St. Ignatius of Loyola, Founder of the Society of Jesus, underwent a profound experience of God during his stay in the little town of Manresa in Spain in 1522. His heart’s desire was, as a lay person, to share with others this same experience. As time went on he wrote a small book outlining his instructions to lead others in discovering the work of God in their life. He called this book of instructions The Spiritual Exercises. Typically, the Spiritual Exercises were given over a 30 day period. However, St. Ignatius realized that not everyone would be able to participate in this level of intensive spiritual work due to their state in life or the stage of their spiritual journey. He included two annotations in the Spiritual Exercises that adapt the typical 30 day retreat into a format that can be given in the midst of daily life. These annotations are called the 19th Annotation of the Spiritual Exercises (a.k.a. The Spiritual Exercises in Daily Life) and the 18th Annotation of the Spiritual Exercises (a.k.a. “Lightworks“).
St. Ignatius foresaw that some people would be ready for the experience of the full Exercises but unable get away for a 30-day period. He provided in the Exercises an approach whereby one can make this retreat in the midst of ordinary daily life with guidance from a spiritual director. It involves a daily commitment of at least 1 hour in prayer and reflection centered on the themes of the Exercises and a weekly meeting with the spiritual director for approximately eight or nine months. Some of the major themes normally addressed in the four weeks or phases of the Exercises are:
• “Week” 1
o Consciousness of the effects of sin
• “Week” 2
o Growth in intimate relationship with God
o Discerning and responding to His call
• “Week” 3
o Deepen relationship with Jesus
o Be with Jesus in His Passion and death
• “Week” 4
o Experience God’s grace and His abiding love
As with the thirty-day format, entry into this retreat should grow out of an experience with shorter directed retreats, regular daily meditation, and/or regular spiritual direction with someone who reflects with you on your experience of God in prayer. This retreat is for those who seek a deeper relationship with the Lord, those who long to know Jesus more intimately, to love Him more deeply, and follow Him more closely. The result of the Exercises is an increased ability to discern the call of God on one’s life. We recommend beginning this retreat around September since the usual course of the meditations can be coordinated with the celebrations of the liturgical year.
Saint Ignatius recognized that certain individuals might not have the time or temperament to engage in the full Spiritual Exercises. He recognized that these individuals may want to advance in their spiritual life through a lighter form of the Exercises. This is the role of the 18th-annotation or “Lightworks”, as described by Fr. Joseph Tetlow, S.J. As with the 19th-annotation, Lightworks involves a daily commitment of prayer and reflection centered on the themes of the Exercises and a weekly meeting with the spiritual director. The primary difference with Lightworks, though, has to do with the time commitment involved. The daily commitment of prayer is 30 minutes daily and covers fewer scriptures and themes from the full Exercises. The retreatant meets weekly with a spiritual director for only 14 weeks.
Lightworks is divided in three Parts and covers the following themes:
• Part 1
o Creation & salvation
• Part 2
o Sin and redemption
o Knowing Christ more intimately, loving Him more ardently, following him more faithfully.
• Part 3
o Following in the footsteps of the disciples
As with the other forms of the Exercises, this retreat is for those who seek a deeper relationship with the Lord, those who long to know Jesus more intimately, to love Him more deeply, and follow Him more closely.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the purposes of the Spiritual Exercises?
Ignatius offered this analogy: just as physical exercise has definite purposes, so do the Spiritual Exercises. Physical exercises are good for tuning up muscles, improving circulation and overall good health. Spiritual exercises are good for increasing openness to the movement of the Holy Spirit, for helping to bring to light the darkness of sinful tendencies within ourselves, and for strengthening and supporting us in the effort to respond ever more faithfully to the love of God.
What do I need to make the Spiritual Exercises?
Important qualities to have before beginning the Exercises are openness, generosity, courage and the willingness to share with and listen to a director.
Why is a director necessary to the retreat?
The director’s role is that of being a helper during retreat. You receive help by the director’s explaining the different ways of praying. The director helps by suggesting the matter to be considered in a prayer period and does not hider God’s movements in you by imposing interpretations of scripture or theology. The Exercises are, above all, a time for intimate contact between God and a retreatant.
Will my director be qualified to guide my retreat?
S/he will have previously made the full Exercises (usually the 19th Annotation, but maybe the 30-day retreat) and will have received certification as a spiritual director and in guiding the Exercises.
Are there any special considerations in my life that might affect my retreat, that is, a factor which could become an obstacle to the retreat process?
Yes, retreats, especially in daily life, require time and energy. For example: if you are employed, are you free enough to devote the necessary time to the retreat’s prayer and reflection? Is there a major crisis in your family life that requires attention? Are you laboring under a chronic health problem?
Where would I meet my director for the weekly meetings?
Depending on available space, directors meet with you in a parish room.