More of what I didn’t know about the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius: They are divided into Weeks, which are not really weeks. Let me explain.
St. Ignatius saw his exercise as leading a person through a series of steps in their relationship with Jesus. Each step he called a “Week” because if you were doing a 30-day full-time silent retreat, each step would take about a week. Today, most people do the exercises in daily life taking up to 6-9 months, so a Week takes more than a week.
The weeks are:
Preparatory Week: This Week is about being fully grounded in God’s love before beginning the exercises. The prayers and scripture passages are chosen so that you meditate on how much God loves not just all of creation, but you personally.
Week 1: This Week is mostly about sin, but not in a guilt-inducing punitive way. The idea is to be full of gratitude for God who forgives us no matter what and always welcomes us back.
Week 2: This Week is about making a commitment to follow Jesus. The scripture passages are from his birth, childhood, and early ministry. Like the disciples, Jesus calls us to follow him.
Week 3: This Week focuses on Jesus’ passion and death.
Week 4: This Week focuses on the Resurrection and what happens next, for Jesus, the Church, and for us personally.
The exercises were designed for someone who didn’t know much about Christianity and was tentative about making a commitment to Jesus or Christianity in general. Since I’ve pretty much made that commitment (that whole ordination process thing), my spiritual director suggested I zip through the first couple of weeks, so right now I’m about halfway through Week 2.
In the book I’m using, O’Brian’s Ignatian Adventure, he outlines “weeks of prayer” within each thematic Week, so that if you were following O’Brian entirely (which I’m not) it would take about 34 weeks to do the entire Exercises. Since my spiritual director has created a more individualized plan for me, this results in things like my most recent email to her where I said, “I’m on week #17, but should be on week #22 in another week or two so then I’ll be ready to start Week 3.” Can you see why this is all a little confusing sometimes? But also very rich.
In my next post I’ll share some of the other things I’ve been reading, just in case you’re getting tired of hearing about the Exercises. But if you’re not, you can learn much more about then at this web site.