The Spiritual Exercises:

My Experience and Where We're Headed

Charles L. Moutenot, S.J.**

A Jesuit reflects on his experiences of the Spiritual Exercises
with his fellow Jesuits
at the beginning of the millenium.
from the webpage of
The New York Province Society of Jesus

          I am happy to be here with you this afternoon to speak about the Spiritual Exercises. Although I have not had much formal training outside some classes and supervision, I have been consistently involved in giving spiritual direction and retreats since my theological studies in the early eighties. Even now I am giving a group 19th annotation retreat to four people. It is something that I enjoy and the way of prayer taught in the Exercises forms the center of my way of proceeding in ministry in the Society. I have also come to believe that giving the Exercises, more and more in collaboration with lay people, is a central contribution of the Society of Jesus to the Church.

           In the Formula of the Institute (1550) Ignatius says that our purpose is "to strive especially for the defense and propagation of the faith and for the progress of souls in Christian life and doctrine." Among the means explicitly mentioned are "the Spiritual Exercises." More broadly, GC 34 speaks of the Exercises as our way of proceeding in all things.  "Out of his incessant search for God's presence and will, Ignatius developed a way of proceeding. This way of proceeding is found in the pilgrimage of the Spiritual Exercises from sinner beloved and forgiven to disciple called to labor in the vineyard and to suffer with Christ; it is in the pilgrimage of the Constitutions from the first inquiry about the Society in the General Examen to the mature acceptance of responsibility for the Society in Parts V-X; it is in the personal examen of his own life where each Jesuit finds his own pathway to God, and in the communal narrative of these past thirty years of renewal and reorientation. Like that of Ignatius, our way of proceeding is both a pilgrimage and a labor in Christ: in his compassion, in his ceaseless desire to bring men and women to the Father's reconciliation and the Spirit's love, and in his committed care for the poor, the marginalized, and the abandoned." (Decree One). And "In the pedagogy of the Exercises, Jesus invites us to see in his earthly life the pattern of the mission of the Society: to preach in poverty, to be free from family ties, to be obedient to the will of God, to enter his struggle against sin with complete generosity of heart. As the Risen Lord, he is now present in all who suffer, all who are oppressed, all whose lives are broken by sin. As he is present, so we too want to be present, in solidarity and compassion, where the human family is most damaged." (Decree Two)

           My task is two-fold: first, to speak about my own experience of the Spiritual Exercises as a way of jogging your own reminiscence of the place of the Spiritual Exercises in your own life and ministry; second, to say something about where the ministry of the Spiritual Exercises is headed. The first is easy, the second not so easy. I will rely on the opinions of others in that second part while giving something of my own.

I. Influences

 I was influenced in three ways. 

  • Opening: recovery of the centrality of experience in the individually, i.e. personally, directed retreat; 
  • Deepening: an Ignatian repetition through the 19th annotation retreat; 
  • Broadening: the Exercises and decision-making.
A. Opening:
The Centrality Of Religious Experience

          Entering the novitiate in 1975 I was the recipient of the recovery of the individually directed retreat, that is to say the retreat given in a very personal way, attentive and adapted to the religious experience of the individual. This way of receiving and giving the retreat has had a profound influence on me and many Jesuits of my era.

           From those I interviewed for this talk, it seems that after the suppression the Exercises were given, at least in Jesuit formation, as a "preached" retreat  (1). This is the way Bill Barry speaks of his experience of the Exercises in October of 1950. "The novice director gave five talks each day, giving us 'points' for the meditation or contemplation that was to follow. (Perhaps some of you were like me. I used to hope that he would talk a long time so that the time for personal prayer would be short.) We saw the novice master once or twice a week for an individual conference. (2) I have no recollection of what happened during those conversations except that I was relieved when I left the room, much as I was relieved when confession was over. I recall feeling like a grunt in the spiritual life since I could not create the scenes in my imagination for the contemplation of the life of Christ. And yet, I do recall having moments out in the woods around Shadowbrook of great longing and love for God, moments which reminded me of similar times before I entered the novitiate. But, as far as I could tell, no one ever expected that we would talk about such moments and their meaning with the novice master, let alone anyone else. For the next 14 years of my Jesuit life I dutifully made the Spiritual Exercises for eight days each year. Again these retreats were led by a director who gave four or five talks each day as points for personal prayer. Usually retreats were given to at least 100 of us so that there was little time for individual conferences with the retreat director." (He relates that the same method was used for his tertianship). "The idea of one on one direction of the Spiritual Exercises never entered our minds during all those years. If someone had ever asked us how we thought that Ignatius gave the Exercises to the first companions in Paris, I suspect we would have presumed that he gave talks such as our novice masters, our tertian directors and our retreat directors did." Barry concludes "..., I am not assigning blame. No one knew any better. None of us were operating out of an experience based belief that God wants to engage each one of us in a personal relationship."  (3)

           Joe Conwell, S.J. confirms this mind set. He was asked to give an individually directed 30 day retreat in the 1950's. "How will I do this?" He asked himself. "Speak to him 4 or 5 times a day? I said no because I had no model other than what I had received, the preached retreat."

