Spiritual Exercises

Ignatius then divested himself of his armor and noble clothes and took on the simple garb and lifestyle of a begging pilgrim. He went to a place called Manresa and lived for eleven months in a cave near a monastery. He spent many hours in prayer and meditation, recording in journals his experiences of God, who gently and powerfully communicated with him and transformed his soul.

During the years that followed, Ignatius edited his journals and devised a month-long retreat program of spiritual exercises, consisting of meditations, contemplations and self-examinations. The retreat was composed of four sections called "weeks." The First Week focused on conversion from sin and worldliness to a life centered on God. During the Second Week, one contemplated Jesus from his Incarnation to the end of his public ministry, seeing Jesus as the model for all true Christian living. The Third and Fourth Weeks were experiences of unitive prayer in which the retreatant accompanies Jesus through his Passion and Resurrection. The retreat ended with the "Contemplation to attain the love of God," which reviews all the gifts and graces of the preceding four weeks. The goal of this contemplation was to help retreatants return to their daily lives ready and able to love as universally and unselfishly as God loves.