by Larry Warner
St Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Catholic Order of the Jesuits, developed and presented his Spiritual Exercises in the 1520s. The exercises were meant as a tool for spiritual formation into Christlikeness and a greater intimacy and union with God.
The exercises were to be done full time over a thirty day retreat period with a spiritual director, with whom one discusses insights; and who gives guidance and direction in listening to God and walking with Him. Realising that a full time 30-day retreat was not possible for many, Ignatius provided an alternative nine month journey format, known as the “19th Annotation”. This book is a Protestant adaptation of the 19th Annotation.
The reader is taken through the birth, ministry, passion and resurrection of Jesus through the readings and prayers. One is also taught to do general and specific prayers; journal one’s insights and read the Bible using the lectio divina method and practice of contemplative prayer. The latter is an important hallmark of Ignatian Spirituality where one explores a Bible passage prayerfully using one’s imagination, instead of reading using one’s intellect. It is a “Spirit-infused, God-directed use of your imagination that gives you the ability to experientially enter into the stories, symbolism and images of the Bible” (p 37).
Performing the exercises over a nine-month period can be daunting as it will require lots of commitment and discipline. There are several ways in which the exercises may be meaningfully performed, even if they are relaxed. The author states that where a spiritual director is not available, one should look for a listener, a mature Christian, to journey along with the Christian in going through the exercises. The author also provides three options: a 7-week format, a 17-week format, and a format allowing for breaks before continuing through the exercises. There is also an option of doing the exercises as part of a small group.
I used portions of this book as my quiet time material and immensely benefitted from it. The section on Jesus’ Journey to the Cross, beginning with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsamene, which I read over Holy Week, allowed me to sense the passion of Christ in a very real and meaningful way.
Liu Hern Kuan
Treasure Trove Team Member