The Spiritual Exercises

The Spiritual Exercises are a compilation of meditations, prayers, and contemplative practices developed by St. Ignatius Loyola to help people deepen their relationship with God. For centuries the Exercises were most commonly given as a “long retreat” of about 30 days in solitude and silence. In recent years, there has been a renewed emphasis on the Spiritual Exercises as a program for laypeople.  The most common way of going through the Exercises now is a “retreat in daily life,” which involves a monthslong program of daily prayer and meetings with a spiritual director.  The Exercises have also been adapted in many other ways to meet the needs of modern people.

About the Spiritual Exercises
Elements of the Spiritual Exercises
Using the Spiritual Exercises

An Ignatian Prayer AdventureAn Ignatian Prayer Adventure
An online adapted version of the Spiritual Exercises. Materials are based on The Ignatian Adventure, and Loyola Press bloggers offer their own reflections throughout the eight-week retreat. Use as much or as little of the material as helps you in your Ignatian adventure.

Spiritual Exercises Online
Developed for spiritual directors and other practitioners of Ignatian spirituality, the Spiritual Exercises online supports those who lead others in the Exercises, whether as a 30-day retreat, a 19th annotation retreat, or other variation. This digitally enhanced experience of the Spiritual Exercises includes the full text, commentaries and annotations by leaders in Ignatian spirituality, and videos, image libraries, PowerPoint presentations, and multimedia prayer experiences.

About the Spiritual Exercises

What Are the Spiritual Exercises?
An introduction: the purpose of the Exercises and their structure.

Orientations for Spiritual Growth
Canadian Jesuit Web site founded by John Veltri, SJ, and now maintained by Jean-Marc Laporte, SJ. Well-rounded coverage of personal prayer, understanding the spiritual journey, understanding the Spiritual Exercises, and the ministry of companioning others on their spiritual journey.

Slí Eile Spiritual Exercises Video
Noelle Fitzpatrick outlines the Spiritual Exercises. Then Edwina Dewart speaks about the core values of the Exercises and the importance of the relationship with the spiritual director. Produced by the Jesuit Centre for Young Adults in Ireland.

Spiritual Exercises
By Ron Hansen
A noted novelist and essayist believes that Ignatius Loyola’s spiritual notebook is a practical manual for realizing our soul’s deepest yearnings.

Reexamining Our Faith Fundamentals (PDF)
By Patrick E. McGrath, SJ
In this short article from Partners magazine, McGrath names several fundamental faith assumptions behind the Spiritual Exercises.

Video: The Spiritual Exercises
Narrated by John Brown, SJ
The first part of this video describes the structure and purpose of the Spiritual Exercises.

The Council of Trent, the Spiritual Exercises and the Catholic Reform (PDF)
By Robert E. McNally, SJ
In an article from 1965, McNally reviews the impact of the Spiritual Exercises in the light of the general history and goals of the Council of Trent (1545-1563) for promoting the internal spiritual renewal of the Church.

dotMagis Posts About the Spiritual Exercises
From the category archives of the dotMagis blog.

Elements of the Spiritual Exercises

An Outline of the Spiritual Exercises
A simple outline of what is experienced at each stage of the Exercises.

The Text of the Spiritual Exercises
The Spiritual Exercises were not meant to be read by an individual but rather led by a retreat director.

The Meaning of Detachment
By Margaret Silf
Silf explains how the First Principle and Foundation came to life for her when she was looking at a fuchsia bush.

Principle and Foundation: A Contemporary Version
By John Reilly, SJ
David L. Fleming’s contemporary reading of the First Principle and Foundation has more flair than John Reilly’s version here. It is, however, a decent attempt at rendering Ignatius’ words to make them more accessible to a modern audience.

The Colloquy
By Kevin O’Brien, SJ
A colloquy is an intimate conversation between you and God the Father, between you and Jesus, or between you and Mary or one of the saints.

Poverty of Spirit
By Kevin O’Brien, SJ
Not all are called to material poverty, but all are called to “poverty of spirit,” or spiritual poverty.

St. Ignatius’ Call of the King: A Prayerful Meditation (PDF)
By Mark Link, SJ
Walks through the meditation process in general and the meditation of the Call of the King in particular.

The Two Standards
By Joseph A. Tetlow, SJ
The Spiritual Exercises’ Meditation on the Two Standards invites a choice of standing with Jesus or with the way of the world.

Two Standards: A Prayerful Meditation (PDF)
By Mark Link, SJ
Fr. Link leads the reader in the meditation on the Two Standards for a deeper understanding of the contrasting approaches used by Satan and Jesus to gain entry into the human heart.

How the Two Standards Meditation Can Help Outside of a Retreat
By John Monroe
A lay retreat director and spiritual director suggests that the Meditation on the Two Standards can be helpful as a way to periodically check to see how we are living our lives.

