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What is it?
Jesuit spirituality flows out of the experience of the thirty-day retreat known as the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. It is a spirituality that finds God in all things, rather than rejecting the created world. The ministry of the Spiritual Exercises has been at the heart of the Society of Jesus and its works since the Order’s founding. From those earliest days, Jesuits have devoted themselves to understanding and integrating the Spiritual Exercises into their own lives and works, while at the same time promoting and offering this spiritual gift to others.
Saint Ignatius was a visionary. He perceived the need of the Church in his time and was generous and zealous in finding innovative ways to respond effectively to those needs. Ignatius knew that the inner transformation of those who joined with him as companions could only be accomplished by continual interior renewal, and it was for this principal purpose that he prescribed the Spiritual Exercises.
These Spiritual Exercises inform the Constitutions and the discipline of the Order itself and are the guarantors of the Jesuits’ ability to discern and desire to do the will of God. Many historians note Ignatius’ ability to assess what is of lasting value, to reject what is obsolete, and to imagine novel ways in which to respond to immediate and future challenges. All of these traits – foundations to the mission and spirit of the Society of Jesus and affiliated institutions – are rooted in the dynamics and practical wisdom of the Spiritual Exercises.
The Spiritual Exercises flow from a life centered on the person of Jesus Christ whose love is enacted in his incarnation, passion, death, and resurrection. It is a love that is expressed in deeds rather than mere words, with its truest expression being one which promotes justice.
Countless women and men have found in the Spiritual Exercises a method of prayer and discernment that has inspired them to more faithful living, greater familiarity and relationship with Jesus Christ, and increased availability for service to those most in need.