           It is instructive to recall the forces at work in moving us away from the group, "preached" retreat to what George Ganns called the "authentic Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius" (4) which are prevalent today. The historical preface to GC 31 (1965 and 1966) states that "The congregation received more that 160 postulata in which, for a variety of reasons, some complained about the way in which in our times young Jesuits were being formed spiritually." (5) Between the two sessions of GC 31, the Vatican II document Perfectae Caritatis  was published. Decree 2 of GC 31 cites it. "...they are to be renewed by a continuous return to the sources of all Christian life, to the spirit of the founder, and to the originating inspiration of the Institute." (6) This return to the sources inspired and opened up the possibility for a return to the "authentic Exercises." Formal permission for this was given to the Society in decree 8 of GC 31. "The scholastics should be permitted on occasion during their formation to make the Spiritual Exercises alone under the supervision of an experienced spiritual father so as to have freer and more fruitful communion with God and respond with fuller and more ready availability to the promptings of the Holy Spirit." (7)

           There were already individual Jesuits in moving in his direction. In the 60's when Dominic Maruca was novice director in Maryland he felt that something was missing from the Exercises. "They could have been, should have been much more powerful than they were." Tom Walsh, novice director in New York, remembers novice directors meeting and circling around how the retreat could best be given. At Loyola, Spain in 1966 a congress on the Exercises took place. People reported all kinds of experiences and experiments. Some reported doing individually directed, personalized retreats.

           Two Jesuits who seem to be at the forefront of this recovery, at least as it came into the United States, were Peter Paul Kennedy, S.J. and David Asselin, S.J. Kennedy, tertian director at St. Beuno's in Whales, was giving the individually directed retreat to his tertians. According to John English many of the Jesuits in North America involved in the recovery of the individually directed retreat were influenced by Kennedy. During the 60's, David Asselin was teaching and supervising scholastics in Canada to give individually directed retreats. George Aschenbrenner relates that Bernie Bush, a California Jesuit, who worked with Asselin in Canada, taught him how to do the individually directed retreat. Others involved in the movement in Canada and who wrote about it were David Stanley and John English. George Ganns, S.J. mentions Maurice Schuermans, tertian master at Tronchiennes, Belgium as one who also inaugurated this practice. (8)

           The movement began to spread more widely in the U.S. Assistancy under the influence of Dominic Maruca. After his term as novice director, he was assigned by his provincial, Jim Conn who had heard about the work of Kennedy and Asselin, to work on the individually directed retreat. (Maruca himself had done an individually directed retreat in Dublin in 1961). He gathered 15 Jesuits at Wernersville and gave them several weekends of training. Then each one did a directed retreat. From this beginning, Maruca began to give workshops throughout the U.S. Assistancy in the late sixties and early seventies. He would enlist and train local Jesuits to help give the workshops in the various provinces. So, for instance, he enlisted the help of Tom Walsh and Tom Clarke in New York. Around this same time, Tom Burke, S.J. was publishing material on the Exercises through his Program to Adapt the Spiritual Exercises out of St. Peter's in Jersey City. In 1973 the U.S. Provincials as a group were introduced to the "authentic Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius" under the direction of Maruca, Walsh, Conwell and others.

           All this work had its effect on how the Exercises were imagined and given. For instance, Bill Barry attended the workshop given by Maruca in New England in 1971. At this workshop he began to see how his training in Psychology could be brought to bear in giving the Exercises. During that same workshop the idea for the Center for Religious Development in Cambridge was born. Tom Walsh's involvement inspired him, together with Henry Bertels, to bring the individually directed retreat into the New York Novitiate at Poughkeepsie in the Fall of 1969. The return to the "authentic Exercises" and a new kind of retreat master was well underway.

           Henry Birkenhauer, tertian instructor at Colombiere College in Clarkston, Mich., wrote that a retreat master "in the sense of a man who 'preaches' a retreat, would have been meaningless to St. Ignatius. In his day, the Exercises were given to one retreatant or very few at a time; and the 'director' was a 'resource person' who briefly explained the subject on which the prayer was to be made and who offered counsel and guidance in the discernment of spirits." (9)

           Joe Conwell points out these advantages to the individually, personally, directed retreat: 1) it takes the individual man's religious experience and unique history seriously; 2) the director can work with the person where he is right now, with his particular needs; 3) the retreatant and director can ask very concretely how God is moving in the man's life; 4) and finally, the question, 'how do you know this is God?" can be asked. (10)

           How did this recovery affect me? It helped me to move confidently from a narrow, security seeking piety to a risky, open faith. Let me explain briefly and very personally.

