The Craft of Enhancing Spiritual Exercises

1. Prepare the prayer space.
Creating a prayer space will keep me focused during the First Spiritual Exercises. For my retreat, I could make a small home altar with an image, flower, and cross. I may add symbols of light, water, or desire as I experience a grace or need during my retreat [Spiritual Exercises 79, 130].

2. Think before sleep.
I take twenty seconds, before I sleep, to recall the time I have to get up, and for what purpose, going over the exercise I have to make [Spiritual Exercises 73].

3. Remember upon waking.
Before I allow my thoughts to wander, I bring to mind the subject of the exercise for the day. I then rouse my feelings by imagining the relation- ship I desire with the Lord. I desire to know him more intimately so as to better serve and follow him [Spiritual Exercises 24, 74, 130, 131].

4. Consider while dressing.
Dress or dressing can be used in symbolic gestures of imagination and desire. I imagine myself as I wish to be before the God of my spiritual exercise today. The preparation step of most exercises will guide me in this [Spiritual Exercises 74].

5. Rehearse beforehand.
When the time for my spiritual exercise is approaching, I remember that I am going to enter the presence of God, and then I run briefly over the spiritual exercise ahead of me [Spiritual Exercises 131].

6. Reverence to begin.
I stand before my prayer place for a minute, and with my mind raised up I consider how God our Lord is looking at me with tender love. In response, I make a genuflection or another gesture of reverence and humility [Spiritual Exercises 75, 131].

7. Body at peace.
For prayer I may kneel or sit, lie face down or face up, or stand. Ignatius adds, “Two things should be noted: first, if I find what I want whilst kneeling, I will go no further, and similarly if prostrate, etc. Second, where I find what I want, I will settle down, without any anxiety to move on” [Spiritual Exercises 76].

8. Express your generosity and desire.
It is highly profitable for the receiver to begin with great generosity and freedom, and to offer all his or her powers of desire. This is in the preparation prayer and desire of each exercise [Spiritual Exercises 5].

9. Pray the full exercise time.
Pray the full amount of time chosen beforehand [Spiritual Exercises 12, 13].

10. Journal with the Listening Book after the exercise.
After prayer, Ignatius instructs, “I will either sit down or walk around for a quarter of an hour while I see how things have gone for me during the prayer.” The First Spiritual Exercises spiritual journal, the Listening Book, does this at depth [Spiritual Exercises 77].

Please note. For greater depth in giving the FSE and guiding Spiritual Conversation purchase the Manual here.

This excerpt from The First Spiritual Exercises: A Manual ©2013 by Michael Hansen is used by permission of Ave Maria Press. All rights reserved.