Making the Full Spiritual Exercises

The full Spiritual Exercises may be done in the form of a 30-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 making several periods of prayer each day. Each day retreatants will meet with their director and reflect about their experience in prayer.

The 30-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 previous 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 30-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 30-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 information about retreat houses that offer the 30-day retreat experience.

The 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 a way to 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 to 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 30-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 Ext. 107. We especially recommend beginning this retreat around September since the usual course of the meditations will better coordinate 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. There are four basic phases, 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.
– A willingness to share with and listen to a director.
– A director who will help to guide the process.
– A Bible and a notebook or journal

Why is a director necessary to the retreat?
The director’s role is to to be a helper and guide 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 Spiritual Exercises in Daily Life experience?
The “material” is the same but the format is different.

 30 Day FormatDaily Life Format
ResidenceRetreat HouseHome
Meet with DirectorDailyWeekly
Daily Prayer Periods4 – 5 periods1 period
LengthAbout 30 daysAbout 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 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 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 compensate 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 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, download and complete this form and return it to Ms. Ann Dillon at

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