           I had been a member of the Legion of Mary in my parish before I entered the Society. We prayed together, studied about the Legion from our handbook, and did apostolic work each week. I really learned all about religious life in that experience. But, despite the efforts of our spiritual guide, as I looked back over my experience, I realized that I had developed a rather narrowly defined Marian piety with Jesus vaguely in the mix. Such a piety is not intrinsic to the spirituality of the Legion of Mary, but it was the way I lived it. When I did the Exercises in the novitiate, this piety was taken as a starting point by my director, Jay Madden. We talked lots one on one and he took time to explain the dynamics, movements and meditations/contemplations of the Exercises to me. He did not try to hurry me along, but through his careful direction of the Exercises, I learned to at least pray for a desire for a deeper surrender to God through Christ. The Suscipe became my daily prayer. I recall this prayer and its surrender as feeling a bit uncomfortable, but underneath giving me a strong sense of groundedness. I knew that I was on the right track. The Exercises led me to trust in the Lord and to begin to move to a mature, open faith because I was led to trust my experience: where I was in my development as a disciple, what I had done and was doing, and where I was being called, how I could develop, what I could do.

           Let me recall two very powerful images of that first experience of the Exercises. At the end of the First Week, I felt an almost giddy sense of freedom. My director knew me well and I was quite sure that God did as well. Like Jesus in the Gospel of Mark continuing to call the misunderstanding disciples, my director kept on the road with me and kept me on the road of the Exercises. An enduring image for me from subsequent retreats but that captures that original experience was identifying with the adulterous woman thrust into the middle of the circle of angry men who wanted to stone her. There I was, guilty. But Jesus defended me and everyone else became very silent. "I do not condemn you," I heard, no matter what I brought up from my past. "I do not condemn you." Nor did anyone else as I looked from Jesus to crowd and back again. An experience of solidarity in sin; an experience of solidarity in forgiveness. I was free. But for what?

           Second, I came to know a very human Jesus; very divine in His humanness. He understood me and wanted me, called me. Amazing! Yes, "I can follow that," I remember saying. That following became the grand hypothesis of my life which would be confirmed again and again in subsequent retreats and in apostolic work. I was opened to Christ's call.

           Would this have happened if I had not been the recipient of the work done in recovering the individually directed retreat, the recovery of the central importance of attending to the individual's religious experience and unique history? Perhaps; I am not sure that I am in a position to compare. But I do know from our documents and from those men involved the Exercises whom I interviewed, that there was lots of discontent around the Exercises prior to the recovery of the individually directed retreat. I do know that my director took seriously my experience and I remember very well my conversations with him during the long retreat and how he led me into them gently but firmly. So, it is with some confidence that I make the opinion of the wise men I interviewed for this talk my own who say that there is a difference; there is an efficacy in the individually directed retreat that may be lacking in a preached retreat. The director takes the man where he is, helps to develop an atmosphere of listening to his religious experience, of asking how God is moving in that experience and how it can be determined that it is God moving there. I do know that my experience of the Exercises put me on the road from a narrow piety to an open and risking faith. It has taught me the centrality of taking religious experience seriously.

B. Deepening: 
An Ignatian Repetition

           A second influence on me was a 19th annotation retreat I participated in while I was in theological studies at Regis College, Toronto in the early 1980's. I was invited by Bob Doran, S.J. to join him and another Wisconsin Jesuit in making the 19th annotation retreat as part of a Province Renewal. Wisconsin provincial, Joe Labaj, had asked Gene Merz. S.J. to help him with province renewal. Gene had just finished 5 years of renewal work in the diocese of Des Moines. Joe and Gene knew that the renewal would have to start personally, move to community, then to ministries. They decided to start with the Exercises. Gene put together a 19th annotation retreat manual in sync with the liturgical year. It would be sent out to the men in the province and they would be asked to join together in small groups. The retreat began on the Feast of Christ the King and ended with Pentecost. The context of the reflections was the phrase from the Formula of the Institute "...any ministrations whatsoever...." Let us seek together to find a renewed sense of God in our work, our life together, or where God might be leading us to serve in any ministrations whatever. (11)

           I refer to my experience of this retreat as an Ignatian repetition. Although I had done eight day retreats deepening my original experience of the Exercises, I had not returned explicitly to the major themes of the Exercises since the novitiate. As I went through the retreat again I learned that I had a deep desire in me for the graces of the Exercises. I saw the First Principle and Foundation as the overarching horizon of the Exercises. And began to see that the graces asked for in the great meditations/contemplations of the Call of the King, Two Standards, Three Types of Persons, Three Degrees of Humility, were really prayers for the most radical freedom to make choices for God according to the First Principle and Foundation using the methods of election laid out by Ignatius.

