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The reason, in some degree, why many persons derive but little advantage from what they do is, because they apply not to what they ought. If you cut away the root, the tree withers, grows dry, and dies presently; but if you only lop the branches, it will soon shoot out new ones, and become larger than ever. To treat this matter more particularly, there are two things chiefly to be observed, of which the first is, that when we have any exterior defects that offend and scandalise our neighbour, we must begin to retrench these by means of our particular examen, though we should have interior defects far more considerable.

For example, if one speaks too much, or too hastily, or too sharply to his brethren, or lets himself be carried so far as to say things that affect their reputation, and, in short, if he is subject to other failings that may hurt his neighbour, reason and charity oblige us, first to correct ourselves in what may give pain or trouble to our brethren, that we may endeavour to live with them in such manner as to give no occasion of complaint or scandal.

The second advice is, that we take care not to be so intent on making our examen on exterior things of this sort, as to pass our whole life therein; for it is far easier to overcome ourselves in these exterior than in our interior defects.

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I command my hand, says St. Austin, and the hand obeys; I command my foot, and it obeys; but I command my appetite, and it obeys not. The reason is, because neither hand nor foot have in themselves any inclination contrary to the will; but the appetite has its own inclination, which is often opposite to the will; and therefore it is necessary that we endeavour to free ourselves from exterior things as soon as possible, that we may be more at leisure to attend to those which are of greater importance. To obtain, for example, a profound humility of heart, which reaches not only to a contempt of ourselves, but also to be glad that others despise us; to gain so much upon ourselves as to do all things purely for the love of God, and always to have before our eyes that it is God and not man we serve; to attain entire conformity to the Divine will; or to gain, in short, any other virtue or interior perfection.

For, though the particular examen was chiefly established for retrenching our defects and imperfections, and this would be a sufficient employment during our whole life, because we can never be quite free and exempt from venial sins; nevertheless it were very unfit that all our time should be employed in this alone. He who is engaged in weeding a garden is well employed, but yet must he never do any thing else but this?

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The object in plucking up the weeds is, that flowers and fruit may grow in their place. The time, therefore, of the particular examen is, in like manner, well employed when we exercise ourselves in rooting out of our souls vicious and bad inclinations; but all this must be done, in order to plant the odoriferous flowers of virtue in their place: "I have set thee," says our Lord to Jeremias, "to root up and to pull down, and to waste and to destroy, and to build and to plant again.

But what should oblige us still more to observe this method is, that even for the correcting those exterior faults to which we are subject, oftentimes the sweetest, shortest, and most efficacious means is, to take for our particular examen the perfection most opposite to these defects. Do you speak passionately and authoritatively to your brethren? During your examen, employ yourself in looking upon them as being superior to you in all things, and look upon yourself as the least and most unworthy of them all; and by this you will soon learn both how to speak to them and how to answer them; and if you acquire but true humility, you may assure yourself you will never say any thing to them rude or mortifying.

Do you feel a repugnance to do anything?


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Do you feel pain in submitting to what happens to you? Let your examen be on receiving all things, as coming from the hand of God, as emanating from a particular disposition of His Divine providence, and as being sent you for your good; and thus you will be able easily to submit to whatsoever shall happen. The particular examen must be made upon one subject at a time; and the reason is, that hereby it is far more efficacious than if we should take several subjects at once.


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For it is certain, --and the very light of nature teaches us this truth, --that we are better able to resist one vice alone than many vices together. It is a common saying, "That he who grasps at too much, holds fast but little. Cassian says, that this way, of overcoming our enemies, that is to say, our vices and passions, was taught us by the Holy Ghost, when he instructed the children of Israel how they were to act in order to overcome the seven nations, their enemies, in the land of promise.

Cassian remarks further, that we must not be afraid that, by being employed against one vice alone, and by using our whole endeavours to overcome it, we shall receive any prejudice from the rest. First, because, in overcoming one particular vice, we excite in the soul a general horror of all the rest, by reason of that evil which is common to them all; and, therefore, when we shall be well armed and fortified against one vice, we shall also be fortified against all others, and be in a condition to make a vigorous resistance to them all.

