Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola - Modern Applications

Modern Applications

To this day, the Spiritual Exercises remain an integral part of the Novitiate training period of the Roman Catholic religious order of Jesuits. Also, many local Jesuit outreach programs throughout the world offer retreats for the general public in which the Exercises are employed.

Beginning in the 1980s, Protestants have had a growing interest in the Spiritual Exercises. There are recent (2006) adaptations that are specific to Protestants which emphasize the exercises as a school of contemplative prayer.

The Exercises are still, today, undertaken in their original form over the full 30 days. Participants in the full Exercises usually spend their days in silence, doing up to 5 hours prayer a day. In the original form each retreatant has a guide to help lead him or her through the meditations of the Exercises. The Exercises done in this full-time way offer what is probably the most intensive spiritual experience. Most commonly such a retreat is undertaken at a specialist retreat centre. Such Centres are found wherever there are large groups of Catholics, such as Europe and the USA.

Besides the 30 day enclosed form of the Exercises, many undertake it in its "Exercises in everyday or in daily life" form (another name for this method is "19th annotation exercises" based on a remark of St. Ignatius in the 19th footnote in his book). The 'everyday' method brings the exercitant through the process of the Ignatian Exercises throughout a longer period of time (from several months up to a year and a half), with time spent daily in reflection and prayer. This form has its advantages with respect to the enclosed form: it does not require an extended stay in a retreat house and the learned methods of discernment can be tried out on the experiences life brings with it.

"The Spiritual Exercises" in both of its main forms are popular also among lay people in the Catholic Church all over the world, and lay organizations like the Christian life community place the Exercises at the center of their spirituality. The Exercises usually are undertaken with the help of a trained spiritual guide, like that of the Loyola House Retreat and Training Centre, 40-Day Spiritual Exercises and can also be done individually or in a group that meets regularly to discuss how the process is going and various issues. Because of a lack of trained guides, the self-guided form of the Exercises is also spreading, and even online versions are offered like that of the Creighton University: Online Retreat and several others. See for example Spiritual Retreats for Married Couples and especially the "Step by Step - Online Retreat in Everyday Life" and "Spiritual Exercises for Married Couples: Finding Our Way Together with St. Ignatius - Manual for the Retreat" The latter work presents a special case of the Spiritual Exercises done in group form, so that the retreat is undertaken by a married couple together with or without the help of an external guide (in the latter case husband and wife act as guides for each other).

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