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  • Our Lady of the Way

Guidelines for the Journey

The Spiritual Exercises journey is a structured prayer experience. St. Ignatius offers some helpful advice. We are wise to listen to his counsel as listed below.




The following guidelines of St. Ignatius help to develop a rhythm and pace for prayer which can be adjusted as the retreat goes on.

1. Time of Prayer: Commit to setting aside time each day, preferably at the same time. Ideally, the pilgrim should set aside an hour to an hour and a half per day for the different aspects of the retreat prayer: Preparation, Exercise, Review, and Examen.

2. Place of Prayer: A quiet and comfortable space that you can return to regularly is recommended. It is helpful to keep the same space for prayer throughout the retreat. Candles, icons, rosaries, or a crucifix may be helpful to remind you of the sacredness of the space (SE 20).*


3. Withdraw: St. Ignatius knew "the progress will be greater the more the retreatant (exercitant) withdraws from ...worldly affairs" as much as possible (SE 20). Before your prayer period, it is important to minimize as much sensory and information overload as possible to help you transition into your prayer time and to recollect yourself.


4. Daily Routine: Keeping our focus on attentiveness St. Ignatius has 3 recommendations.

· Night Before: "After retiring, just before falling asleep, for the space of a Hail Mary, I will think of the hour when I have to rise, what I am rising, and briefly sum up the exercise I have to go through" (SE 73).*


· Morning: "When I wake up, I will not permit my thoughts to roam at random but will turn my mind at one to the subject I am about to contemplate"(SE 74). We center our day on the prayer to come.


· Before I Begin: “A step or two before the place where I am to contemplate or meditate, I will stand for the space of an Our Father and, with my consciousness raised on high, consider how the Lord my God looks upon me. Then I will make an act of reverence or humility” (SE 75). Here we come to recollect ourselves to focus on the loving gaze of God looking at us, as we look at Him.


5. Flexibility: St. Ignatius offered the Exercises to souls of all ages, occupations, and education, meeting others where they were in life. He notes: "The Spiritual Exercises must be adapted to the condition of the one who is engaged in them"(SE 18).* Though the Exercises have a structure, where and when we pray, the retreat becomes naturally embedded within our daily life to grow in becoming contemplative in action.


*(SE#) All quotes are taken from The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius: based on Studies in the Language of the Autograph by Louis, J. Puhl. SJ




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