The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius: Based on Studies in the Language of the Autograph

The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius: Based on Studies in the Language of the Autograph

by Ignatius of Loyola

ISBN: 9780829400656

Publisher Loyola Press

Published in Christian Books & Bibles/Catholicism

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MUCH research has been carried on with regard to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. The volume on the Exercises in the Monumenta Historica Societatis Jesu1 bears eloquent witness to this. Many years of study have been devoted to investigating whatever concerns this great work. If proof of this is desired, the five volumes of the Collection de la Bibliothèque des Exercices afford ample evidence. In the restored Society of Jesus the initiator of this work was Father John Roothaan. By his letters, and by his scholarly translation and commentary on the Exercises, he infused new life into their study. The work has gone on increasing from his day. At present we know more about the Exercises than was known shortly after the death of St. Ignatius. A comparison of a good modern commentary with the Directory would establish this. I fear, however, that our English translations have not kept pace with the progress of modern scholarship in this matter.
There is no dearth of translations into English, all more or less literal.2
Such translations have the great advantage of enabling one to see almost at a glance what the original form of expression was. There is less danger, too, in these translations of interpretation and of substituting the translator’s ideas for the meaning of the original. Furthermore, emphasis is not so easily shifted to words or phrases in such a way that the meaning is changed.
But these translations also labor under great difficulties, and this seems to be especially true of the Exercises. In this case, a literal translation often fails to render the true meaning, and at times has no meaning at all. The most dangerous source of error is the use of an English word, similar to the Spanish and derived from the same Latin root. Thus determinar is translated as “determine,” and affectión as “affection.” Even if these English words represent the meaning of similar words in modern Spanish, this may not be true of the language of St. Ignatius. As a result, this practice has been the source of many errors. Words of Latin origin are simply transferred to the translation. Thus the words “annotation,” “composition,” “election,” “deliberation,” “deliberate,” and others are used, though their meaning does not correspond to the sense in the Spanish original. The consequence is that a terminology is developed which is not readily understood except by those who are familiar with the Exercises.
The sentence structure and the limping Spanish used by St. Ignatius present even greater difficulties. The modern Spanish sentence is very different from the English sentence, and this is even more true of sixteenth-century Spanish. It is above all true of the Spanish of a Basque nobleman who had only the elements of an education when he wrote his book, and used an acquired language with little knowledge of its literary form. If the long, loosely knit sentences of the Spanish original are retained in English, they make reading and understanding difficult, and turn people from the use and study of the Exercises.
One of the chief difficulties in translation is the constantly recurring participial construction. It is vague and not very clear in the original, and becomes impossible in English. It may stand for almost any kind of clause or phrase. To find the correct, corresponding English form means interpretation by considering the meaning in the context and in the opinion of the best commentators. Even in modern Spanish, finite forms must be substituted for the constantly recurring gerunds used by St. Ignatius. Frequently sentences must be broken up, and phrases must be made independent sentences. The result may appear a very free version, while as a matter of fact it is merely translating clearly and accurately into English.
The aim of this translation is to represent as nearly as possible, idea with idea, Spanish idiom with corresponding English idiom, Spanish sentence structure with English sentence structure, and the quaint forms of the original with the forms common at present.
Every effort has been made to add nothing and to omit nothing. Idiom may demand frequent omission of connectives where English understands them; accuracy may demand two words to explain one or a circumlocution where no convenient word is available; clearness may demand substituting an equivalent saying or figure for the Spanish where it would not be understood in English. But all these things are required for a correct translation.
The intention is to produce a clear, idiomatic, and readable translation. It is not possible to make a literary translation of a book that is really a set of directions. But by breaking up the long sentences, and by getting away from the Spanish idiom, it is possible to have a translation that can easily be read and understood. Many translations make such difficult reading that those who should be constantly using the book are deterred from doing so.
The text used for the translation is the convenient and accurate Spanish-Latin text, published by Marietti, Turin, 1928, and edited by the author of the critical edition in the volume on the Exercises in the Monumenta Historica Societatis Jesu. This edition has convenient marginal numbers for every section, which the editor hopes to make official by inserting in a revision of the critical edition. They prove very useful for cross reference and for gathering material on the Exercises.
Great help has been derived from the excellent German translation of Father Alfred Feder.3 Since the German language does not use words of Latin origin, the translator does not fall into the error of choosing a word which is similar to the Spanish and derived from the same root, but totally different in meaning. Furthermore, Father Feder has used the latest studies to make his translation accurate.
