MAKING THE FULL SPIRITUAL EXERCISES
Bridge at Manresa (1988)
a watercolor monotype
by Lily Dudgeon
[click image for other “Manresa” art]
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 so periods of prayer each day.
Each day retreatants will meet with their director and reflect about their
experience in prayer.
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 houses that have well developed 30-day programs usually have
certain expectations and requirements of those who wish to make a thirty-day
- 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.
The Spiritual Exercises in Daily
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 nine or ten 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.
Ann Dillon of our staff is able to recommend to those who are interested
in making The Spiritual Exercises in Daily Life people
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. 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, but the retreat may be started at any time of the year.
Spiritual 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 Exercises?
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 for any of these “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 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?
Openness, generosity and courage
Willingness to share with and listen to a director
A director who will help to guide the process
A Notebook or journal
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 hinder 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?
He or she will have previously made the Exercises and will have received
specialized training 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 days but quickly realized not everyone could arrange their schedule
to do so. He then suggested another longer format, the Spiritual Exercises
in Daily Life.
What is the difference between the 30-day experience and the Daily Life
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
||About 30 days
||About 10 months
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
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 prayer and reflection? Is there a major crisis in
your family life that requires your energy and 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 Spiritual Exercises?
Staying at a retreat house, there is a per diem charge for room and
board which also includes some stipend for your director. In Daily Life
experiences arranged through Manresa we ask a fee that will compensation
your director for the extensive time and energy this nine-month experience
requires of the director. In other circumstances, it would be customary
to make your director some offering for their time with you, perhaps
payable 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 office, parish room, public
place or at their/your home.
If I now feel drawn to make the Spiritual Exercises in Daily Life, what
would be my next step?
Take a few days or even weeks to sit with the
feeling. Pray about it.
If the attraction and interest continue, complete the
application form and return it to Ms. Ann Dillon as soon as possible
but no later than the end of August.