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Posted May 15, 2013

Book: The First Spiritual Exercises: Four Guided Retreats
Author: Rev. James Martin, S.J.
Ave Maria Press. Notre Dame, IN. 2013. Pp. 369

An Excerpt from the Introduction:

In this very moment, as I hold this book, the Trinity holds me, loved and safe. As the prophet Isaiah affirms, I am precious and honored. I am loved unconditionally as I am, yet known fully as the person I can be. Today, and everyday, I am being invited to listen to my sacred desires, to grow in my spiritual life, for the Trinity has so much more to give to me.

St. Ignatius of Loyola, himself a man of great desires, published The Spiritual Exercises in 1548. It held instructions to give his Exercises in two ways: the Full Spiritual Exercises and the First Spiritual Exercises. The Full Spiritual Exercises are made for thirty days enclosed in a spirituality center or for thirty weeks during daily life. The First Spiritual Exercises are made over four weeks in daily life.

In form, the First Spiritual Exercises are offered to me as one of four retreats. Each retreat is created for the gift of inner peace and a particular desire --- these being my desire to experience divine love; to live in the light of mercy, healing, or freedom; to grow in friendship with Jesus; and to be of service to others.

The retreats are presented in the first half of the book, along with some introductory and concluding articles given under the titles of Spiritual Desire and Spiritual Progress. The second half of the book provides "guides and helps" for my retreat and afterwards. The "Spiritual Conversation" guides show me how to move into spiritual conversation after a spiritual exercise or number of exercises.

Each retreat and spiritual exercise is rooted in two fundamental texts --- the Christian scriptures and the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises. With very few exceptions, to keep this manual focused and clear, the only references in this book will be to those two texts.

Finally, this book does not provide a commentary on the Spiritual Exercises, an exposition of the biblical texts, or even reflections on Ignatian spirituality. The aim of the book is simple and practical --- to guide me in my retreat and give me the helps I need to make it well.

The Heart of Inner Peace

After considering the God of Peace in relationships, I may now profitably explore the subtle movements of inner peace in my heart. This is where my heartbeat measures the wing beat of the Spirit --- that is, in the world of spiritual consolation and desolation.

I use the word "consolation" when any interior movement is produced in the soul which leads her to become inflamed with the love of her Creator and Lord, and when as a consequence, there is no creature on the face of the earth that the person can love in itself, but they love it in the Creator and Lord of all things. . .I give the name "consolation" to every increase of hope, faith, and charity, to all interior happiness which calls and attracts to heavenly things and to the salvation of one's soul, leaving the soul quiet and at peace in her Creator and Lord.

. . . ."Desolation" is the name I give to everything contrary to what is described in Rule Three [On Spiritual Consolation]; for example, darkness and disturbance in the soul, attractions to what is low and of the earth, disquiet arising from various agitations and temptations. All this leads to a lack of confidence in which one feels oneself to be without hope and without love. One finds oneself thoroughly lazy, lukewarm, sad, and as though cut off from one's Creator and Lord.

Table of Contents:

The First Spiritual Exercises

Spiritual Desire

My desire for peace

Introducing the First Spiritual Exercises


The Four Retreats

Inner peace in Divine love

Inner peace in darkness and light

Inner peace in friendship with Jesus

Inner peace in the Service of God

Spiritual Progress

Keeping the graces received

Receiving further exercises

Giving the first exercises to others

Guides and Helps

Spiritual life

The Ignatian awareness examen

The Ignatian particular examen

The Ignatian reconciliation examen

The Ignatian healing examen

Spiritual Guides

The Ignatian guide to enhance exercises

The Ignatian guide to twelve ways of prayer

The Ignatian guide to the Christian belief

Spiritual Conversation

The Ignatian guide to spiritual journaling

The Ignatian guide to spiritual conversation

The Ignatian guide to the discernment of spirits.