What are the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius?


Ignatius wanted to share with other people the fruits of his experience of God, and made notes for himself to help him do this. Those notes grew into a small book of directions called The Spiritual Exercises. It was intended to help the person who directed another in a structured thirty-day program of contemplation and prayer rather than for use by the person being directed.

Some of the major themes normally addressed in the four weeks or periods of the Exercises are:

Week 1

  • God’s unconditional, ever faithful love.
  • Sin: our failure and the failure of the human family to respond with love to God’s love.
  • God’s ever greater love, mercy and forgiveness.

Week 2

  • The person and life of Christ.
  • Our call to discipleship, ministry and friendship with Jesus.
  • Knowing Christ more intimately, loving him more ardently, following him more faithfully.

Week 3:

  • The ultimate expression of God’s love.
  • The suffering and death of Jesus for us.

Week 4:

  • The victory of Jesus over death.
  • Jesus’ sharing his joy with us.
  • Being missioned by Jesus.
  • Being empowered by his Spirit.
  • The continuing presence of Christ in the world and the life of the retreatant.
  • The call to return God’s constant love by an offering of one’s whole self to God.

All Jesuits make the full thirty-day Spiritual Exercises. Over the centuries the Jesuits have adapted the Exercises into shorter individually directed retreats of six to eight days, and into conference or group retreats of a few days’ duration in which the director presents various themes of the Exercises to individuals or to a group of people, who pray on their own about the material presented.

The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius are usually experienced in one of these shorter adaptations, but occasionally people are moved by grace to give themselves to the full Spiritual Exercises either at a retreat house for the form of a silent Thirty-Day Retreat, or at home in the form of The Spiritual Exercises in Daily Life. [Also called the 19th Annotation Retreat.]

Jesuit Retreat House of Cleveland is the perfect setting to make the Exercises, either in their orginal thirty form or in a modified approach that fits your busy schedule.

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