The Spiritual Life

Secondly, because the care we take in our particular examen to root out of our hearts any evil habit, roots out by degrees all the rest; and by the roots is signified nothing else than the too great facility with which we suffer ourselves to embrace whatever we feel an inclination for. So that to endeavour in our examen to overcome one vice, is to overcome all; because the means we make use of to secure ourselves from that, will secure us from all the others.

To these add another reason, which is, that we daily make a general examen, comprehending all vices; and therefore there is no reason to fear that our endeavours to correct one vice in ourselves will occasion the rest to strengthen themselves against us. It is, moreover, of such importance to make our particular examen upon one vice alone, that very often, when we would examine ourselves, either upon a vice or upon a virtue, it is very profitable to divide the matter into several parts or degrees, and to make our particular examen, first upon one part and then upon another, that we may be the better able to attain what we aim at.

If we would, for example, apply our particular examen to the rooting of pride out of our souls, and the gaining humility, it is not sufficient to propose to ourselves, in general, not to take pride in any thing, and to be humble in all things, but we must divide our matter into particulars; and our enemies, being thus divided and separately attacked by us, one after another, it will be more easy to overcome them and attain our object.

But, that this may be the better put in practice, I shall here, by way of example, divide some of the chief matters upon which we make our particular examen into different points; and though I have observed the same method where I have treated of some virtues in particular, yet that all the things relating to this exercise may be collected and connected together, I shall make an abridgment, which may serve us for a glass or model to see how far we are advanced in virtue, and what is still wanting to our perfection.

That we ought not readily change the matter of our particular Examen and how long it is to be continued on the same subject. It is well to observe here, that we ought not easily or lightly to change the matter of our examen, sometimes taking one, sometimes another subject, for this would be to go round and round, without advancing; but we must pursue our object to the very goal, and afterwards prepare to pursue another, and then another, with equal perseverance.

The reason why some reap so little fruit from their examen is that they make it by starts; so that having pursued an object for ten or fifteen days, or for a month at most, they grow weary; and without having succeeded, they break off and pursue another. This pursuit, too, they give up, and commence a third, in which they are as unsuccessful as in the two former.

If a man that had undertaken to carry a stone to the top of a high mountain, having carried it a considerable way up, should let it fall down again, and should often do the same, it is certain that what pains soever he might take, he would never carry the stone to the top. So it is with those who embrace one matter for their examen, and before they have finished it, leave it and take up another, and then another.

They never attain the end they propose; they fatigue themselves, yet do nothing: "They are always learning," as the Apostle says, "and never attaining to the knowledge of the truth. The affair of perfection is not one that is gained by sudden starts; it requires long perseverance and hearty endeavours; we must fully resolve to reach it, whatever it costs us. It is a thought of St.

Chrysostom, that as those who dig for a treasure, or a mine of gold or silver, continue to work and to remove every obstacle, till they find the object sought for; so must we who seek after true spiritual riches persevere in our search, till we have overcome those difficulties that oppose us, and have found what we seek after. It is by this strong and constant resolution, and not by short sallies or weak endeavours, that vice is overcome, and virtue obtained.

Let us, then, for a moment inspect the account. How long is it since you commenced your examen? How many objects has it comprised? Had you succeeded in them all, you would have been long since perfect; and if there be any one point in which you have not succeeded, why did you leave it off? You will perhaps tell me it is because you found you failed in it, but do you know why you failed? It is because you did not persevere long enough in order to crown your efforts with success. Moreover, if even, while you directed your examen and your attention to one object only, you did not attain it, is it not plain that without this examen and this attention you would be much further from attaining the object in question?

For if he who makes good resolutions is, as we have said elsewhere, liable to fall, how will he be who either makes none, or, at least, makes them too late? At all events, to resolve against your usual failings three times a day must be a curb on you; and though, after some time, you think you are not more advanced than you were in the beginning, yet lose not courage, nor leave off what you have undertaken; but humble yourself in your examen, and make new resolutions to correct and amend yourself.

God permits our failings; He always suffered a Jebusite in the land of promise; He permits some defect or vice to remain in us, that we may resist and fight against it that, being thereby fully convinced that of ourselves we can do nothing, and that it is from God alone we must expect strength and succour, we should always have recourse to Him.

