Spiritual Exercises
The Spiritual Exercises

What are the Spiritual Exercises?

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.

Purpose of the Spiritual Exercises

The purpose of the Spiritual Exercises is to help you deepen your intimacy with God and release you be your most authentic self.

Structure of the Spiritual Exercises

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 week

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:

  • God created you and loves you despite your human limitations.
  • God created you and called to take part in His creation by being who he created you to be.

The first week

The first week continues the theme of God's love and creative process by looking at the ways we hinder them. You look at:

  • Humanity's global failure to receive and respond to God’s love.
  • The patterns in our own lives that stop us from receiving and responding to God’s love.

Freedom from these hindrances gives you the freedom to say yes to God and become who you were created to be.

The second week

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:

  • Jesus’ birth, baptism, ministry and teaching.
  • How may Jesus be inviting you to follow and serve him personally (your personal vocation)?
  • How will you respond to this call?

The third week

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:

  • Jesus’ suffering and death as his ultimate expression of love for you.
  • Your response to his expression of love for you.
  • Jesus' commitment to the call on his life.
  • Your willingness to follow Christ in your particular call.

The forth week

The focus of the fourth 'week' is the joy of living the resurrected life. We reflect on:

  • Jesus' resurrection and his appearances to his disciples.
  • How you will share in Jesus' mission in our own particular way.
Ways to make the exercises

There are a number of ways to make the exercises:

  • A silent residential 30 day guided retreat.
  • Two silent residential 15 day guided retreats.
  • Three silent residential 10 day guided retreats.
  • A retreat in daily life.

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.

A retreat in daily life

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.

Get in touch

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[1] 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.

[1] I have a model that should help me to help you with future meetings. Read about it here.