Ignatian Contemplation: Imaginative Prayer
By Kevin O’Brien, SJ
Ignatian contemplation is an active way of praying that engages the mind and heart and stirs up thoughts and emotions.

Contemplation on the Incarnation Part One: The Trinity Looks Down from Heaven
By Daniel Ruff, SJ
The Contemplation on the Incarnation begins with imagining the Trinity looking down from heaven and responding with the Incarnation. Ruff introduces readers to this aspect of the Spiritual Exercises.

Contemplation on the Incarnation Part Two: Mary’s Human Response
By Daniel Ruff, SJ
The second part of the Contemplation on the Incarnation explores the Annunciation and Mary’s response.

The Language of the Cross
By Joseph A. Tetlow, SJ
Tetlow explores the idea that Jesus’ passion brings us to embrace the world as it really is.

The Resurrection Brings Joy
By Gerald M. Fagin, SJ
“Three significant truths rooted in the Resurrection open a window to the grace and virtues of the Fourth Week. In particular, they highlight some of the reasons for our joy.”

The First Two Degrees of Humility
By Joseph A. Tetlow, SJ
Tetlow explains the first and second ways of living humility according to Ignatian spirituality.

The Third Degree of Humility
By Joseph A. Tetlow, SJ
Tetlow explains the third way of living humility according to Ignatian spirituality and the Spiritual Exercises.

Contemplation on the Love of God
A basic explanation of the concluding meditation of the Spiritual Exercises.

video iconThe Contemplation on Divine Love
Kevin O’Brien, SJ, explains the final contemplation of the Spiritual Exercises in this video.

Contemplation to Attain Divine Love from the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola
Edited by Martin Royackers, SJ
Provides the text of the Contemplation and follows with a short and uncomplicated commentary on the exercise.

Ignatian Prayer and the Imagination
One of the principal forms of prayer in the Spiritual Exercises is imaginative reflection on scenes from the Gospels.

Ignatius’ Three-Part Vision
By David L. Fleming, SJ
Fleming, a renowned spiritual director and commentator on the Spiritual Exercises, describes Ignatius Loyola’s vision of life, work, and love.

Prayer Is a Conversation
By David L. Fleming, SJ
The essential activity of prayer springs naturally from our humanity. It is a matter of conversing with a very good friend.

Pray with Your Imagination
By David L. Fleming, SJ
Ignatius presents two ways of imagining in the Spiritual Exercises.

A Spirituality of the Heart
By David L. Fleming, SJ
Heart, in the sense of the totality of our response, is the concern of the Spiritual Exercises.

Sin and the First Week in Our Actual Faith (PDF)
By Hans van Leeuwen, SJ
Van Leeuwen translates Ignatius’s language of sin into 21st century concepts of unwillingness to be open to God’s gifts, breaking of relationships, subsequent guilt, and the true nature of forgiveness. For experts.

Using the Spiritual Exercises

Images of God
By Kevin O’Brien, SJ
“We need to let go of images that get in the way of a grown-up relationship with God, who is both far beyond us, yet so close to us.”

The Foundation of Heroism: Magis
By Chris Lowney
Lowney considers motivation and the magis as he discusses how the Spiritual Exercises work as a leadership tool.

Learning to Live Reverently
By Gerald M. Fagin, SJ
Reverence is foundational for putting on the heart of Christ and enables us to find God in all things.

In the Footsteps of Ignatius
An article about the ways people are making the Exercises today.

Ignatian Spirituality Project
A remarkable Chicago-based Jesuit ministry which offers retreats to those who are homeless and seeking recovery, to help them find meaning and purpose as they reclaim their lives. The Ignatian Spirituality Project also trains the formerly homeless to assist in giving retreats.

Co-Laboring with the Living Lord: Ignatian Companions on Mission Guide Book (PDF)
By Jim Connor, SJ
Designed and implemented by the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus, Co-Laboring with the Living Lord is a year-long guide through the Spiritual Exercises for Jesuits and laity praying for the graces of Gratitude, Healing, Call, and Co-Laboring. May be used by individuals and small groups.

Co-Laboring with the Living Lord: Ignatian Companions on Mission Resource Book (PDF)
By Jim Connor, SJ
This Resource Book is a companion to the Guide Book for the Year of Prayer of Ignatian partners of the Maryland Province. The readings provide the historical background and the Ignatian ideals that Ignatian partners can meditate on as they renew their mission of sharing faith and promoting justice.

The Composition of Place: Creating Space for an Encounter (PDF)
By Nicolas Standaert, SJ
Standaert reviews Jerome Nadal’s Annotations and Meditations on the Gospels and shows how Nadal’s use of images helps the reader create a space for prayer and meditation.

Resources for Using the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola in the Classroom
By Anthony Borrow, SJ
Materials for religious educators to adapt the Spiritual Exercises for use in the high school classroom.

Draw Me Into Your Friendship: A Literal Translation and a Contemporary Reading of the Spiritual Exercises (Book)
By David L. Fleming, SJ
This modern paraphrase is widely used by spiritual directors and others who teach and study the Exercises.

Perspectives in Understanding and Using the Spiritual Exercises
By John Veltri, SJ
Different ways that spiritual directors approach the Spiritual Exercises. An article primarily for spiritual directors.

Adapting the Spiritual Exercises (PDF; 110 KB)
By Mark Rotsaert, SJ
The Spiritual Exercises must be adapted to suit the needs of the person doing them. What constitutes an authentic adaptation of the Exercises? What makes the Exercises “Ignatian”?

Ignatian Spirituality and the Three-Fold Model of Organizational Life (PDF)
By Dianne Nettifee
The Three-Fold model is a process that assists organizations to imagine what “living fully alive” might look like. The author shows how Ignatian spirituality provides leaders with the ability to live and engage life from the “center.” A leader who has journeyed deeply into his own center will be capable of greater freedom in guiding an organization towards a more fully alive future.

The Spiritual Exercises: Forming Lay People Shaping Partners in Ministry (PDF)
By Maureen McCann Waldron
Waldron shares her experience of being introduced to the Spiritual Exercises and the impact this has had on her life. She also relates how she is working with the Collaborative Ministry Office at Creighton University to help lay people have greater access to the Exercises.

Thoughts on Youth and the Ignatian Method (PDF)
By Nathan Stone, SJ
Describing the Spiritual Exercises as primarily a vocational experience in the broadest sense, Stone advocates developing strategies for bringing the Spiritual Exercises to young adults.

Spiritual Exercises in Everyday Life (Puget Sound)
Program information about a nine-month experiential retreat of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola. The site also includes a daily prayer feature.

Ecology and the Spiritual Exercises (PDF)
By Trileigh Tucker
Tucker explores how the Spiritual Exercises provide us with a structure to examine the relationship between the individual and the environment. Article in The Way, 2004.

The Spiritual Exercises and Ecology (PDF)
By James Profit, SJ
Through the experience of the Spiritual Exercises, participants can experience healing of the relationship with God and the earth. This ultimately leads to loving action for the sake of the earth and experiencing the love of God in and through creation.

Notes on Adapting the Exercises of St. Ignatius
By David T. Asselin, SJ
In a relatively short article from Review for Religious (Vol. 28, 1969), David Asselin, SJ, discusses ways to adapt the Exercises and notes that slides and short films can be useful.

Spiritual Exercises: A Ministry of Jesuits and Lay Colleagues (PDF)
By Hans van Leeuwen
Report on the history of Jesuit and lay collaboration in giving the Spiritual Exercises in the Netherlands and Northern Belgium.

In a Judge’s Chambers: Exercises in Daily Life, An Interview (PDF)
Judge Francisco Firmat recounts how he came to lead the Exercises in Daily Life. Fr. Bernard J. Bush interviewed Firmat for this piece in 1999.

When Are Spiritual Exercises Ignatian Spiritual Exercises? (PDF)
By Mark Rotsaert, SJ
An in-depth discussion of the Spiritual Exercises that emphasizes the non-negotiable teaching which has to be a part of any adaptation of the Exercises.

The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola: Rediscovery and Renewal Part One
Produced by Georgetown University
Jesuit pioneers in the 20th-century renewal of the Spiritual Exercises relate their personal experiences in their introduction to the guided retreat. Howard Gray, SJ, William Barry, SJ, Walter Farrell, SJ, John O’Malley, SJ, John Padberg, SJ, Joseph Tetlow, SJ, and Dominic Maruca, SJ, narrate the developments in research into the early years of the Jesuits, the rediscovery of the giving of the Spiritual Exercises as a one-on-one experience, and the impact of the Second Vatican Council and the 31st General Congregation on the way the Spiritual Exercises are practiced today. 26 minutes; for those with an advanced understanding of the Exercises.

The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola: Rediscovery and Renewal Part Two
Produced by Georgetown University
George Aschenbrenner, SJ, joins the Jesuit pioneers from the first session as they narrate the history of the training programs that made the one-on-one experience of the Spiritual Exercises accessible to the larger community. 17 minutes; for those with an advanced understanding of the Exercises.

The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola: Emerging Role of the Laity
Produced by Georgetown University
The Jesuit pioneers discuss the evolution of lay leadership in the practice of giving the Spiritual Exercises. The development of lay communities of Ignatian spirituality such as Christian Life Communities is considered. Lay discovery of Ignatian spirituality now has crossed denominational boundaries. The Jesuits discuss the issues of how the work of the laity can continue and grow. 28 minutes; for those with an advanced understanding of the Exercises.