The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola are an ordered sequence of meditations and contemplations – exercises – that arise from the deep spiritual experience that the saint lives from his conversion; His goal is to help those who exercise in them to discover the will of God for their life.
The Exercises go back to the Notebook in which Ignatius describes his spiritual experiences during his visit to the city of Manresa, where, as he writes in his Autobiography, “God treated him in the same way that a school teacher treated a Child, teaching him “(Autobiography 27).
In addition, it is not the book of Exercises – although strange at first sight – “a book to read”, but a book “to do the Exercises”, and can hardly be understood and exploited if there is no guide Of someone who knows them and has experienced them.
The complete experience of the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises, called “typical”, lasts approximately 30 days, which are done in silence and under the guidance of a “preacher,” whom St. Ignatius calls “the one who gives the exercises” It is not a question of preaching something “new”, but of explaining the Exercises.
Typical methodology and structure of the exercises
Ideally these exercises were designed to be performed in a secluded retreat, during which those who perform the exercises had no distraction. They were also designed so that they were performed under the direction of a spiritual director (St. Ignatius always speaks of “the one who gives the Exercises”)
The main goal appears to be to have been used as part of the order’s noviciate program. As such, they are required as part of the first year of novitiate. Although other Catholics do not necessarily Jesuits have performed the exercises, usually under the guidance of a spiritual director who is a member of the order. A religious Institute that follows this spirituality and practices the Exercises during the novitiate and every 10 years, is the Institute of the Incarnate Word.
Among the exercises, daily instructions include various talks about the nature of the world, human psychology as interpreted by Ignatius and man’s relationship with God. During each exercise day, a typical retreat participant might read two or three pages of these instructions, and then meditate on their meaning and how they might apply it to their personal lives. Then tell your spiritual director what meaning they had for him / her these instructions.
An important characteristic of the exercises is the obligation to keep silent during them all the time (when getting up in the morning, when dressing, during meals, in the recesses, before sleeping), except for moments in which reflection is discussed About a conference or a biblical text, collectively among all attendees. Private conversations are not allowed unless they are with the spiritual director, with few exceptions. The reason for this practice of silence is to force the person to perform an introspection of the experiences that he is living in the exercise, so that he meditates in depth. The experience of living these moments of silence in continuous meditation are also called deserts.
Although the exercises are designed to last a month, there are shorter versions of 3, 7 or 15 days for lay Catholics or others interested in doing these exercises.
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