           Doing the retreat with a group had definite advantages as well. In our weekly sharing we gave to each other the fruit of our prayer. What I did not or could not see in the meditations and contemplations or understand about the graces and dynamics of the retreat I learned from the others, and what I saw and experienced I gave to them. We directed each other, or perhaps it is more accurate to say that the Holy Spirit directed us through each other. It was pointed out to me that a great value of this type of group retreat and faith sharing is that you don't get caught continually asking whether or not you are simply talking to yourself in your prayer rather than to God. The prayer of others helps you to trust your own. (12)

           From that experience, I began as well to study more deeply the dynamic and structure of the Exercises. I became confident that I knew what the Exercises were about. I especially paid attention to the rules for discernment and the election and carefully made a summary of the rules and the times for election for myself.

           As a final spin-off from this experience I became confident enough to give the 19th annotation retreat myself. One of the greatest thrills of my experience as a Jesuit was to give the Exercises to a group of 6 people from the South Bronx from two small Christian Communities which I had formed in two parishes in Morrisannia, one of the most bombed out sections of the South Bronx. We started by first learning to read the Bible, to pray with Scripture, to share our prayer experience and lives with one another and to do some apostolic work. After a couple of years I invited several people to do the 19th annotation retreat. These were people who certainly could not afford our retreat houses, who would not normally have been the targets of our giving of the Exercises. All persevered. After the experience, all of them gave themselves more deeply to their apostolic work - working with youth, teaching catechism. They all sought a deeper education in their faith. They began to see that their daily jobs and family work were contexts for evangelization. They did several follow up retreats.

           19th annotation retreat continues to be central to my ministry as a Jesuit. In my term as rector of the Jesuit School of Theology, Berkeley, I have given the retreat to groups ranging from four to ten. It is a profound experience for me, a real Ignatian repetition in prayer begging for the freedom and the courage to seek and to do the Lord's will not only for myself but for those doing the retreat under my guidance.

           Both George Aschenbrenner and Tom Walsh expressed some caution regarding what is being given as 19th annotation retreats today. But they also felt, as did Joe Conwell and Dominic Maruca in their own way, that Ignatius was a very pragmatic man. What we are after in the Exercises is not the appropriation of the language of the Exercises per se, or the imposition of that language on religious experience. We are after the graces of conversion to God's will; from indifferent irresponsibility to open responsibility before the Lord. They agreed that Ignatius would say that whatever helps in opening people to the graces that the Exercises are meant to mediate is fine. Adapt! Study the Exercises; Read the directories (13), know the graces and dynamics, learn from someone who has experience, be bold.

C. Broadening:
Ignatian Prayer As A "Mysticism of Choice."

           A final influence on me was my reading of two articles on discernment and decision making that led me to use the method of the Exercises more explicitly in my own decision-making, both personally and as a superior. I have been tied up in knots about decisions. The Exercises have shown me a way out of the knots.

           "When Jesuits Pray: A Perspective on the Prayer of Apostolic Persons" by Ed Kinerk and "On Communal Apostolic Discernment" written by Peter Hans Kolvenbach came out in 1985 and 1986 respectively. These reflections led me to see more deeply that the way of prayer of the Exercises can be called a "mysticism of choice." By "mysticism of choice" Kinerk means "the desire to find God's will through interior experience and the search for confirmation of a decision through experience." (14) The way of prayer that comes to us through the Exercises, teaches us to prioritize all the data that comes to us each day, to discriminate and to seek in it what is of God and to eschew what is not. This pointed up for me again the centrality of experience and the intimate connection between the First Principle and Foundation, the Rules for Discernment, the Election and the Key meditations for freedom of the Second week. It's all a piece; it's all directed toward an open Gospel freedom and making really concrete, reflective, mundane choices for the Lord. This plays itself out in our day to day reality through the examen of every Jesuit which ought to feed ultimately into the apostolic discernment of the community, the province, the Society as a whole. Our prayer is not about spiritual marriages, although our way of proceeding is based on an intimate knowledge of Christ. Nor is our spirituality about fasts and vigils or bodily mortifications, although it requires a deep spiritual, mortification of "riches, honor, and pride" as Kinerk points out. Our spirituality is the mysticism of the apostle who is united to God through choice.

           Secondly, I was deeply influenced by Kolvenbach's response to the annual letters of 1986, "De Discretione Apostolica in Communi," "On Communal Apostolic Discernment." This letter put my understanding of discernment into the larger box of the local Jesuit community, the Province, the Society as a whole. Kolvenbach writes that the Society ought to be in a continual state of discernment. Again, in his famous letter on obedience Ignatius said let others be ahead of us on vigils, fasting, pilgrimages and the like; let us excel in obedience. That word has its roots in the Latin to hear "ob audire." This is the meaning of the examen.