And it often happens that, from the difficulty we feel in perfectly overcoming our passions, we take greater care, and become more fervent in our spiritual advancement, than if God had presently granted us the victory we begged of Him. But you will ask me, How long, then, must I continue in my examen upon the same matter? Bernard and Hugo of St. Victor ask almost the same question, that is, how long we ought to fight any vice? And they answer, that we must fight it till we find we have got so much ground and advantage over our enemy, that, as soon as he dares shew himself, we are presently able to overcome him, and subject him to reason.

So that we must not stay till the passion is quite extinguished, and till we feel no repugnance at all, for this we must never expect in this life; this is rather what is bestowed upon angels than men. It is sufficient that the passion we propose to ourselves to overcome gives us not much trouble, and that it is of so little hindrance to us, that, as soon as it rises, we are able easily to overcome it; and then we may attack other enemies, and take another subject for our examen. Seneca himself teaches us, how we are to behave ourselves in this matter.

The surest means, notwithstanding, not to deceive ourselves in this is, to confer with our spiritual director; it being, in truth, one of the chief things in which we stand in need of counsel. There are some things on which it is sufficient to examine ourselves only for a short time, and there are others in which an examen of many years would be well employed; "for we should soon become perfect men, if every year we extirpated some one vice or imperfection. We have the example of some persons who, having taken one thing only to heart, and made it their whole life the matter and subject of their examen, have very much signalised themselves one in patience, another in humility, and others in a perfect conformity to the will of God, and in performing all things purely for His sake.

We must, therefore, after the same manner, endeavour to excel in some one virtue, persevering in our undertaking, till we have completely attained our object. But this hinders us not from interrupting sometimes the examen we have purposed to make every day upon this matter, but, on the contrary, it will be very profitable sometimes to discontinue it for ten or fifteen days, taking, for that time, some other subject of examen.

But after this interruption we must return to our first and chief affair, and continue so to apply ourselves to it, that at length we may accomplish our object. The second thing of importance is, the manner we ought to observe in our particular examen. In the morning when we awake, we have only to make a firm purpose to abstain during the day from whatever vice or imperfection we aim at correcting. At noon, we are to make our first examen, which may be reduced to three points. The first is, to beg grace of God to know how often we have fallen into the vice or defect we have taken for the subject of our examen; the second is, to bring ourselves to an exact account, by revolving in our mind what has happened to us from the moment of our awaking and making the last resolution to the present moment, to see how many times we have offended -- marking down upon a paper or table-book so many points as we find we have committed faults.

The last is, to conceive a deep sorrow and regret for the faults we have fallen into, to beg pardon of God, and to make a firm resolution, by the assistance of His Divine grace, not to fall any more into them during that day. At night, we must renew the examen we made at noon, keeping the same order, and running over the time from that examen to this, and noting upon a different line from the former so many points, as we find ourselves to have failed in since that time.

But, to root out still more readily any vice or defect which we wish to free ourselves from, St. Ignatius gives us these instructions: that every time we fall into the defect or vice, we presently make an act of repentance, laying our hand upon our breast; for, though we should be in company, this may easily be done without anyone taking notice of it. Secondly, that after the examen of night, we compare the points we have noted with those noted in the morning.

Callahan, S.

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July 2, Feast of St. The book of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola has often been referred to as the inspiration and source of "all things Jesuit. It is even supposed to explain the Jesuits! But what is the Spiritual Exercises and what is its vision? Why is it so often referred to, yet rarely, if ever, read? One reason for this phenomenon is the very nature of the book. Rather, what he wrote was a book of directions for one person guiding another through a series of spiritual activities. As a result, the Exercises often reads like an instruction booklet. Its first pages, for example, consist of twenty detailed explanatory notes called "annotations.

The Exercises, then, is a book to be done, rather than a book to be read. The process and the experiences in the book are basically the same as those which Ignatius underwent during his conversion and growth in the spiritual life. What is found in the Exercises is more than method and procedure, however. What makes it a spiritual classic is that it also contains a distinctive, genuinely Christian and Scripture-based vision of the person, of the world and of a loving God working within both.

