Those About To Make The Thirty-Days
part of my life was travel. I was a pilgrim. From the time my eyes were
opened to the
mystery of God-in-Christ in my life, I became even more a spiritual pilgrim.
interior journey my great desire was always to tell people about God,
and about Jesus, crucified and risen, and help them feel the freedom God
to bring the old message of the church to people in a new way. Why was
We Can Meet God Personally.
a direct and personal meeting with God, particularly during the months
at Manresa, a small town near Barcelona in the north-east of Spain,
where God taught me like a child at school.
Ignatius of Loyola, Inigo as they called me, experienced God
... Father, Son and Spirit Ö nameless and unknowable, mysterious and yet
sharing Godís self with me in a manner beyond all concrete imaginings.
experienced God in a nearness and a graciousness impossible to confuse
I experienced God, not simply human words describing God but God, God's
Godís glory. I knew God, as you would say today, experientially.
This is grace ... a divine gift.
that God ... Father, Son and Spirit ... desires to give this same gift
The grace that I received during those months at Manresa was not something
that I considered a special privilege for myself or a chosen few.
down the process of my experience in a notebook
which I called Spiritual Exercises.
these Spiritual Exercises to anyone for whom such spiritual help might
strolling, walking and running are exercises for the body,
these Spiritual Exercises are ways of examining our awareness or consciousness,
meditating, contemplating, praying vocally and mentally, and other spiritual
activities. Their aim is to ready us for freedom, to be freed from
all self-centred desires and feelings
to be able us to discover in our lives Godís own desiring and willing.
did this as a lay person, before I went back to school to learn the elements
and then to spend seven years at the University of Paris in France
where I studied arts, philosophy and theology to prepare for ordination
to the priesthood.
I gave my
Exercises to others, convinced that God desires to communicate directly
if we are generous, eager to discover God's will, and to act responsibly
in the world.
years, I have seen that if we are willing to ready ourselves generously
according to the process of these Exercises, in time God will personally
happens, we experience in our lives the power of God's own freedom.
and yet stupendous conviction of mine is the key to my spirituality,
which would be betrayed if reduced to any of its different methods.
exterior ways of readying ourselves, the Exercises lead us
to become more open to an interior dynamic, where God touches us directly.
dynamic moves us beyond all tangible assurances, including my methods,
to grow confidently toward our final, fearful, creaturely choice at the
end of our lives.
God directly and learn that the mystery we name God is near to each of
and meets us personally, is the goal of the journey of the Spiritual Exercises.
desire that the Father, Son and Spirit share themselves with you?
Do you desire to base your life choices on the experience of Godís desire
confidently into these Spiritual Exercises.
Disposing and Opening Ourselves to Meet God.
making of the Spiritual Exercises will cost effort.
It greatly helps when making the Exercises if we begin them in a
and with great openness towards Christ, our Creator and Lord,
offering him all our powers to desire and choose,
so that God may take and guide us in all things, our whole person and all
Exercises ask a price -- our time and our patience and the discipline
to limit things that would drain our energies and leave us unable
to find a good space for the times of prayer that these Spiritual Exercises
is a commitment to prayer and review at special times, the best times,
and with more focus in our prayer than we may have been used to have.
is waiting for God to touch our being personally,
and trusting God to do this.
may be that we will have to surrender our own personal methods of praying
and wait ... at least for a time, in confusion or emptiness, even with
a distaste for prayer.
Spiritual Exercises you will begin to experience movements interiorly --
a variety of feelings towards which you will become progressively more
movements that we experience can be of many different kinds:
joy, uplift, hope, enlightenment, peace,
enthusiasm, comfort, happiness, or tears,
dryness, pain, sadness, fear,
anxieties, turmoil, temptation, discouragement, and many others.
In my Spiritual
Exercises notebook, I call them inner movements, in Spanish "agitaciones",
coming to us from good or evil ďspiritsĒ, sources outside our own free
In my notebook
I have given guidelines to help others making or giving the Exercises
to sift through these various inner movements and discern their origin.
Making the Spiritual Exercises in Solitude.
years many are making the Exercises in the midst of their normal life and
doing the Spiritual Exercises in Daily Life, as your contemporaries now
be doing the Exercises by withdrawing from your normal activities and friends
to make the same journey of the Exercises in a retreat house over a period
of thirty days.
of the sixteenth century we did not have retreat houses, as you call them
and anyone who made the Exercises in a closed setting over thirty days
lived in a boarding house, away from home, sometimes shopping and cooking
went to church several times a day for mass, vespers and benediction,
and had to go outside for toiletry needs, and to the stream to wash dirty
making the Exercises in solitude there were many everyday activities,
more than for someone making the Exercises this way in your retreat houses
big difference in my time had to do with the culture, a more unified way
Your lives today seem to be divided. In my time this was not so.
Society then was not schizoid, as many see societies today, that is, split
past seventy years, you also seem to have discovered what you call the
and you appear to experience this as being separated from your conscious
In my time
people did not experience the public and private spheres of life as separate,
We did not speak of the secular and the sacred as if they were separated,
as you do now.
withdrew into a closed setting for thirty days to make the Spiritual Exercises,
they found it easy to live as one reality what you call secular and spiritual
today of doing the Spiritual Exercises within your daily life and work
an opportunity to learn how to integrate better the movement of God's Spirit
into your life.