           I have come to trust the method of communal discernment given by Kolvenbach which, in general goes something like this:

1. Define the question.
2. Pray for freedom around the question.
3. Listen to one another without discussion.
4. Pray about what you heard.
5. Come together for further discussion.
6. A decision is made.
           We used something like this in our social analysis course at Ciszek Hall when we came to three apostolic commitments as a community: a commitment to youth, a commitment to work within existing church structures, a commitment to involve the Fordham students as best we could with youth in the Bronx. There is something deeply unifying in working through this process. It takes the courageous patience of the Third Type of Person as a whole community. It takes trust on the part of the superior and the community that God will indeed work with us through our religious experience deeply and intelligently reflected upon together. God speaks to us in our experience. It takes getting out of our U.S. democratic mode of thought for a while although it certainly has elements of democracy. An essential, freeing, moment in this process, is the third step; listening to one another without discussion or argument. It is not easy to do, but it is powerful.

           That is my experience of the Exercises. They are our way of proceeding, our way of living the Gospel, our way of deciding for the Lord. I have been moved though the Exercises, from a narrow, security seeking piety to an open, risky faith. I have been deepened in that grace through an Ignatian repetition when I did, and now give, the 19th annotation retreat. I have been broadened in my spirituality by coming to see Ignatian spirituality as a mysticism of choice. The prayer of the Exercises gets simpler and simpler. It goes forward in the prayerful individual and communal reflection on our religious experience that we do in the Examen.

II. Where Are We Headed?

           Let me shift now to the second, harder, part of my task. In this section let me give the opinions of the experts, a few examples of what I think are creative things going on (there are lots of them), and then give a reflection or two of my own.

The Experts

           George Aschenbrenner reports that, at Wernersville, more and more lay people are making the 19th annotation retreat. He is cautious however with this direction of the ministry of the Exercises. People are doing all kinds of things and calling it the 19th annotation. We must be careful to study and know the dynamics of the Exercises, to have a strong, clear sense of them, in order to help people making them to recognize how the Holy Spirit is moving in their lives. The discovery of self, of who I am through the revelation of God in Jesus, is the ideal we are aiming at with the Exercises.

           Joe Conwell agrees with this movement when he says that we are involving more and more lay people in making the Exercises in Everyday Life. This is a significant direction for the Exercises today.

           Bill Barry hopes that we can involve poor people more and more in our ministry with the Exercises. There hasn't been much of this, he says, but while in Bahia, Brazil, he saw a scholastic giving the 19th annotation retreat to two poor women. They made great sacrifices to be able make the retreat.

           John English has been working in Ignatian Spiritual Exercises for the Corporate Person which offers programs based on the Exercises to "explore the grace that is in a working group of people." John works in collaboration with Diane Myers, Jungian analyst and spiritual director, Leo Schemel, S.J. and Judith Roemer, from the Institute for Contemporary Spirituality at the University of Scranton. According to John, the real issue today is developing lay spiritual directors and lay facilitators of small groups. The Exercises are a great help in this.

          Dominic Maruca would like to see us use the Exercises more to help people recover and realize their baptismal commitment and so to use them more in conjunction with liturgy and sacraments. The Exercises are a spiritual journey, meant to be something experimental, and so they can work extremely well on this point. The remembrance of God's past blessings in life are a basis for hope. (Interestingly GC 34 176.19 says this: "Through the Spiritual Exercises, Jesuits are particularly concerned with helping others enter more into their baptismal dignity as servants of Christ").

          Tom Walsh sees the future ministry of the Exercises having a lot to do with 19th annotation work, with an even greater variety of adaptation. With George Aschenbrenner, Tom expresses caution about what is being given today as 19th annotation retreats. But he also says that Ignatius was a very pragmatic man and so what mediates the graces of the retreat cannot be rejected. So, let there be more freedom in adapting the Exercises. Tom suggests the writing of Joe Veale, S.J. as important work in adaptation of the Exercises today.

          There seems to be a consistency and clarity here. These Jesuits who have been working for so many years in the Exercises see the movement toward 19th annotation, the Exercises in everyday life, group processes using Ignatian spirituality, the work of and collaboration with lay persons, and greater adaptation.