Ignatius began to make notes for what later became the Exercises as early as his convalescence at Loyola after his injury at the battle of Pamplona. He continued this practice during the eventful ten months at Manresa where, he said, "God taught him like a school boy.

He started to make use of the Exercises when he began his schooling. This led to trouble. Because he was an "untrained" lay person who was dealing with spiritual matters, he fell under suspicion of heresy, was arrested and jailed by the Spanish Inquisition, and finally was released after his book was examined. In the course of his ten years at the University of Paris, Ignatius deliberately concentrated on his studies rather than on giving the Exercises.

He used them only with a select few, such as the companions he was gathering around himself. According to Ignatius, God's will for him during those years was that he study. He believed that his desire to give the Exercises to many people was a temptation, a distraction from what God wanted him to be doing at that time.

Nevertheless, the text of his little book was examined by the relatively mild French Inquisition and later, again, by the Inquisition at Rome. The book was finally published with papal approval in , eight years after the founding of the Society of Jesus. There have been hundreds of interpretations of the Exercises over the past years. These chapters will attempt to explain some of the key elements of the method and vision of Ignatius' work.

The hope is that the Spiritual Exercises may thereby become less a mystery and more an inspira-tion. Using language more suited to today, the title could be paraphrased: "Spiritual exercises whose purpose is to lead a person to true spiritual freedom so that any choice or decision is made according to an ordered set of values rather than according to any disordered desire.

The first is that the Exercises is about choice and decision-making. The thrust is toward action, not simply reflection. The second is that the Exercises aims to bring about an inner balance and steadiness within an individual so that, once fundamental values are determined, the person is not distracted or led astray by contrary passions or desires. This "balance" brings about an inner freedom to choose rightly. What are "spiritual exercises? Spiritual exercises encompass all the ways of making contact with God -- "every method of examination of conscience, meditation, contemplation, vocal and mental prayer, and other spiritual activities.

The Exercises is divided into four parts called "weeks. The Second Week centers on the life of Jesus from its beginnings through his public ministry. The Third Week covers Jesus' passion and death. The Fourth Week looks upon the Risen Christ and the world renewed by the resurrection. There are no fixed number of days within the "weeks. Normally, the Exercises are finished after thirty days of silence and prayer. However, if a person cannot make the concentrated thirty-day retreat, Ignatius suggests that the Exercises be made over the course of several months, with an hour each day reserved for prayer.

This extended version of the Exercises, sometimes called the "19th Annotation Retreat" or "Retreat in Everyday Life," is the most common way that busy people with many obligations make the Exercises today. It answers the question, "What should I most consider before making a decision?

He asks the person making the retreat the "retreatant" to seriously consider that Human beings are created to praise, reverence and serve God Our Lord and by this means to save their souls. The other things on the face of the earth are created for human beings to help them in working toward the goal for which they are created.

Therefore, I am to make use of these other things insofar as they help me attain the goal and turn away from these other things insofar as they hinder me from attaining the goal. I must make myself indifferent to all created things, as far as I am allowed free choice and am not under any prohibition. Consequently, as far as I am concerned, I should not prefer health to sickness, riches to poverty, honor to dishonor, a long life to a short life. The same holds for all other things.

My one desire and choice should be what is more conducive to reaching the goal for which I am created. Though the First Principle and Foundation may appear, at first, like a catechism response of a young child, it is really quite profound. The concept of "creation. This creation is a dynamic, moment-by-moment activity shaped by a free, loving, self-giving God and by grateful, loving human beings who share the divine freedom. The "soul" is this free self, posited by God and engaged with God and things in continually creating something new.

Evil arises from a human being's free decision to turn in on oneself and refuse God's loving desire. The principle of tantum The "other things on the face of the earth" -- material things, genetic structure, physical and intellectual abilities, passions and feelings, hopes and desires, social status, friends, time, etc. A person either uses or does not use these created things depending only on whether or not they help or hinder this creative cooperation with God.

