The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius
Publication Date: December 1, 1999
Transcript of Video:
Vincent: Time for the Book! Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius! We haven’t talked about this book, and I apologize because we’ve gotten a lot of questions of spiritual reading and I’ve always forgotten to mention this, but this is one of the first books that really inspired me. It has St. Ignatius’s biography and conversion which I like a lot. This isn’t typical reading. The way it’s structured, it’s supposed to be done in a retreat setting. That’s the best way. But you can do it yourself and give it a go. That’s what I did.
This is an incredibly important. It’s probably one of the most important spiritual books in the world, in my opinion, because this is something that we have completely lost and that we need so badly. Everyone’s talking about masculinity, but we don’t know how to get it back. At the same time everyone’s complaining about the Jesuits, and I think that sort of prevents them from looking at what St. Ignatius did, and what the Jesuits were all about when they were great---and this is it.
I’ll never forget what my brother said about this book: “If only we can bottle this book! We’d convert the world en masse” Because it turns you into a fervent Catholic. Now I read this a long time ago, so I don’t remember it as well. But I remember there are 4 steps in 4 weeks. And one of the first steps involved “purging yourself from inordinate attachments.” And I’ve always joked that I never passed the first step. I’m stuck at that. But it tries to give you an honest guide at how to look at your venial sins, and what attachments are causing you to sin.
It has powerful meditations too. One of the meditations that had a big effect on me was to picture the world and all the people in the world, and now picture the good people in the world: what are they doing? Picture the Holy Family. What are they doing? How did they act? What is their life like? Now picture all the evil people in the world? What are they doing? Killing, murdering, everything is vainglory. So you have these two images that are very powerful, one of the things changed for me is to embrace the concept of being a nobody. Because if you think about it, the Holy Family is a bunch of nobodies. They’re doing all these things in perfect humility. They’re not in front of microphones, they’re not in positions of power. And you think of some of these hermits, St. Antony of the Desert, St. John the Baptist, these aren’t saints in positions of power.
Charles: This goes what to what we said earlier about not broadcasting your almsgiving and fasting, which our Lord was very much against. And the original Jesuits were certainly very much into humility which is not always the case now.
Vincent: I do want to say one thing about the masculinity thing is Ignatian spirituality is all bound up in masculine spirituality. It’s all about following the king and doing as he does, and you will share in his rewards. And this is all bound up in chivalry. And this is why the Jesuit order do not have sisters, because it’s masculine spirituality. My mom read the book and she said “I don’t get this. This doesn’t make a dent on me.” And I said of course, it’s a guy thing. So for me, this is right up your alley.
It’s important to know these spiritualities, to understand what you are. I’m Franciscan #1 and Ignatian #2. You have to discover what these things are all about so that you carve your identity as a Catholic rather than secularly.
With this book, one is able to make an Ignation retreat of 30, 15, or 8 days. It is filled with excellent Meditations and Contemplations for recollection and conversion.
I picked this book up for lent knowing it was going to be difficult, and I got exactly what I bargained for.
There is in no way something you can just pick up and implement in a single sitting or even a single reading. There is so much to this book that it definitely needs multiple reasons to fully implement to what is being asked of you without the use of a retreat center.
Getting past that, there is so much substance to these meditations. I have learned more about the horror and power that a single mortal sin holds over the course of the first week than I think I have ever learned in my entire life. There are so many small and quotable bits in these pages that hold so much power. St. Ignatius does not waste words, everything is deliberate and purposeful in aiding you to improving your spiritual life.
This is a book I will definitely be returning to in the future with greater motivation and openness.
I would recommend reading the book through once just to become familiar with what is being asked of me before diving in.
Truly powerful and worth every penny.
As Robert Gleason calls it, this book is "a complete guide and framework for achieving Christian perfection." The organization of the book is well-described in the introduction:
"The first week is designed to help the retreatant to purify his soul and put his life in order; the aim of the second week is to lead the soul to a greater knowledge and love for Jesus Christ; the third week is devoted to freeing the will from the psychological obstacles which stand in the way of a generous decision to follow Christ; and the fourth week is intended to purify the heart in the highest degree from false attachment to creatures, goods, or worldly ambition and honor."
While it is ideally for retreatants because they can devote time to these exercises, it can also be used on an individual basis. However, this is intended for people who have a serious conviction to model their lives in God's image. For all practical purposes, this book isn't for a single read-through, but rather to be used as a reference several times daily over the course of one to four months, depending on the spiritual progress of the exercitant.
This is not a book you're just going to pick up, read, feel daunted about what is required, and give up. The effectiveness and powerful nature of the meditations hit you in such a way, that it fills you with zeal, and somehow gets you excited to perform the exercises on a daily basis. Obviously there is always some difficulty or reluctance when it comes to incorporating a new routine into your life. But you will feel the desire to remain firm and steadfast, to see this thing through to allow the Holy Spirit take a hold of you.
Historically, the Ignatian method has delivered results, and it's plain to see from his Spiritual Exercises that when one follows it today in a steadfast manner, he will most definitely be a changed man.