Members of the Priory Team have experience of guiding people through this
process and would be delighted to talk with you about it and help you discern if
this would be the right thing for you at this time in your faith journey.
Many people find this process totally transformative, and one of the most graced
periods of their lives.
The experience of making the Spiritual Exercises has been described as:
“A time of life changing decision”
“I was taken to a very deep place in complete safety, By the end I experienced
great joy, the feeling of having a fresh start, of knowing what the "Good News"
“A deepening of prayer”
“After 35 years of reading the Bible in a variety of ways, the Exercises gave me a
new way of looking at the Bible and experiencing God which was unexpected, refreshing and intimate. I was sorry the Exercises finished, but the benefit has remained.”
The Spiritual Exercises take the form of a structured programme of prayer, designed to be used over a period of time. The overall purpose for doing the Exercises can be summarised in a three fold way:
To lead people towards interior freedom
To open people to an ever-deepening relationship with God
To enable people to encounter God in all things.
There is a time frame of about 9 months, but this can vary as the person doing the Exercises is encouraged to go at whatever pace suits. During the Exercises, people commit to regular periods of daily prayer, consisting of set meditations and imaginative contemplation (often called Ignatian prayer—however the prayer experience is much wider than this one expression and all ways of praying are incorporated). There are regular meetings throughout the Exercises with a Guide to share those things being discovered. Usually these meetings will be fortnightly and last between 30 minutes to an hour. Guidelines for the following weeks are given at each meeting to enable the content for the coming weeks to be known. The experience is always fitted to the particular individual and is never “one size fits all.”
Doing the Exercises does require considerable daily commitment, but many have been amazed how they have been able to find time, in already busy lives, and the fruit that follows. If you’d like to talk with someone further about the possibility of doing the Spiritual Exercises, then please contactus by
Email: info at stantonyspriory.co.uk or by Telephone: 0191 374 1242
Reflections on the Ignatian Exercises
Recently I completed the Ignatian Exercises, which I found amazingly enriching and significant, I’d like to share briefly some of my experiences.
I first became aware of the Exercises last year during a course on Spiritual Direction at St Anthony’s Priory in Durham, and through one of Margaret Silf’s books “Landmarks.” There are many ways of doing the Exercises; the route that worked for me was a “retreat in daily life” over a period of nine months. I was able to commit to 40 minutes a day, plus a one hour conversation every two or three weeks with my retreat director, Paul Golightly.
Prior to starting the Exercises I had been practicing “conversational journaling” where you have a two way written conversation with Jesus, and I carried this into my prayer times during the Exercises. Helen Cepero’s book “Journaling as a Spiritual Practice” introduced me to this way of praying and listening.
The Exercises were devised by Ignatius Loyola in the sixteenth century, he encouraged the practice of “imaginative prayer” where you enter a Biblical story maybe as a bystander or as one of the characters, and take part in the action possibly having a conversation with Jesus. This took me a while to get used to but now it is becoming my default approach to reading Scripture, especially the Gospel stories. Journaling those conversations and then reviewing them I can see the themes developing, many of which are challenging and exciting.
It’s difficult to draw together briefly all that I received during those nine months, but here’s a flavour. Probably the most significant realisation was that Jesus is progressively drawing me into his friendship. He showed me this using images I could readily relate to – for example joining him in his carpenter shop, working alongside him making everyday things, then leaving with him to be baptised by John and into the uncertainty of his journey. From that Biblical image to another based at Westmorland Services on the M6 where he invited me to leave the car I was driving and join him on the train! I’m experiencing him inviting me to join him on his journey in the world today, (rather than me asking him to join me on mine), to see things through his eyes (things that are beautiful and others that are devastating), to allow him to be who he is, and to become him to others.
The Exercises include a big element of self-awareness and personal examination. For example I realised more clearly that I find it difficult to let go and trust, my tendency is to want stay in control. As I became more aware of my weak points there was no sense of condemnation, just the encouragement of Jesus walking alongside me. At one point I sensed him thanking me for joining him on “this dry dusty road.”
When entering into the resurrection narratives I felt strongly urged to go and meet Jesus in my “Galilee.” I have quite a number of such places in Northumberland, including St Michael’s Church in Felton. The window in the side chapel has been a source of inspiration over a number of years and again that proved again to be a powerful place of encounter and for me fresh revelation.
I’ve also seen how some of the Exercises, particularly those using “imaginative prayer” can be made readily accessible to anyone. A four week programme which I’ve called “The Gym” has been very effective in small groups in City Church, I’ve been excited to see people meeting Jesus in fresh ways and having the kind of conversations which are the bedrock of friendship.
A final thought, how come someone active for many years in a charismatic/evangelical church has met with Jesus through the Ignatian Exercises? Maybe as Brian McLaren suggests God is drawing together the charismatic and contemplative streams. To me they seem like two sides of the same coin.
If you are interested in finding out more Margaret Slif’s book “Landmarks” is a good place to start, and if you want to follow that up St Anthony’s Priory in Durham is a good place for a conversation.
Adrian Smith has been in church leadership for many years and currently runs several groups exploring spirituality at City Church, Newcastle.
30th June 2015
Retreat in Daily Living – the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius
Ignatius of Loyola was born in 1491, close to the time Christopher Columbus discovered America. He was then known as Inigo Lopez who as a young man experienced a life changing encounter with God in Jesus Christ. Following this he became known as Ignatius. He went on to found the Society of Jesus, also known as the Jesuits. From his own experiences of God and through his desire to help others on their spiritual journey, he developed the Spiritual Exercises. Many today find encouragement on their spiritual journey through Ignatian Spirituality which has been greatly popularised by the works of Gerard Hughes, SJ in the 1980s and Margaret Silf in the 1990s. Now, more people than ever are finding new freedom through engaging with St Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises. St Antony’s Priory offers the opportunity for individuals to work through the Spiritual Exercises in Daily Life.