The Spiritual exercises of st. Ignatius of Loyola
Imagine that you were living in a large and welcoming old house which, after many years, is
in need of some changes in order to become more adapted to your present needs. Passing
from one room to the next, you notice that there are walls that are calling for a fresh coat of
paint, rooms that must to be rearranged or adapted for a different use, furniture that must be
thrown out, accumulated odds-and- ends no longer of any use to anyone and many other small things that need to be sorted out. To cut a long story short, the old house is in need of new style. Once you begin to project the work and the timescale, you notice that there’s so much to do that, not knowing where to begin, you feel rather lost.
The same happens to everyone when the pathway of our life shifts and brings about
important changes. Just imagine, for example, the moment you come to choose what degree to read at university, or the choice of a new job. It could very well be that the decision you make will lead to a change in address and in your relationships with others. Your future depends on these changes. These are moments in which life takes a new shape, moments when you recognize that the time has arrived to stop and think calmly so as not to take hasty decisions. Offered various possibilities, it isn’t always easy to understand the right direction to take, and those frenetic daily rhythms don’t really give you the time you need to stop and reflect.
The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius provide the right moment to take a good look at your
own life, to take stock of the situation you are in and see where you are heading. The keyword is … discernment. To discern means to be offered the opportunity to cast light on the knot of emotions, feelings and desires which you carry in your heart. The Spiritual Exercises allow us to know these interior forces which animate us by examining them in their depths and giving them a name, helping us understand which choices better orient our lives. There are, in fact, feelings and desires that help us grow and others that lead us astray. The Exercises give us the tools that help us recognize all this.
But how do the Exercises unfold? The Exercises develop in several stages and can last from a few days up until a month, according to the needs of the one undertaking them. During this time, and in order to be more in contact with his inner movements, the one doing the exercises remains in silence, ideally in an isolated place and in contact with nature. The one who does the Exercises is not alone, but is guided each day by someone experienced in this interior journey, someone who can provide points for reflection, points which have the scope of provoking questions that help in the process of discernment. Every day, the one doing the exercises confronts himself with his guide on whatever emerges during the silence and, slowly, he comes to understand something more about himself.
Living the Exercises is a golden opportunity to change the way you look at life, discovering aspects of life never imagined, unexpected possibilities, and seeing that the house in which you live is already rich in the resources needed to render it new and welcoming. It is an opportunity to discover that in this life, which can seem to flow along monotonously, there exists something more, a hidden treasure that makes it unique and special, a hidden treasure that may be found to the enrichment oneself and others. It is a change in perspective from which can spring forth many surprises.