Silent contemplation

For the first time in many years, the Full Spiritual Exercises
in silence can be experienced at JISA Campion in Melbourne.


Jesuit and Ignatian Spirituality Australia (JISA)  normally offers the Full Spiritual Exercises in silence over 34 days at picturesque Sevenhill in South Australia’s Clare Valley because of the area’s quiet beauty. This year, however, retreatants can make the Full Spiritual Exercises in silence at Campion from 16 June, as the Melbourne seminarians will be making their retreat there. 

In a letter to Rev M. Miona on 16 November 1536, Saint Ignatius wrote: “The Spiritual Exercises are the very best thing that in this life, I can think, perceive, or understand for helping a person benefit her or himself as well as bringing fruit, benefit, and advantage to many others; for even if you felt no need for the former, you will see immeasurably and incomparably you will be helped with regard to the latter.” 

The Spiritual Exercises are divided into four phases or ‘Weeks’ (not actually seven continuous days) each of which builds on the last.  

The first week of the Exercises is a time of reflection on our lives in the light of God’s boundless love for us. We see that our response to God’s love has been hindered by patterns of sin. We face these sins knowing that God wants to free us of everything that gets in the way of our loving response to him.  

The meditations and prayers of the second week teach us how to follow Christ as his disciples. We reflect on Scripture passages: Christ’s birth and baptism, his sermon on the mount, his ministry of healing and teaching, his raising Lazarus from the dead. We are brought to decisions to change our lives to do Christ’s work in the world and to love him more intimately.  

In the third and fourth weeks we meditate on Christ’s Last Supper, passion and death. We see his suffering and the gift of the Eucharist as the ultimate expression of God’s love. We meditate on Jesus’ resurrection and his apparitions to his disciples. We walk with the risen Christ and set out to love and serve him in concrete ways in our lives in the world. 

Fr Michael Ryan SJ, Superior at Campion House, hosts JISA Campion and their retreats there. Photo: David McMahon

The two primary forms of praying taught in the Exercises are meditation and contemplation. In meditation, we use our minds. We ponder the basic principles that guide our life. We pray over words, images and ideas. Contemplation is more about feeling than thinking. Contemplation often stirs the emotions and enkindles deep desires. In contemplation, we rely on our imagination to place ourselves in a setting from the Gospels or in a scene proposed by Ignatius. 

Flowing through the Exercises is the practice of the discernment of spirits. This means that the Exercitant notices the interior movements of his or her heart and discerns where these are leading him or her. A regular practice of discernment helps people make good decisions. 

All the characteristic themes of Ignatian Spirituality are grounded in the Exercises. These include a sense of collaboration with God’s action in the world, spiritual discernment in decisionmaking, generosity of response to God’s invitation, fraternity and companionship in service, and a disposition to find God in all things. Spiritual integration is a prominent theme of the Exercises: integration of contemplation and action, prayer and service, as well as emotions and reason. 

In this silent retreat, you will meet once every day with your Spiritual Director and engage in the methods and models of prayer provided by St Ignatius in his text, The Spiritual Exercises. Making the Spiritual Exercises can be truly wonderful and life-changing. We hope that all retreatants can experience this at some point in their lives. 

We offer the Spiritual Exercises to religious and lay people alike from all walks of life and who are already familiar with Ignatian spirituality and Ignatian spiritual direction. 

It is highly advisable that you have had ongoing spiritual direction with someone who can help you prepare for the Exercises and to live them out after the retreat. It is also helpful to have made a shorter silent directed retreat of about 6-8 days, so that you are familiar with the dynamics of silence and prayer involved in the Spiritual Exercises. 

Where: JISA Campion, 99 Studley Park Road (Enter via Hodgson St) Kew, VIC. 
When: Sunday 16 June 4pm – Thursday 18 July 10am 2024.
Applications close: 24 May.
How to apply: You can request an application. This invites you to reflect and discern. Completed forms plus two references are reviewed at JISA and then a decision is made whether it is fruitful to embark on the Spiritual Exercises at this time. For an application, please contact Sandra on 1300 EXAMEN (1300-392-636) or 

Full details on the JISA website 

Banner image of the gardens at JISA Campion in Kew, Melbourne. Photo: David McMahon