Spiritual exercises are “every way of examining one’s conscience, of meditating, contemplating, of praying vocally or mentally, and other spiritual activities. … For, just as strolling, walking, and running are exercises for the body, so spiritual exercises is the name given to every way of preparing and disposing our soul to rid itself of all disordered affections and, after their removal, of seeking and finding God’s will in the ordering of our life for the salvation of our soul.” –St. Ignatius of Loyola
While a Basque nobleman and courtier, Ignatius of Loyola experienced a conversion of heart that bound him firmly to Jesus Christ in love and moved him to live his life for God’s greater glory. As he deepened his spiritual experience and grew in God’s grace, Ignatius kept notes that he developed for himself to help other persons first to develop interior freedom and then to find their call through intensive prayer. These notes became the Spiritual Exercises. The Exercises are not a book one reads so as to integrate them into one’s life. Rather, in them Ignatius directs one who has already made the Exercises to in turn give the Exercises to another. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises, therefore, are a gift that is passed on from one Christian to another, the fruits of which are always by God’s grace. The are fully approved by the Church as trustworthy for helping people live the Christian faith in a dynamic way.
For centuries, the Exercises were most commonly given over a thirty-day period in seclusion and silence, away from home, work, and family. Ignatius recognized, however, that there were people whom the Exercises would benefit greatly, but who because of business and family obligations could not leave home and work to make a thirty-day retreat. For these people, Ignatius adapted the Exercises. This adaptation of the full Spiritual Exercises is what we today call the Spiritual Exercises in Everyday Life (SEEL). Spiritual directors in the Ignatian Spirituality Program offer these Exercises to individuals beginning in September of each year. For more information, click on the link above. If you would like to speak directly to someone about the SEEL, please contact the program office.
In addition to the SEEL, all the retreats that the Program offers are grounded in the Spiritual Exercises. While these shorter retreat offerings are not the full Exercises, they do invite participants to make real spiritual exercises from St. Ignatius. Indeed, Ignatius himself gave abbreviated exercises to those for whom it was helpful.
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