The Spiritual Exercises, the underpinning of all Ignatian spirituality, is a series of guided exercises of reflecting on one's experience, and of practical instructions on various ways of praying. They are based on the experiences that Ignatius of Loyola had long before he became a priest and founder of the Jesuits. The Exercises are, essentially, "spirituality for busy persons" who are actively involved in the world. They are a means of making decisions in a state of true interior freedom. They include ways of meditating and contemplating, the use of thought, memory, and imagination, with frequent reference to Scripture passages.
- Individuals commit themselves to some time each day for prayer and reflection.
- The Ignatian Exercises follow a sequence of subjects with personal adaptation to each one's particular experience.
- Individuals or small groups of from two to five persons meet once a week for about an hour with an Ignatian "guide" who provides the Ignatian texts and Scriptural references, and who facilitates helpful sharing about the ongoing experience of The Exercises.
There are many reasons that draw people to making these Ignatian Spiritual Exercises. One person seeks to grow in true personal freedom so as to be able to make better choices and decisions. Another seeks a sense of peace and a connection with God, or Christ. Some desire an experience of profound growth and transformation in all spheres of life, and others seek a more conscious experience of spirituality that supports their desires to bring greater justice into the world about them. The very words The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius attract some here at Loyola Marymount, where Ignatian Spirituality is in the very roots and life of the University.
Whatever motives one might have for making The Exercises, the benefits of obtaining a clearer focus in one's life are not just personal. Those who grow in a confident peace with themselves become better persons at work, at home – everywhere. Those who develop a more trusting relationship with God deepen their concern for justice among all persons.
The following is an excellent resource about making The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius while continuing to live a normal active life. Though it is designed for those making The Exercises online, most of the information applies directly to what we do here at LMU. Notice that there are descriptions of a 34-week Retreat for Everyday Life, a Press Release, Helps for a Group, and Feedback from those who have made this kind of retreat. The website is hosted at Creighton University.