The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola
God is constantly calling us to a deeper relationship with him. The question is, how do we hear that call and how do we respond? St Ignatius of Loyola had a personal experience of discovering the call and responding in freedom which transformed his life forever and continues to impact the lives of countless others five hundred years later.
This response to the call, St Ignatius refers to as an “election.” The goal of the Spiritual Exercises is to make an election. Whether the election is choosing a life vocation for the first time, making an important decision, or simply renewing your commitment to follow to Christ, God is always inviting to a deeper and freer response in love.
The tool that St Ignatius gives to make this election is “discernment.” Discernment is the process of attaining spiritual awareness, learning to distinguish between the movements of the Good Shepherd verses the insidious deceits of the enemy, and finally making the election to reject the evil one and to accept the love of God more fully.
The process of discernment in the Spiritual Exercises unfolds in four movements. First, we attain spiritual awareness by striving to be set free from disordered attachment to sin or anything that could inhibit us from being fully open to the love of God. Second, we grow in understanding by contemplating the life of Christ who both calls us personally and models the fullest response to God; here we make our election to conform our lives to Christ. Third, we confirm our election through the contemplation of the passion and death of Christ. And fourth, our election is transformed through the power of the resurrection to live a new life in the Spirit.
Through the Spiritual Exercises you will acquire a discerning heart which will help you conform your life to Christ in the present and will open up a new way of living for the future.
The Personally Directed Spiritual Exercises is a great way to have the highly personalized experience that St Ignatius originally intended. We offer the full 30-day retreat as well as several 8-day retreat options. If you prefer a retreat of a different length, you can choose custom dates from a minimum of two nights to the full 30 days.
The basic structure of the day consists of the three meals, plus the Celebration of the Eucharist before lunch and a couple hours of optional adoration in the evening after dinner. This offers a simple structure of group activities for the day and allows for plenty of personal time for prayer. In addition, you will meet with your director daily, during which time you can review the previous day’s spiritual exercises, and go over the content for the upcoming day’s meditations. St Ignatius recommends four or five hour-long meditations per day.
For the full 30-day retreat there will only be group conferences for the introduction to each week, everything else will be personal meetings with the director. For the 8-day retreats there may be one or two group conferences in the day to provide content. If needed retreatants can adjust their pace in dialogue with the director. If your retreat does not coincide with a group, there will only be personally meetings with the director, but content may be provided outside of the dialogue via readings or audios; this helps focus the time of the dialogue on the experience of the retreatant.
When you register you will be given the option to choose Ignatian Spiritual Exercises or other content. If you choose Ignatian Spiritual Exercises the experience can still be tailored to the individual’s needs. If you choose other content, like another book or retreat format, you will need to see this in dialogue with your director so he or she can prepare to best serve your needs during the retreat.
Silence alone powerfully opens the soul to the movements of God. We ask that retreatants keep exterior silence for their own benefit and to respect others. We also encourage retreatants to keep interior silence by disconnecting from the noise of the world and unplugging from electronic devices for the duration of the retreat. Keeping silence may sound daunting, but you will be guided in an interior dialogue with the Lord.
Healthy and balanced meals will be provided, and coffee, tea, fruit and snacks will be available throughout the retreat. Breakfast will be in silence and each one can come and go on their own. During lunch we listen to an audio book on themes correlated to the Spiritual Exercises or on the life of a saint. At dinner we listen to appropriate classical music.
The regular schedule is as follows: 8:00 breakfast, 11:30 Celebration of the Eucharist, 12:15 lunch, 6:00 dinner, 7:00 adoration, 9:00 night prayer and benediction. Arrivals are at 4:00 pm so you can get situated and have an introduction before dinner. Departures are by 10:00 am. For custom retreats different arrival and departure times can be accommodated; please inquire when you register.
What to bring:
You will have a private bedroom with an ensuite bathroom. Linens, towels, hair dryers, as well as basic toiletries such as soap, shampoo, conditioner, and moisturizer are provided. You will want to bring other personal toiletries and medications, comfortable clothes, and footwear for walking if you desire. Notebooks and pens will be provided; bring your bible and rosary. Additional reading material is not necessary as there will be plenty of content given in the directed meditations.
For more information on facilities and meals, see our facilities page.
I've been blessed to participate in two Six Day Women's Retreats at Our Lady of Santa Clara. Fr. Thomas Vendetti, LC, preaches the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises in a way that is relatable and motivating. The retreat center feels like home and is a peaceful getaway that provides the opportunity to be with Our Lord in the Sacraments, in nature, and in silence. It's such a grace to be able to experience God's love and mercy in such a beautiful place. - S.P.