Some Creative Things Being Done Today

          In Buffalo, Jim Ruddick, S.J., Dick Hoar, S.J., Ms. Gini Schultz, and Sr. Marie Kerqin, SSJ. have been working as a team giving the 19th annotation retreat to groups for the past ten years. Jim and Dick were inspired by their experience of the 19th annotation retreat New York did as a province in 1985-1986 as part of province renewal. In the past ten years, they have given the retreat to about 150 people, mostly lay, but also priests and nuns, and non Catholics. They use the second edition of Place Me With Your Son (Georgetown Press). Two directors work with each group (it seems that ten to eleven people is the upper limit, about four the lower limit). They meet on the 1st and 3rd week of every month for a little over an hour. The meeting includes sharing of prayer and an introduction to upcoming prayer. Directors make comments as necessary. As a guide book, each retreatant uses David Fleming's Draw Me Into Your Friendship. The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius A Literal Translation and A Contemporary Reading (St. Louis: Institute of Jesuit Sources). Each prospective retreatant fills out an application form and provides references from a spiritual director. The retreat begins in the middle of October and ends in May. Many people who make the retreat desire some sort of follow up. The team suggests Challenge 2000; Harter's Praying with Jesuits; and other material. Ruddick agrees that follow up is important and must be developed further. An ideal to move towards would be to touch a wider variety of people and to develop the skills so that others can give the retreat.

          Taking the show on the road. Without having much of a place to call its own, the Loyola Institute for Spirituality (L.A.) of the California Province does a wide variety of things based on the Exercises: a series of 8 day retreats in August; 3 and 4 day parish missions/retreats during Lent and Advent; weekend retreats and 1 day workshops/days of recollection; a retreat day for 20 parish councils; a day for 100 people in detention ministry. The institute gave a weekend on discernment to 150 lay leaders from 5 regions of the L.A. Archdiocese. The people said "This is what we have wanted.!" For this workshop Tacho Rivera, S. J. invented a series of skits or street situations to illustrate the Rules for Discernment of the First Week. After acting out a situation the people would recognize, a modern day parable, he asks them what might be going on in terms of good spirits and bad spirits. After response and discussion they study the rule from the Exercises. The institute is moving more and more in the direction of training lay people.

          Estudios Pastorales para la Nueva Evangelizacion in New York under the direction of Jeff Chojnacki and Mike Flynn also takes the show on the road. They have done something with lay folks on discernment as well. This was very well received and many of those who went through the workshop are now in on going spiritual direction and are being readied for the 19th annotation retreat. A goal of EPNE is to start working with CLC groups. A need EPNE has discovered is more material on the Exercises in the Spanish language in this country.

          The Exercises  and the Internet. Andy Alexander, S.J., Vice President for University Ministry at Creighton University and Maureen Waldrin, Director of Collaborative Ministry, coordinate a retreat in everyday life given over the Internet. The idea began two years ago when they were giving a retreat to 170 Creighton faculty for 6 weeks during Lent 1998. They began to post the Scripture readings on the web. The retreatants asked that they continue through Easter. Andy and Maureen asked why not do a retreat on the Internet inspired by the possibility of a middle annotation for our time. The 18th is for people with little ability; the 19th for people with ability but little time; the 20th for people who have both time and ability. How about people who have the ability, the desire, but who don't have the time, and whose culture is the Internet? What would Ignatius think about our use of this culture? An "online experience of the movements of the Exercises" was born. The web site gets 1000 hits a day from all over the world: an RCIA Director who adapts it for her program; a retreat house which gives the address out as a way of follow-up for those who have made retreats; a parish doing the retreat together; a woman from Haiti who goes to the site when the electricity is on; a woman from Kuwait who is searching for some retreat experience; a Jesuit from the Philippines who prints out the material for others to use. Photos by Don Doll, S.J. illustrate the theme of each week of the Exercises.

          The retreat is very simple, very easy to move through. Internet users can jump in anytime and do it at their own pace. Instructions can be found on what to do. Each retreatant can share what they would like of their prayer through e mail. Andy and Maureen screen these sharings and post them for others to read. These notes can be quite personal. "I'm stuck in Second Week". "I have difficulty accepting God's love for me." "This has changed my life." Although Andy and Maureen do not call themselves directors, they do try to respond to such e mails, perhaps 5 to 10 per day. Wanting to avoid any hint of dependency they advise those who join the retreat to get a spiritual director, use a journal, get into a group. Ongoing support for those who finish the retreat can be found on the web site. Larry Gillick, S.J. writes a reflection column based on the Sunday readings to help people to continue to find God in their lives. The retreat, the follow up, cost nothing, except for the time of the coordinators and contributors.

          Where is it headed? First, they are reaching people for whom the Internet is a culture and who are thinking less linearly and more in terms of hyper text. Retreatants can easily and instantaneously go back and forth in the retreat, link up with photos, or with documents illustrating, explaining, some point or doctrine, or giving another point of view. Use of this culture requires learning to think this way and to adapt the Exercises to this way of thinking. Second, if and when a wider band width is available - more data more quickly over the Internet - it may be possible to hook retreatants up with directors all over the world who could communicate instantaneously through the Internet with live pictures of retreatant and director, live text and/or voice. Andy and Maureen believe that this is a distinct possibility.

