By Spiritual Exercises is understood certain operations of the mind and heart, such as the examination of conscience, meditation, contemplation, mental and vocal prayer, which are employed in order to free the soul from its irregular affections and so to put it in the way of knowing and embracing the will of God toward it. The following are ten recommendations in the form of resolutions to assist us in our spiritual exercises.
1. On lying down, before going to sleep, during the short time that will suffice for repeating the “Hail Mary,” I will fix the hour of my rising and review in my mind the points of my meditation.
2. On awakening, immediately excluding all other thoughts, I will apply my mind to the truth on which I am going to meditate; at the same time, I will excite in my heart suitable sentiments. For example, before the Exercise on the “triple sin,” I will say to myself while I dress,“ and I, loaded with so many graces, the object of predilection to my Lord and King, I stand convicted of ingratitude, of treason, of rebellion, before His eyes and those of His whole court.” Before the Exercise on personal sins, “Behold me, a criminal deserving death, led before my Judge loaded with chains.” These sentiments must accompany the act of rising and will vary according to the subject of meditation.
3. Standing a few paces from the spot where I am going to make my meditation, I must recollect myself, raise my mind above earthly thing sand consider Our Lord Jesus Christ as present and attentive to what I am about to do. Having given to this preparation the time required to saythe “Our Father,” I will offer the homage of my soul and body to Our Saviour, assuming an attitude full of veneration and humble respect.
4. I will then begin my meditation, if I am alone in my chamber or elsewhere without witnesses, in the posture most suitable to the end I propose to myself, sometimes with my face bowed to the earth, sometimes standing, sometimes sitting; only observing that if I obtain what I seek kneeling, or in any other attitude, I ought to remain so without seeking anything better. In the same way, if any particular point causes me to experience the grace that I am seeking, I must remain there calmly until my devotion is satisfied, without caring for anything more.
5. After having finished the Exercise, I will either walk about or sit still and examine how it has succeeded. If it has not, I will ascertain the cause, sincerely repent and make firm resolutions for the future. If the success has been satisfactory, I will make acts of thanksgiving and resolve to follow the same method for the future.
6. I will lay aside during the first week all joyful thoughts, such, for instance, as the glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ. This thought would dry up the tears that I ought at this period to shed over my sins. I must rather call up thoughts of death and judgment, in order to assist my sorrow.
7. For the same purpose, I will shut out the daylight, only allowing sufficient light to enter my room to enable me to read and take my meals.
8. I will carefully avoid all laughter or anything that can lead to it.
9. I will not look at any one, unless obliged to salute them or say adieu.
10. The tenth “recommendation” will be found in the Second Part, under the title of “Rule of Penance.”
This article is taken from a chapter in The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius by St. Ignatius of Loyola, which is available from TAN Books.