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St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, developed the Spiritual Exercises as a month-long retreat for individuals seeking to better discern God’s will in their lives.
These exercises, undertaken with regular direction from an experienced spiritual advisor (normally a priest), have as their goal detachment from earthly desires so as to better focus on God’s call in their lives. Traditionally, these Exercises were undertaken as a month-long retreat. However, as the Exercises became more popular among the laity, they have been adapted into several different formats, including 8-day retreats, 3-day retreats, or even 30 days of following the Exercises while continuing to live one’s regular routine.
The Exercises are divided into four segments (“weeks”), each of which has a particular focus. The first is a reflection wherein the retreatant focuses on God’s love for him and how a pattern of sinfulness in his own life has kept him from God. The second week teaches the retreatant how to be Christ’s disciple and to learn to discern God’s will. The third is a meditation on the Passion and how Christ’s suffering and the Eucharist demonstrate God’s love. The fourth focuses on the Risen Christ and how the retreatant can serve the Lord in concrete ways in his life (Source).
After faithfully engaging in the Spiritual Exercises, retreatants should come away strengthened in their ability to detach from their worldly desires and listen more closely to the voice of the Lord.