Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius

The Exercises are not a treatise on mysticism or asceticism but a practical manual consisting of considerations and meditations to lead to the amendment and sanctification of one's life and of certain practical rules. They are divided into four weeks, which occupy one for about thirty days and which correspond to the purgative, illuminative, and unitive ways of the spiriiual life. The skillful arrangement of ideas supposes great psychological insight. The principle and foundation states the purpose of life, the attainment of salvation by serving God, and the consequent necessity of holding oneself in indifference of will towards creatures and of using them only as they further this object. Meditations on sin and hell emphasize the effects of violation of this fundamental duty. The second week, on the life of Christ, is introduced by a parable of a king, a type of Christ, who invites high-souled knights to assist him in winning the world for God. There are other great directive meditations: the Two Standards, the Three Classes of Men, and the Three Modes of Humility; and the second week culminates in the election of a state of life, or of methods of amending the one already adopted. The third week is occupied with the Passion; the fourth with the risen life of Christ. The Exercises end with a contemplation of God's benefits for the purpose of obtaining love. Directions are supplied on the use of these exercises, on prayer, the Sacraments, temperance, almsgiving, orthodox thinking, and the management of the movements of the soul.

New Catholic Dictionary

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