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Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius

St. Ignatius' Profound Precepts of Mystical Theology

Author(s): Ignatius of Loyola

ISBN13: 9780385024365

ISBN10: 0385024363

Publisher: Doubleday

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  • Written in 1533, this masterpiece by St. Ignatius has long been recognized as a brilliant and inspired guide to the development of a deeper spirituality.


    Saint Ignatius of Loyola (Basque: Loiolako Inazio, Eneko Loiolakoa, Spanish: Ignacio de Loyola, (1491 , July 31, 1556) was a knight, who became a hermit and priest, founding the Society of Jesus and becoming its first Superior General. Ignatius and the Jesuits became major figures in the Counter-Reformation, where the Catholic Church worked to reform itself from within and countered the theology of Protestantism. After his death he was beatified and then on March 12, 1622, was canonized. The feast day of Ignatius is celebrated on July 31 , he is the patron saint of soldiers, the Society of Jesus, the Basque Country, the provinces of Guipózcoa and Biscay, among other things.

    From a Basque noble family Ignatius was initially a knight, but after his leg was seriously wounded at the Battle of Pamplona during the Italian War of 1521, 1526, he underwent a spiritual conversion while in recovery. Ignatius had read De Vita Christi by Ludolph of Saxony which inspired him to abandon his previous lifestyle, to live a life of labour for God following the example of men like Francis of Assisi. He claimed to have seen a vision of the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus at the shrine of Our Lady of Montserrat, while living as a hermit in a cave at nearby Manresa.

    He visited the Holy Land with the desire of converting the local people, but was sent back to Europe by the Franciscans. Ignatius then spent seven years learning theology and Latin, firstly at three universities in Spain and then one in Paris , he arrived in the city at the same time John Calvin was leaving. After gaining a tightly knit association of followers, Ignatius founded the Society of Jesus which received recognition from Pope Paul III. Highly disciplined, the movements followers learned the Spiritual Exercises and Constitution. Education and self-examination were at the core. At the time of Loyolas death in 1556, there were 1,000 Jesuits organised into eleven units.
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    It is impossible to exaggerate the influence of The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius since its completion in 1535. In these exercises, as the editor writes, "St. Ignatius personal insights into ascetical theology found their clearest expression; in them, too, each new generation of Jesuits is formed according to the spirit of St. Ignatius." A man of great practical genius, Ignatius created the book as the basis for retreats given to priests, lay people, and monastics.

    Organized according to five major themes (Creation, Mankind, The Kingdom of God, Christ, and the Trinity), the exercises are divided into four "weeks" of meditations - although these weeks may last a few days or a few months. The overall goal is to lead the retreatant through a series of meditations on the life of Christ, beginning with reflections on the disorder and chaos of ones own life and progressing to a series of meditations on Christs life, inviting the retreatant to a knowledge and love of Christ. The third week of exercises focuses on the crucifixion, and the fourth and final week develops meditations on the resurrection, leading ultimately to "the assimilation of the soul to God... so that one lives ones life exclusively for God in joyous service."

    This is not so much a book to be read as a path to be entered. Still used around the world (and not just by Jesuits), it remains one of the clearest roads to a deeper spiritual life.

    - Doug Thorpe,

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Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius

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