Training Lay And Religious -- Reaching The Poor

          At JSTB, George Murphy, S.J. and Jane Ferdon, O.P. have been giving a month long spiritual direction practicum for the past ten years. This program trains lay people and religious side by side and reaches the poor with Ignatian spirituality. The focus of the spiritual direction is service of the contemplative space between God and the human being. The heart of the program is getting the directors into this contemplative space themselves in order to listen to the retreatants religious experience.

          Each of the 14 trainees in the practicum give an 8 day "home retreat" based on the Exercises to four people in either a woman's prison or a parish. All prospective retreatants are interviewed beforehand by the supervisors so that they know exactly what is going on, what to expect. The 14 directors meet together each day during the month long workshop. Each day in their meeting together, the trainees are led through a guided meditation on Scripture or a spiritual direction situation. They are then paired off and share their prayer 1 on 1. One of the partners is designated each day as the "director" who gives feedback to the "directee" after the mutual sharing of their prayer. The purpose of this exercise is to both give and receive direction, service of the contemplative space. The trainees meet daily with their directees in the home retreat as well.

          There is also a fish bowl role play focused on a retreat situation which the entire group of trainees observes, reflects upon and gives feedback on. Finally, each trainee meets with a supervisor 2x per week to get personal supervision for the 4 people they are directing on the home retreat. The strength of the program is the amount of feedback the trainees receive.

          After ten years George and Jane have observed that at the end of the month the trainees are not directing the way they started. Most start out thinking that they're the one's who are supposed to know all the answers and must somehow ensure that the retreat is a good one. At the end they have let go of this attitude and have learned to serve the contemplative space where conversation goes on between the person and God.

Two Concluding Thoughts

          In my own work I have been thinking about bits and pieces of the Exercises and our mission today. GC 34 defines culture this way: "the way in which a group of people live, think, feel, organize themselves, celebrate and share life. In every culture there are underlying systems of values, meanings, and views of the world, which are expressed, visibly, in language, gestures, symbols, rituals, and styles." Elements of this definition lead me to think of the Exercises themselves as a religious culture, and a very deep one at that. Are there not deep symbols involved that remain with us long after the retreat: the image of the Incarnation, the various images of Christ in the Call of the King, the Two Standards, the Three Classes of Persons? And values as well. Ignatius has the retreatant pray for deep counter-cultural values such as poverty, insults for the Gospel, and humility, in these central meditations. And finally there is a world view especially in the First Principle and Foundation and in the Contemplation to Attain Divine Love. The Exercises are culture and give us a way into culture to appreciate it as the locus of God's activity and to give us a critical and creative distance from it.

          This leads me to a way of presenting the Three Classes of Persons using culture as that "commodity" which each person inherits instead of a sum of money. This can be a powerful way of driving home the fact that culture is inherited without much thought as we grow up but that an appreciative and critical consciousness toward culture through discerning prayer can be developed through the Exercises. Culture is something eminently worthy of discernment and election according to the third class of person and the Two Standards.

          Finally, I team teach a course structured on the Exercises. It is for first year M.Div. students and is meant to be a reflection on the apostolic experience they are bringing into their theological studies. We give the students six categories or lenses through which to examine their experience: evangelization, solidarity, social analysis, cultural analysis, theological reflection, and pastoral planning and ask them how they engaged in each of these in their apostolic work. We present each theme through the Exercises (and the documents from GC 34). We present the theme of evangelization through the Contemplation of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ who calls the exercitant to join with Him in laboring for the Kingdom. We begin their reflection on Solidarity through the Contemplation on the Incarnation, the Trinity looking compassionately upon the world. How were you in solidarity with God's people? What were positive avenues, obstacles? We ask them how they did social analysis by presenting the theme through the Two Standards; how did you see the standard of Christ in your work, the standard of Satan? We don't initially choose our culture but more or less unconsciously inherit it, so how did you, your students, the people you worked with, relate to culture? What influence did it have on you on them? The consideration of the Three Types of Persons helps greatly with this question as described above. The theme of Theological Reflection is presented through an adapted "Thinking with the Church" and Pastoral Planning through the "contemplatio," God present to and laboring in all of creation to bring it to fulfilment. Did your planning seek this end? How? Two or three students make a presentation each week on the theme as they reflect on their experience using the Exercises as the focusing lens.

          I will only say by way of underling what was said in may ways already that we must continue to critique and adapt the Exercises. Ignatius was intensely scrupulous, by our standards, about sin as found in the presentation of the general and particular examens, the rules for discernment, the meditation on hell, etc. The work of many authors in Studies articles and The Way Supplement, and John English, David Fleming, John Veltri and Joe Veale, among many others, go a long way in expressing the grace Ignatius is after for people today through the Exercises.

III. Conclusion And Questions 

          I hope I have helped to jog your memory, your experience of the Exercises as you came through your formation, as they are at work in your life now, and as you might dream about how they could be used more effectively to reach more people, and as the very soul of our way of proceeding in ministry today.