The principle of "indifference. The "other things" are not obstacles between God and the self. The question is how to use them properly. Indifference is a distance from things that allows a person to freely choose "without prejudice. Ignatius is asking everyone to love themselves and all things as coming from God. Yet each is to "stand apart" from all created things in an inner freedom which awaits God's desire and invitation. The principle of the magis "more". The "active indifference" of the Exercises is the exact opposite of unconcern, uniformity or mediocrity.

Indifference does not exist for its own sake. Rather, it exists for an active choice, the free choice of "what is more conducive. His challenge: freely choose the "more. Ignatius sees God as working in the world.

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The vastness of the universe and the beauty of its laws are manifestations of God's constant, faithful love. God creates not only things, but persons -- free beings who share God's power to think, to love, and to create. Because human beings share in God's freedom, they are free to relate in love with God, other human beings, and the universe itself. To do so is God's plan or God's will. Perhaps it is better to say that to do so is "God's desire" or "God's loving wish," for human beings are free to respond or not to God's invitation.

If Ignatius was anything, he was a realist. The experience of his own life made clear to him that human beings, in their freedom, can choose not to live out God's loving desires for them. This fateful choice gives rise to moral evil in the world. This is sin.

Sin is, simultaneously, an infidelity to God's indefatigable love and a deformation of the real world order, an order relating to the loving God. Sin is defined from the human point of view as a disordered use of creation. The human free will, meant to portray the trace of God, profanes itself and devotes itself to serving another purpose which is its own satisfaction. Creation, which should find in human beings a road to God, comes up against a wall of selfishness that upsets the destinies of human beings and the universe.

Sin, in the Ignatian universe, is more than a personal and an individual event. It is a cosmic horror. Ignatius presents five exercises for the period. The first exercise is a meditation on the sin of the angels, the sin of Adam and Eve, and the sin of an individual human being. The second exercise is a meditation on sin in the life of the person making the Exercises. The third exercise is a repetition of the first two exercises with special emphasis on the points where the retreatant experiences "greater consolation or desolation. The fifth exercise is called an "application of the senses" in which the retreatant strives to experience the loss-of-God-and-love which is called Hell.

A grim list of topics. One can almost see the wounded Ignatius at Loyola wrestling with these issues as he reviewed his life of courtier, soldier and gallant. Ignatius undoubtedly wants the retreatant to experience the personal and cosmic horror of sin. But the purpose is not to lead the person to wallow in self-pity, or worse, to come to a debilitating self-hatred. Rather, in Ignatius' view, the personal realization of the horror of sin leads to an ever greater love of a faithful God and an ever greater desire to "work with" God in bringing about God's loving desires for the whole of creation.

As such, each is a dialogue between the pray-er and a loving, faithful God. In these prayers the retreatant asks God for specific gifts. The gifts sought in the First Week are an experience of "shame and confusion" at one's sins and an experience of the "seriousness, loathsomeness and malice" of sin itself. The gift one prays for is no mere intellectual assent to the fact that one has sinned. It is a perceived realization at the core of a person's being -- a feeling of shame, an experience of disorientation, a sense of horror.

If the goal of the prayer is to experience these gifts at the core of one's being, the method of prayer also involves the whole of human understanding, imagination, and feeling. Ignatius asks the pray-er to "see in the imagination" the angels misusing "the freedom God gave them," to visualize Adam and Eve in the Garden, and to picture the effects of one person's sin of hatred or neglect.

He also asks the pray-er to see, hear, smell, taste, and touch the world-without-God which is Hell. In our time, Ignatius would invite the pray-er to "see" the results of sin, e. Yet, Ignatius instructs, the prayer should be a constant "cry of wonder accompanied by a surge of great emotion as I pass in review all creatures: how they have permitted me to live and sustained me, why the heavens, sun, moon, stars, and the whole earth -- fruits, birds, fishes, and other animals -- have served me. Prayer on the pain and malice of sin leads to a prayer of wonder at a faithful God's loving creation.

Each prayer is to end with a "colloquy" -- a conversation with Mary, Jesus, or the Father -- in which one "speaks exactly as one friend to another. Synopsis This work has been selected by scholars as being culturally important, and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it. Buy New Learn more about this copy. Other Popular Editions of the Same Title.

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