The Spiritual Exercises are an Encounter with a Liberating God
The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius are based on his unique mystical experience at Manresa (near Barcelona in Spain) in which he saw the whole of creation in a totally new and comprehensive vision, as it originates from God, as it moves towards its fulfilment in God; Jesus Christ is the center of this vision. Josef Neuner sj writes that it was this vision that gave orientation to Ignatius’ whole life and work.
THE SPIRITUAL EXERCISES TODAY
Parmananda Divarkar sj, in considering the relevance of the Spiritual Exercises in the contemporary world, writes that this powerful current of fresh enthusiasm for the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, is one of the characteristics of this age of renewal in which we live. As compared with a generation ago, there is a notable increase in the number and variety of people making them, in their fidelity to the original Ignatian design and, it would seem, in the profit that is derived.
This is due in large measure to the present understanding of the Exercises, in the light of Ignatius’ own spiritual experience rather than simply according to the letter of the text. After all, it is he himself who tells us in his autobiography, ‘that he had not composed the Exercises all at once, but that when he noticed some things in his soul and found them useful, he thought they might also be useful to others, and so he put them in writing.’
Looked at in this way – as a painstaking effort to communicate an experience, and not just a piece of religious literature – the Exercises reveal a vision of reality and a dynamic of personal growth that are very much in tune with the mind and heart of the Church in this post-conciliar period of her history.
Hence it is, that committed Christians today find them admirably suited to meet their actual spiritual needs. But this supposes that there is someone at hand to translate the authentic intuitions of Ignatius into the current idiom and to place them in the context of contemporary life.
PROCESS OF THE SPIRITUAL EXERCISES
The Spiritual Exercises are not a project to be undertaken, they are a process to be experienced, in which the unfolding of God’s grace, liberates and transforms one’s life.
The full Ignatian Spiritual Exercises are a threefold process of Prayer – Reflection – Conversation. The most common way of experiencing the Full Spiritual Exercises, are in one of the following ways.
During 30 Days in solitude and silence.
During 30-34 Weeks in one’s ongoing daily life.
AIM OF THE SPIRITUAL EXERCISES
Joseph Neuner sj, writes that Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius are not simply a random sequence of spiritual reflections. They have the definite goal and aim, that of helping the Retreatant to find and realize the meaning of their life and so to lead them to practical decisions, decisions which affect their personal life and ongoing work.
THE SPIRITUAL EXERCISES, A WHOLISTIC JOURNEY OF ENCOUNTER.
Each Retreatant’s experience of the Spiritual Exercises is as unique as they are, for an encounter with the God who liberates, is also an invitation to a deeper understanding of ‘who I really am, my true self revealed in God.’
Gilles Cusson sj, touches on this wholistic experience, as he comments that the Exercises are not primarily a course in gymnastics, even expert spiritual gymnastics. They are an encounter with God, with God's liberating and sanctifying truth.
God's plan for salvation and spiritual growth throws infinitely more light on human psychology than our knowledge of human psychology casts upon the divine message.
Although psychology finds in the ways of God, on some points, a remarkable agreement with its own conclusions, nevertheless, it could never of itself reach views of the human as lofty as God's revelation does.
It is in the light of this divine revelation that man and woman must learn to know themselves and to live. God is man and woman's end and this creates a dynamic attraction or tension toward an infinite destiny.
HOW TO APPLY