Today happens to be the Feast of Ignatius, The Spiritual Exercises were a profound influence on my spiritual growth, and I want to share this posting in toto:
Daily Reading for July 31 • Ignatius of Loyola
The Spiritual Exercises is one of the most influential spiritual texts of all times. Despite their Reformation origins they are nowadays used as a medium for spiritual guidance and retreats among an ecumenical spectrum of Christians. The text is not intended to be inspirational but is a series of practical notes for a retreat-guide that suggest how to vary the process according to the needs of each person. The ideal is a month away from normal pressures but a modified form “in the midst of daily life” is allowed. Much of the text consists of advice about the structure and content of prayer periods, guidance about spiritual discernment and making a choice of life, and helpful hints about practical matters such as the physical environment for prayer, moderate use of penance, rules about eating, and about scruples.
The explicit aim of the Spiritual Exercises is to assist a person to grow in spiritual freedom in order to respond to the call of Christ. From the Exercises, it is possible to detect fundamental features of Ignatian spirituality. First, God is encountered above all in the practices of everyday life which themselves become a “spiritual exercise.” Second, the life and death of Jesus Christ is offered as the fundamental pattern for Christian life. Third, the God revealed in Christ offers healing, liberation, and hope. Fourth, spirituality is not so much a matter of asceticism as a matter of a deepening desire for God (“desire” is a frequent word in the text) and experience of God’s acceptance in return. The theme of “finding God in all things” suggests a growing integration of contemplation and action. The notion of following the pattern of Jesus Christ focuses on an active sharing in God’s mission to the world—not least in serving people in need. Finally, at the heart of everything is the gift of spiritual discernment—an increasing ability to judge wisely and to choose well in ways that are congruent with a person’s deepest truth.
From A Brief History of Spirituality by Philip Sheldrake (Blackwell Publishing, 2007).