The Spiritual Exercises take root at the heart of Saint Ignatius’ life. Immobilized on his bed by an injury, alternating pious readings and chivalric dreams, he realizes that the thoughts and emotions that come to him are not insignificant. Some push him towards life, others engulf him in his fantasies and leave him dry and sad. From then on, Ignatius will not stop refining his ways of praying, of meditating, of reviewing his personal history, in order to better adjust his life to the joyful following of Christ. The book of the Spiritual Exercises is nourished by his experience, and was written by Ignatius to help other Christians to find their own vocation.
Organized in four weeks, and lasting roughly 30 days, the Spiritual Exercises consist of a series of contemplations of the life of Christ and meditations written by Ignatius. Their goal is to gradually lead the one making the retreat to accept the love of God, to grow in familiarity with Christ and to choose how to order his life so as to follow in Jesus Christ’s footsteps. During these 30 days, the retreatant is assisted by a spiritual director who helps him or her to progress by offering personalized meditations and contemplations as well as by helping him or her to put words on what is happening in prayer.
The book of the Spiritual Exercises also includes tips on how to live a time of retreat, how to pray and review your prayer, and instructions for the spiritual director. It is not a book to be read, but a handbook that supports and helps foster a lived experience.
– translated from the website of EOF Jesuits