Ignatian spirituality and Ignatian spiritual direction.
If you are seeking to deepen your relationship with God and to discern what God wants for you, the Spiritual Exercises may be what you are looking for.