How to Give Inner Peace in Divine Love



The primary purpose of this retreat is to remember, experience, and express love. In the words of Ignatius, “to desire an interior knowledge of all the good I have received, so that acknowledging this with gratitude, I may be able to love and serve his Divine Majesty in everything” (Spiritual Exercises 233). This desire is found in the exercise titled the Contemplation to Receive Divine Love, or Contemplatio. This retreat is built around the Contemplatio, drawing it out from a single day exercise to a spacious four weeks of exercises.

Ignatius begins the Contemplatio with a note that love consists in mutual communication. He continues, “The lover gives and communicates to the loved one what they have, or something of what they have, or are able to give; and in turn the one loved does the same for the lover. Each gives to the other.” (Spiritual Exercises 231). This receiving and giving relationship is at the heart of the retreat, considered in your receiver’s experience of love, in intimacy with the Trinity, and in the gifts of a loving God.

Your receiver, having considered all the gifts of love flowing to her or him, is invited to respond. In the beginning of the Contemplatio, Ignatius notes, “it will be good to notice that love ought to find its expression in deeds rather than in words” (Spiritual Exercises 230). Here then, with renewed awareness and gratitude, is the practical purpose of this retreat.



yourselves with love,
which binds everything together
in perfect harmony.

And let the peace of Christ
rule in your hearts,
to which indeed you were called in the one body.

And be thankful.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.

And whatever you do,
in word or deed,
do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father
through him.

Retreat Map


Week One     Remembering Love

Monday         I remember being loved.

Tuesday         I remember being loved and grateful.

Wednesday   I remember being loved and responding.

Thursday       I remember a loving friendship.

Sunday           Action in memory of love.


Week Three  Love at Work

Monday         I remember the gifts I have received.

Tuesday         I see how God dwells in creation.

Wednesday   I see how God dwells in me.

Thursday       I see how God works in creation and me.

Saturday        Reconciliation Examen

Sunday           Action in gratitude of love



Week Two     Dwelling in Love

Monday         I abide in the love of Jesus.

Tuesday         I dwell in the love of the Father.

Wednesday   I remain in the love of the Spirit.

Thursday       Inseparable from God’s love

Sunday           Action in union with love


Week Four    Love in Service

Monday         Every gift descends like the sun’s rays.

Tuesday         Every gift flows like water.

Wednesday   Give me only the grace to love you.

Thursday       Awareness Examen

Saturday        Program for Life

Sunday           Action in peace with love.

The Content and Dynamic of Each Week

Week One

Everyone carries the memory of good things. In the first week you take your receiver back into her or his past to remember their experiences of being loved, and how it felt at that time. Then the exercise takes those feelings into the present. This is the dynamic of the week.

The basic movement in each exercise is from then to now and now to then. It is a cycle that becomes clear and powerful with repetition. Feelings of love become built up in the now. This is the content. It charges the prayer. It is a week of strong memories, feelings and often tears.

The only progression through the week is adding gratitude and response to the experience of being loved. And because friendship with Jesus is a prime relationship in the FSE, the fourth day exercise remembers loving friendship. Before week’s end, you may show or confirm with your receiver this key truth—the feelings of “being loved” now are real feelings not memories.

Week Two

This is a quiet and contemplative week. The content is the invitations from each person of the Trinity to your receiver. The week is founded on one great desire of Jesus, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete” (cf. Jn 15:9,11–15). The Greek verb “to abide” may be translated to “live in” or “dwell in” or “remain in.” It describes a deep union, one that is life-giving and fruitful.

Each exercise, your receiver is given similar texts, words of the heart, addressed to her or himself. The first part of the dynamic then, is deep listening and response to the words repeated by Jesus each day in the upper room. Your receiver needs to find him or herself there.

The second part of the dynamic is accepting those invitations and abiding in the love of God. Here is stillness and quiet, union and joy. Here your receiver may express one or all of the three desiring prayers. It is not that your receiver already has these feelings, but rather they are desired. They may have the awkwardness of hearing or saying “I love you” for the first time.

Week Three

This week you give the first half of the Contemplatio exercise. The dynamic is for your receiver to remember all the good things she or he has received from the Creator and Lord. With the remembering comes the awareness of how they are given with such love. Then, feeling gratitude your receiver responds with his or her offering and desired action.

If the first half of this retreat is about remembering and feeling love, the second half is about love in action. The exercise is the same for each day, with only the content of point one and point three being changed.

The four exercises take a point each from the Contemplatio, exactly as written by Ignatius. He drives the dynamic here, the gifts move from personal ones to Jesus himself. The self giving God moves from “dwelling in” to “working in” your receiver and all creation.

Week Four

This week the second half of the Contemplatio exercise is made with the same five-point structure used last week. The content continues from last week, with only points one and three being different.

The dynamic of the week is about streaming sun rays and water, the flow of gifts from God to your receiver, and the flow back of your receiver’s whole self, and all his or her gifts, to God. The focus is clearly love and gift, but set in the large and generous scale of the whole of the universe.

The last spiritual exercise, Eucharist and Program for Life complete this retreat with love in action. You give your receiver the Program for Life for choosing realistic choices to love and help others.

Three New Prayer Methods To Guide in this Retreat

New Prayer Method 1

[Week 1.  Exercise 1: I remember being loved]


I take a relaxed position with a straight back, my body poised for prayer.
I make a gesture of reverence and humility.
I read the prayer text about passionate love.

Opening Prayer
I ask for the grace to direct my whole self toward God.

I desire to feel the love in my life.

