Nearly 500 years ago St Ignatius wrote a little manual entitled "The Spiritual Exercises". The manual is a set of guidelines to help a Spiritual Director lead a person through a series of prayerful reflections on the life of Christ. These reflections are the exercises.
The purpose of the Spiritual Exercises is to help you deepen your intimacy with God and release you be your most authentic self.
The Spiritual Exercises have five phases. The preparatory exercises, followed by four phases known as 'weeks'.
I put 'weeks' in quotes as they may not be seven days long. The Spiritual Director may adapt the exercises to meet the needs of the person making them. If a particular 'week' is proving fruitful for a person, the Spiritual Director may suggest extending it. If it is not, they may suggest reducing it. The goal is not to get to the end of the 'week', but to receive all the graces it offers.
The preparatory exercises prepare your heart and mind for the Spiritual Exercises to come. They bring you to a place of knowing God created you and loves you. You will reflect on God's creation, including yourself, and His love for the world.
You will also look at the principle and foundation that the remaining Spiritual Exercises upon. The main elements of which are:
The first week continues the theme of God's love and creative process by looking at the ways we hinder them. You look at:
Freedom from these hindrances gives you the freedom to say yes to God and become who you were created to be.
In the second 'week', you will reflect on the life and ministry of Jesus so that you may freely choose to love him more dearly, know him more clearly, and follow him more closely. We reflect on:
The focus of the third week is to deepen your intimacy and commitment to Jesus by accompanying him through the last week of his life. You will reflect on:
The focus of the fourth 'week' is the joy of living the resurrected life. We reflect on:
There are a number of ways to make the exercises:
As I say at the end of the article, "A short history of the Spiritual Exercises", the Spiritual Exercises are a little manual wrote by St Ignatius to help a Spiritual Director lead a person through a series of prayerful reflections on the life of Christ. If you wish to do the Spiritual Exercises, find a reputable retreat centre—such as St Beuno's—or a trained Spiritual Director—who has completed the exercises themselves—to guide you through them.
You may be unable to make the Spiritual Exercises at a long residential retreat due to your commitments. You may have work and a family for example. If this is the case, you could make the Spiritual Exercises as a retreat in daily life (known as the 19th annotation).
I offer the Spiritual Exercises as a retreat in daily life in the form of thirty weeks of guided prayer. These weeks are flexible to fit in with the rhythms of your life, and you do not need to complete them back-to-back. Some people meet with me weekly, some bimonthly, and some during school term times.
I give you material to pray with during your retreat. Once you have prayed through it, I meet you for Spiritual Direction to explore how God may be leading you.
The first two weeks of guided prayer can be found here.
If you'd like to make the Spiritual Exercises as a retreat in daily life, I'd love to accompany you. Please contact me to arrange an initial meeting (in person or Skype). It's free of charge with no obligation to meet again. It is an opportunity for you to meet me, tell me what you’re looking for, and see if working with me is right for you.