          I see the recovery of the "authentic Exercises" and their attention to religious experience as key in how we use the Exercises in our ministry today. Care in listening to and handling people's experience in giving the Exercises and in spiritual direction is a service of the contemplative space that can open them to a profound trust in God and a willingness to search courageously for God's will. I do not think that most people - well at least I didn't - get it the first time around, so some form of Ignatian repetition, some kind of more or less explicit follow up, is important to deepen the original experience and keep the openness truly open. I am convinced that our spirituality is a "mysticism of choice." It is about obedience to God's will continually sought in discernment, election, the ongoing examen.

          Lots of creative things are happening today especially around the 19th annotation retreat, with lay people, reaching out to the poor, the Internet, taking the show in the road. We must be creative and bold in looking for ever new adaptations while remaining faithful to the underlying dynamics and graces that Ignatius has us pray for in the Exercises. They mediate a radical way of living the Gospel, a spirituality that is deeply appreciative of culture while remaining critically counter cultural. The Exercises are a means of producing disciples with courage, or rather with hope. They are a great gift to the Society and to the Church in our world today. They continually open deepen and broaden us to see God in all things and all things in God.

Here are the questions for your small group discussion:

  • How have the content and the influence of the Exercises supported you in your present ministry?
  • In the spirit of the magis, how could your ministry      greater profit from the influence of the Exercises?
  • Can your apostolic colleagues (Jesuit, religious, and lay) benefit from this conversation? How could you continue this conversation at the local level?


1. The first recorded group adaptation of the Exercises was given to lay people about a century after the death of Ignatius near Vannes, Brittany by Fr. Vincent Huby, S.J. in a house set aside for the purpose of spiritual direction and retreats. Reported in David Asselin, S.J., "Notes on Adapting the Exercises of St. Ignatius" in Review for Relgious Volume 28, 1969.  Click here to open in a separate window.

2. I talked with one man who had a personal conference with his novice director twice during the retreat and another who never had such a conference.

3. William Barry, S.J., "Ignatian Spirituality for the 21st Century. Keynote Address 25th Reunion of the Christian Spirituality Program. Creighton University July 2, 1999, pp. 1-2.

4. The terminology is George Ganns'. The authentic Exercisescontain the following characteristics: "1) one director 2) personally guiding for a full month 3) one exercitant 4) who was voluntarily and eagerly making the integral Exercises 5) for the first time in his life and 6) for the serious purpose of discovering how he could best comply with God's good pleasure for him, for example, either by choosing a state of life or by improving his spiritual life within an already permanent state." The Authentic Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius: Some Facts of History and Terminology Basic to Their Functional Efficacy Today  in Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits. Vol. I No. 2, November 1969, p. 10. Quoting de Guibert, S.J. The Jesuits: Their Spiritual Doctrine and Practice (Chicago: 1964), pp. 125, 131-132.

5. Documents of GC 31, p. 26.

6. PC 2. Quoted in Documents of GC 31, p. 73, fn. 3.

7. Decree 8 "The Spiritual Formation of Jesuits," no. 124.

8. Ganns, op.cit. p. 21.

9. Henry F. Birkenhauer, S.J. Editor's Forward in The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Exposition and Interpretation (Jersey City: The Program to Adapt the Spiritual Exercises, 1967) p. ix.

10. See also Ladislaus Orsy, S.J., "Directed -vs- Preached Retreats" in Review for Religious Volume 25, 1966.

11. The Maryland Province then invited Merz to meet with and speak with superiors to explain the process of renewal. The result was the retreat manual Place Me With Your Son written collaboratively by Clem Petrik, S.J., Suzanne Gainey (Province Director for Social Ministries) and others. This manual has gone through three editions now, the later editions being less geared toward Jesuits and so more appropriate for a wider (lay) audience. Joe Tetlow's manual Choosing Christ in the World came out in 1989.

12. Conversation with George Murphy, S.J. at The Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, January, 2000.

13. A great resource for the old directories which are very instructive is Martin E. Palmer, S.J. On Giving the Spiritual Exercises. The early Jesuit Manuscript Directories and the Official Directory of 1599 (St. Louis: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1996).

14. Ed Kinerk, S.J. When Jesuits Pray: A Perspective on the Prayer of Apostolic Persons in Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits, Volume XVII, No. 5, November, 1985, p. 13.

-- Charles L. Moutenot, S.J.
This talk was originally given by Charles L. Moutenot, S.J., who was at the time Rector, Jesuit School Theology at Berkeley at Loyola Hall, Canisius College, Buffalo NY. He gave it to his fellow Jesuits in the NY Province in year 2000 as they reflected on the place of the Exercises in their ministries -- to stimulate reflective dialogue. 

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