“As strolling, walking and running are corporal exercises, so is called Spiritual Exercise every method of examination of conscience, meditation, vocal and mental prayer and any other spiritual operation in order to prepare the soul to remove from her all disordered inclinations and, once removed, to find the will of God as concerns one’s life.”
This is how Saint Ignatius of Loyola, the inventor of the Spiritual Exercises, described this healthy practice. We do them to imitate Jesus, who spent forty days in the desert. In this way we can overcome ourselves and order our lives according to God’s plan for us. Spiritual Exercises are also an important apostolate, so we must know them well, in order to preach them.
The spiritual exercises consist in of some days of retreat, in which a preacher exposes topics to meditate on (such as the life of Jesus, His Passion, Heaven and Hell…) which are divided into four parts. During these days of silence and prayer, it is possible to confess and receive spiritual direction.
Why should one do Spiritual Exercises? We live in a world that is constantly pressing with work, activity, images, sounds, messages… do we really have time to stop and think where we are going, or which direction we should take? The Exercises are a good way to detach from daily life; they give us time to think to the most important business, which is the nourishment of our souls and the conformity of our life to the Will of God. Further, if someone is thinking about a vocation to priesthood or religious life, the Spiritual Exercises are an excellent method of discernment.