THE FULL SPIRITUAL EXERCISES
Bridge at Manresa
a watercolor monotype
by Lily Dudgeon
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The full Spiritual
Exercises may be done in the form of a thirty-day silent
retreat at a retreat house or equivalent location. It means
leaving family, friends and business responsibilities and
dedicating oneself to the discipline of silence and of four
or five hours of prayer each day. Each day retreatants will
meet with their director and reflect about their experience
The thirty-day retreat
is not a panacea to cure all spiritual ills, resolve doubts
of faith or bring about longed-for mystical experiences.
Nor is it a spiritual Mount Everest, a challenge to be met
that proves one's abilities or determination. It is rather,
for those who are ready for this particular step, an opportunity
for significant growth in the spiritual life and in knowledge
of oneself, of God, and of God's will.
It is important that those
who undertake a retreat of this magnitude be ready for and committed
to the undertaking, since it is a major investment of time and
energy on the part of both the retreatant and the director. If
there is any significant doubt about a person's readiness it would
be advisable to defer such a retreat until a later date. It ought
normally to grow out of experience with shorter directed retreats,
regular daily meditation, and regular spiritual direction with
someone who reflects with you on your experience of God in prayer.
Such a spiritual director, familiar with both your spiritual experience
and with the demands of the Spiritual Exercises, could confirm
for you and for whoever will be directing your 30-day retreat
that it is time for you to make the full Exercises.
Retreat house that have
well developed 30-day programs usually have certain expectations
and requirements of those who wish to make a thirty-day retreat:
- Prior experience with silent, individually-directed Ignatian
retreats seven or eight days in length,
- Daily substantial meditative prayer,
- Experience of spiritual direction for a year or more that
demonstrates awareness of one's prayer experience, the ability
to verbalize it and the trust to share it with another,
- Recommendations that the individual may profit at the present
time from this experience from people who understand the thirty-day
Ignatian retreat as well as the capabilities of the retreatant,
for example, a spiritual director or former retreat director.
Manresa will be happy
to recommend to you retreat houses with well-developed 30-day
retreat programs. Contact Fr.
Fennessy for further information.
Spiritual Exercises in Daily Life
St. Ignatius foresaw that
some people would be ready for the experience of the full Exercises
but unable get away for a 30-day period. He provided in the Exercises
an approach whereby one can make this retreat in the midst of
ordinary daily life at home with guidance from a spiritual director.
It involves a daily commitment of 60-90 minutes in prayer and
reflection centered on the themes of the Exercises and
a weekly meeting with the spiritual director for approximately
eight or nine months. It is usually called The Spiritual Exercises
in Daily Life, but because Ignatius describes it in the 19th
annotation or introductory note to the Exercises, you will hear
it referred to sometimes as a 19th Annotation Retreat.
As with the thirty-day format, entry into this retreat should
grow out of experience with shorter directed retreats, regular
daily meditation, and regular spiritual direction with someone
who reflects with you on your experience of God in prayer.
This retreat is for those
who seek a deeper relationship with their True Self, those who
long to know Jesus more intimately, to love Him more deeply, and
follow Him more closely, for those who desire spiritual freedom.
We especially recommend beginning this retreat around September
since the usual course of the meditations can be coordinated with
the celebrations of the liturgical year.
Ann Dillon of our staff
is able to recommend to those who are interested in making The
Spiritual Exercises in Daily Life spiritual directors who
are qualified to guide retreatants through this experience and
who are usually resident not too far from the retreatant's home.
For further information contact Ann Dillon at Manresa: 248.644.4933.
Here is an application form
that will be useful to you and to us.
Exercises in Daily Life
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the purposes
of the Spiritual Exercises?
Ignatius offered this analogy: just as physical exercise has
definite purposes, so do the Spiritual Exercises. Physical exercises
are good for tuning up muscles, improving circulation and overall
good health. Spiritual exercises are good for increasing openness
to the movement of the Holy Spirit, for helping to bring to
light the darkness of sinful tendencies within ourselves, and
for strengthening and supporting us in the effort to respond
ever more faithfully to the love of God.
What is the structure of
The makeup of the Exercises is rather simple. The basic division
is into four parts, called "weeks," although there
is no fixed number of days within these respective "weeks."
The first week is set in the context of God's creative love,
its rejection by each of us through sin and God's reconciling
mercy in Jesus. The second week centers on the life of Jesus,
from its beginnings through his public ministry. The third week
fixes upon that very special time in Jesus' life - his passion,
crucifixion, and death. The fourth week considers the risen
Christ and the world which has been renewed in his victory.
What do I need to make
the Spiritual Exercises?
Important Qualities: openness, generosity and courage
Willingness to share with and listen to a director
A director who will help to guide the process
Why is a director necessary
to the retreat?
The director's role is that of being a helper during retreat.
You receive help by the director's explaining the different
ways of praying. The director helps by suggesting the matter
to be considered in a prayer period and does not hider God's
movements in you by imposing interpretations of scripture or
theology. The Exercises are, above all, a time for intimate
contact between God and a retreatant.
Will my director be qualified
to guide my retreat?
S/he will have previously made the Exercises and will have
received specialized training as a spiritual director and in
guiding the Exercises.
Is there only one way to
make the Spiritual Exercises?
No. Ignatius originally designed the exercises to be completed
in approximately 30 day but quickly realized not everyone could
arrange their schedule to do so. He then suggested another longer
What is the difference
between the 30 days experience and the Daily Life experience?
The "material" is the same but the format is different.
||30 Day Format
||Daily Life Format
|Meet with Director
|Daily Prayer Periods
||4 - 5 periods
Are there any special
considerations in my life that might affect my retreat, that is,
a factor which could become an obstacle to the retreat process?
Yes, retreats, especially in daily life, require time and energy.
For example: if you are employed, are you free enough to devote
the necessary time to the retreat's prayer and reflection? Is
there a major crisis in your family life that requires attention?
Are you laboring under a chronic health problem? Are you in
therapy and need to keep strong focus in that area?
Is there a cost for the
It is customary to offer your director a stipend, payable to
the director over the course of the retreat. You and your director
would need to have a discussion about the precise details.
Where would I meet my
director for the weekly meetings?
Depending on available space, many directors use Manresa as
a meeting site. Others may meet with you in their home, office
or parish room.
If I now feel drawn to
make the Exercises in Daily Life, what would be my next step?
Take a few days or even weeks to sit with the feeling. Pray
If the draw continues, complete the
application form and return it to Ann Dillon as soon as
possible but no later than the end of August.