The Spiritual Exercises are the heart of Ignatian Spirituality. They began as the prayer journal of St. Ignatius Loyola. He charted his reflections, graces, questions, feelings, favourite scripture texts, and prayer notes. Later it took shape as an instruction manual when he discovered that others, with similar desires, could receive similar graces when he led them through similar exercises.
As Ignatius began to sense the embrace of God’s love and the pattern of Jesus’ life in each person he was guiding, he structured these patterns into a retreat of some weeks. To this retreat were added useful teachings on the Christian faith and spiritual life.
When he clarified the art of discernment and decision making, he added these to the book he now named The Spiritual Exercises. The Exercises were further shaped when he gave them to his first companions in Paris and Venice. They were finally completed in Rome between 1539 and 1541.
The Spiritual Exercises are more than a book text. We cannot do them by reading them. We can only do them by doing them. Because they are made in active relationship with God, their effects last for our life. They are about grace habitually rippling through the ecology of my desires, relationships, and actions.
There are different forms of the Spiritual Exercises: the Full Spiritual Exercises given and received in 30 days in a silent residential retreat, the Full Spiritual Exercises for 30 weeks in daily life, and the First Spiritual Exercises flexibly, in short tastes and longer experiences, to individuals and groups with spiritual conversation, in daily life, in every ministry context and online.
The Australian Jesuits offer the Spiritual Exercises from their Spiritualty and Formation ministry, Jesuit and Ignatian Spirituality Australia (JISA). Find out more about the Spiritual Exercises, and sign up for updates via the JISA newsletter: