Spiritual Exercises further love of Jesus


By Michael Rossmann, SJ

Upon joining the Jesuits, I was immediately struck by what seemed to be an entirely new language. In a discussion about a particular saint, for example, I heard another Jesuit ask, “Is he one of ours?” “Ours?” I wondered.

I soon learned that this meant another living or dead member of the Jesuits. I likewise heard many references to “the Society.” The Society? This was not some cult, but people were making reference to the Society of Jesus, the name of my religious order more commonly known as the Jesuits.

After initially being surprised by these references, I now find my speech littered with such expressions that are oftentimes confusing to non-Jesuits. I have talked to friends and started sentences such as, “When I made the Exercises …” only to notice some very confused looks. “Sorry, I mean the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola.” But, even that requires explanation.

The Spiritual Exercises is a manual and method for prayer divided into four thematic “weeks” – though not necessarily seven-day periods. In the first week, one looks at sin in his or her life, ultimately reflecting on how one is a loved sinner. One goes through a series of meditations on the life of Jesus in the second week, even using one’s imagination to place oneself in different scenes from the Gospel as a form of prayer. The focus of the third week is the Passion of Jesus, and the emphasis of the fourth week is Jesus’ resurrection and God’s continued love for us. Ultimately, the exercises facilitate a deepened knowledge and love of Jesus and a greater understanding of how to personally respond with one’s life. And, it can be immensely helpful for making decisions and seeing how to live a meaningful life. Through Jesuit or “Ignatian” spirituality, we strive to be “contemplatives in action” and allow our faith to inform our everyday life.


Each Jesuit makes the full, 30-day version of the exercises twice in his life and a shortened version each year, in addition to using elements of the exercises in his regular prayer life. But, the Spiritual Exercises is a gift to the Church as whole and even non-Catholics. It is not necessary to be a priest or Sister to do this, or to take 30 days off of work and family commitments to benefit from the exercises. In fact, Ignatius developed the exercises before he was ordained a priest and noted how this method could be adapted to fit into people’s schedules.

Reading a copy of the exercises from cover to cover would be about as exciting as reading a computer manual. Just as reading about the benefits of physical exercise won’t actually help you unless you actually exercise, the Spiritual Exercises are meant to experienced, not read.

Being able to make some version of the Spiritual Exercises under the direction of an individual trained in the exercises — either at a retreat house or through regular meetings — is an incredible opportunity, but may not be feasible for everyone. A wealth of online and printed resources can facilitate integration of elements of the exercises on one’s own.

I want to invite you to an opportunity in the Davenport Diocese to learn more about the Spiritual Exercises and how to live more deeply our faith in daily life. On June 25-26, I will be part of a group of young Jesuit priests and seminarians giving a retreat at the Newman Center in Iowa City. All are welcome at the event, which will take place that Friday evening and all day Saturday and is aimed particularly at young adults. Just as the exercises can connect with people at different stages of their spiritual journeys, this weekend is for people mostly new to prayer and for those simply looking for new ways to pray and live a purposeful life. A small donation is welcome to help us continue our ministry, but is not required. If you know of a young adult who could benefit from this opportunity for spiritual renewal, please spread the word.

(Michael Rossmann is a graduate of Regina Catholic Education Center in Iowa City. Last year, he professed vows in the Society of Jesus, more commonly known as the Jesuits. He can be contacted about the Spiritual Exercise or the “Jesuit Mission Band” coming to Iowa City at rossmann.michael@gmail.com.)

Support The Catholic Messenger’s mission to inform, educate and inspire the faithful of the Diocese of Davenport – and beyond! Subscribe to the print and/or e-edition, or make a one-time donation, today!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Posted on