Using my imagination, I remember an experience of being really loved.

I go back in time to recreate this experience as best I can with the details of place, weather, conversation, actions, and people. I relive the experience with all my senses—I touch, smell, hear, and feel being so loved.

I remain in this place for a few minutes.

Now, eyes still closed, I come back into the room where I am now. I remember the details of place here. How do I feel? I remain here for a few minutes.

I return again to the place where I was loved, I relive being loved. Do I feel any different than the first time I came here? I remain for a few minutes,

I come back into the room where I am now. How do I feel? Different? Now I move back and forth between both places, spending a minute or so in each.

I note any change of feelings. I do this for five minutes.

I end my prayer in a short conversation with God, talking as to a friend, about what I have just experienced. Our Father.

How to Give This Exercise

To actually give the exercises of any FSE retreat, simply read the text of the exercise, pausing at the appropriate places. The five point structure is virtually the same for every FSE exercise. You also read one or several prayer texts where indicated. The prayer method is the same each day this week.

You need to be aware that when some receivers do this exercise, the opposite memory springs into their minds, the loss or lack of being loved. So after accepting this in your receiver’s life, ask her or him to just take the “being loved” part of the experience. Anything else will drag her or him away from the desired grace and bring the painful feelings into the present. Your job is to gently encourage back to the joyful.

Each day your receiver may choose the same or a different experience of being loved. Know that nearly all receivers who find this exercise hard do find their way by week’s end. This exercise can also be usefully made for shorter times. The most important repeating question is, “How do you feel here now?” Always leave time for the answer to settle in your receiver’s heart.


Suggested Prayer Time: 25 minutes. Preparation and Opening Prayer: 2 min. Desire: 1 min. Prayer: 20 min. Conversation: 2 min.  [Listening Book after prayer: 10 minutes.]

New Prayer Method 2

[Week 2.  Exercise 1: I abide in the love of Jesus.]


I take a relaxed position with a straight back, my body poised for prayer.
I make a gesture of reverence and humility.

Opening Prayer   
I ask for the grace to direct my whole self toward Jesus.

I desire to abide in the love of Jesus.

I use my imagination to recreate the scene of the Last Supper with the details of place, conversation, actions and people. Then I take my place at the table.

I hear Jesus address me personally. Slowly reading the prayer text, I listen to his joyful words, each singing in my heart.

In response, I abide in Jesus saying to him, gently and often, each desiring statement below for a few minutes each:

I abide in your love.

I am enjoyed by you.

I feel complete in you.

I end my prayer with the Our Father.


How to Give This Exercise

You will need to guide your receiver through this new exercise, to give her or him an example of the timing and pace of it. Afterwards, give your receiver time for questions to you based on her or his actual experience of it.

The first part of the prayer uses imaginative contemplation which is likely new to your receiver. Guide your receiver and let him or her find their way. Most receivers, after practice, find it comes to them and they suddenly feel in the real presence of Jesus.

In the second half, you need to be aware that your receiver may not have prayed in contemplative prayer. He or she can sometimes feel as if nothing is happening. It will be helpful to gently encourage your receiver, reminding him or her that they once one has come into the presence of God and expressed one’s desire, whatever follows in that silent presence is prayer.

Distractions are also likely in this prayer. Teach your receiver that all he or she needs to do is repeat one of the three desiring prayers, such as I remain in you. This will bring her or him back into relationship with God, and thus prayer.


Suggested Prayer Time: 25 minutes. Preparation and Opening Prayer: 2 min. Desire: 1 min. Prayer: 20 min. Conversation: 2 min.  [Listening Book after prayer: 10 minutes.]

New Prayer Method 3

[Week 3.  Exercise 1: I remember the gifts I have received.]


After slowly reading the prayer texts,
I stand for a few minutes, precious in God’s sight, and honored.
I allow God’s compassion to wash through me.

Opening Prayer       
I ask the Spirit for an interior knowledge of all the good I have received.

I desire to feel the love in my life.

I ponder with deep affection how God is loving me:

I remember the benefits I have received—creation, redemption, personal gifts.

I review how much God has done for me, how much I have been given of what belongs to God.

I reflect on how the Father, Son and Spirit even wish to give me themselves.

I respond to God as a friend, beautiful creature, or lover.
With the communion of saints in support, I express my gratitude.
I consider what, in all reason and justice, I ought to offer and give God.
I conclude, saying, as one making a gift with heartfelt love:

Take Lord and receive, all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding, and my entire will,
all that I have and possess.

You gave it all to me; to you I return it.
All is yours, dispose of it entirely according to your will.
Give me only the grace to love you,
for that is enough for me.

How to Give This Exercise

The image of relationship with God used in the Preparation point is usually taken from the first prayer text. The second point Opening Prayer and the last point Conversation  is the same every day.

The third point Prayer has the greatest content, so you can shorten or lengthen the time spent in this point, according to the time available for prayer.

Suggested Prayer Time: 30 minutes. Preparation: 5 min. Opening Prayer: 1 min. Desire: 1 min. Prayer: 20 min. Conversation: 3 min.  [Listening Book after prayer: 10 minutes.]

Images of Love in this Retreat

Week One

Passionate love

Steadfast love

Tender love

Renewing love

Life-giving love

Week Two

Abiding love

Intimate love

Spirit-filled love

Inseparable love

Unifying love


Week Three

Compassionate love

Creative love

Active love

Unconditional love

Gracious love

Week Four

Enlightening love

Thirst quenching love

Humble love

Just love

Peaceful love