Exercises in Daily Life will also probably give you more scope for adaptation,
applying them to your own particular character and life situation.
discipline is required to remain faithful to times for prayer and review
if one is to have an authentic experience of my Spiritual Exercises in
oneís daily life.
of doing my Spiritual Exercises in solitude, as you are doing them,
is time and space to find the action of God in your life with greater freedom
in this month keep your feet firmly planted in the ordinary realities of
the activities of family, the work and leisure you come from and to which
you will return,
otherwise you may find yourself locked into an unreal world of sterile
piety and ideas.
you, however, that if you are faithful to your times for prayer and review
and remain generously open to what you will discover during the Exercises
you will learn how you can be surprised by God in all the happenings of
the goal of the Exercises ... to find God always ... to experience God
to respond in love to Godís love ... in all the choices you freely make.
The One Giving You the Exercises Is Your Companion.
who meets you each day to give you the Exercises is your companion on the
not your superior, your judge, your confessor, but a fellow pilgrim with
one whom God will use, at this point in your life,
to be an instrument for your guidance as you make my Spiritual Exercises.
given your companion instructions how to adapt my Spiritual Exercises for
so as not to block Godís action in you and to allow God to speak directly
that you and the one guiding you will act as companions together on a journey,
and that each of you comes comes to the Exercises with good will and mutual
so that your relation will be one of friendliness, gentleness, and respect
for each other.
one doing the Exercises, be faithful each day to your times for prayer
especially your review each evening of your prayer times and the events
of the whole day.
companion comes to meet with you each day,
share briefly what has been happening in your day and in your times of
prayer and review,
the ups and downs ... the insights ... the struggles ... success feelings
... failure feelings.
to your experiences, your companion can guide you to continue your journey.
The first task is to help you get beyond the barriers that stop God being
personal with you.
This may take some time or it may happen quickly.
being an opportunity for conversation about what has been happening in
the meeting is a time for teaching, explanation, and discussion of possible
becomes clear that you are allowing God to be personal with you,
that you are free enough to allow yourself to be touched by God's mystery,
the companion guiding you through the Exercises moves into a second task.
task is to sit on the sidelines, as it were, but attentive and listening
while God directly and personally leads you both from within and from without.
the Exercises, it is always better in bringing your desires to God
that your Creator and Lord deals directly with you in a way that is unique
inflaming you with love and gratitude to God for the gift of life and of
all you are.
always creating you, redeeming you from your brokenness, and reconciling
by inspiring you to share your life with others and so learn how to share
giving you the Exercises will not favour one side or other of a choice
but, standing in the centre like a balance, will allow God to deal directly
as a unique creation of God, and you to deal directly with God as your
two misunderstandings which your companion will help you to avoid:
is that God is unable to communicate directly with you,
and that you can never have a close personal experience of God.
this paralysing error, your companion helps you notice what you feel in
misunderstanding is widespread in your day because your society is in transition,
like my own was in the sixteenth century,
may be tempted to look for black and white securities that are not God,
and wrongly presume that every good feeling you have is directly from God.
this over-simplification, your companion will guide and help you
to become better attuned to what movements in your heart are more likely
It is often
by one or other of these two different kinds of misunderstanding
that an evil spirit can obstruct the good work that God desires to do in
or can trivialise your persevering efforts to be open to God's initiatives.
My Hope for You.
Spiritual Exercises my hope for you is that day by day, slowly and gradually,
you will come to a greater ease and a greater familiarity in entering the
mystery of God,
and feeling God's love for you in the way I was able to experience God's
love for me.
is that you will grow in spiritual freedom, in love for God and in union
through a deepening love for Christ, our risen Lord and Leader.
your life, as you grow in faith by continuing to reflect on the word of
you will come to find what God desires and wants for you in different situations,
you will recognise more readily Christ in all people, in their struggles
and you will be able to make true and good choices in all you do and all
is that you will be able to find God with ease in all things, always and
In the communion
of saints I will pray that you will grow in this awareness of God's presence,
an experience I can never directly describe, but which you must discover
finding Godís continuous action in the private and public worlds where
communion of all the saints I will pray that eventually God will so touch
that you will become able to guide gratefully all the desires of your heart,
and every action and decision that will flow from these desires,
towards the joyful sharing of Godís life by the generous sharing of your
life with others.
Spiritual Exercises journey may you learn how specially loved you are by
Father, Son and Spirit ... Mystery beyond us, Word all around us, and Breath
Godís intimately shared self who as one desires to share with you all God
In the power
of Godís love, poured into your heart through Christís own human love for
may you find yourself more and more able to give God all you have and all
that you are.
personal love in Christís Easter love for you transforms your heart by
may you find yourself moved more and more towards love for all who touch
with you in Christ as you make this journey,
in the name of Ignatius Loyola to one about to make the Spiritual Exercises
in Solitude is my refomulation of a letter written in the early 1980s by
John Veltri sj, (click
for those about to make the Exercises not in thirty days but stretched
out over a period of several months. He gave me the Exercises at Pickering
in Canada in July 2002 when I made them for a third time in my life.