Another great help was the scholarly edition of the Exercises in Spanish by Father José Calveras, S.J.4 The discussion in the introduction on the language of Exercises, and the notes giving the modern Spanish equivalents of the expressions and constructions of the Exercises were constantly consulted.
The section on the language of the Exercises, especially the glossarium in the volume on the Exercises in the Monumenta Historica, also proved very helpful.
The text has been kept clear of all references, and notes arranged according to the marginal numbers have been placed in the back. They are not a commentary, but state the reasons for the translation adopted and for the form used. Readers long used to Father Roothaan’s version and various literal translations may be surprised at the apparent difference between the present text and the traditional renditions. They will find in the notes the reasons for the change.
All of the standard commentaries have influenced the translation, but it is not surprising if the influence of Father Jaime Nonell, S.J., is evident at every turn. For many years his books on the Exercises5 have been the translator’s constant companions, and have been used by him as their clearest and most logical interpretation.
In conclusion the translator wishes to express his thanks for the many valuable suggestions by those who have read the whole manuscript.
Louis J. Puhl, S.J.
Pontifical College Josephinum
Worthington, Ohio
1 Monumenta Historica Societatis Jesu, Monumenta Ignotiana, Series Secunda. Exercitia Spiritualia, Madrid, 1919.
2 There are three common translations of the text:
Morris, John, Text of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, Westminster, Md., 1934;
Mullen, Elder, The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, New York, 1914; Benedictines of Stanbrook, The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Literally Translated, London, 1928.
There are three common translations with commentary:
Rickaby, Joseph, The Spiritual Exercises, Spanish and English, London, 1915;
Longridge, M. H., The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola, London, 1919;
Ambruzzi, Aloysius, The Spiritual Exercises of St.
Ignatius, Mangalore, 1931.
3 Des Heiligen Ignatius von Loyola Geistlichen Uebungen nach dern Spanischen Urtext Uebertragen, 2 Aufl., Regensburg, 1922.
4 Calveras, José, S.J., Ejercicios Espirituales, Directorio y Documentos, Barcelona, 1944.
5 Ars Ignatiana, Barcelona, 1888; Los Ejercicios en si Mismos y en su Aplicación, Manresa, 1896; Estudio Sobre el Texto, Manresa, 1916.
The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius
The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius
1. IHS
The purpose of these observations is to provide some understanding of the spiritual exercises which follow and to serve as a help both for the one who is to give them and for the exercitant
1. By the term “Spiritual Exercises” is meant every method of examination of conscience, of meditation, of contemplation, of vocal and mental prayer, and of other spiritual activities that will be mentioned later. For just as taking a walk, journeying on foot, and running are bodily exercises, so we call Spiritual Exercises every way of preparing and disposing the soul to rid itself of all inordinate attachments, and, after their removal, of seeking and finding the will of God in the disposition of our life for the salvation of our soul.
2. The one who explains to another the method and order of meditating or contemplating should narrate accurately the facts of the contemplation or meditation. Let him adhere to the points, and add only a short or summary explanation. The reason for this is that when one in meditating takes the solid foundation of facts, and goes over it and reflects on it for himself, he may find something that makes them a little clearer or better understood. This may arise either from his own reasoning, or from the grace of God enlightening his mind. Now this produces greater spiritual relish and fruit than if one in giving the Exercises had explained and developed the meaning at great length. For it is not much knowledge that fills and satisfies the soul, but the intimate understanding and relish of the truth.
3. In all the Spiritual Exercises which follow, we make use of the acts of the intellect in reasoning, and of the acts of the will in manifesting our love. How ever, we must observe that when in acts of the will we address God our Lord or His saints either vocally or mentally, greater reverence is required on our part than when we use the intellect in reasoning.
4. Four Weeks are assigned to the Exercises given below. This corresponds to the four parts into which they are divided, namely: the first part, which is devoted to the consideration and contemplation of sin; the second part, which is taken up with the life of Christ our Lord up to Palm Sunday inclusive; the third part, which treats of the passion of Christ our Lord; the fourth part, which deals with the Resurrection and Ascension; to this are appended Three Methods of Prayer.
However, it is not meant that each week should necessarily consist of seven or eight days. For it may happen that in the First Week some are slower in attaining what is sought, namely, contrition, sorrow, and tears for sin. Some, too, may be more diligent than others, and some more disturbed and tried by different spirits. It may be necessary, therefore, at times to shorten the Week, and at others to lengthen it. So in our search for the fruit that is proper to the matter assigned, we may have to do the same in all the subsequent Weeks. However, the Exercises should be finished in approximately thirty days.
5. It will be very profitable for the one who is to go through the Exercises to enter upon them with magnanimity and generosity toward his Creator and Lord, and to offer Him his entire will and liberty, that His Divine Majesty may dispose of him and all he possesses according to His most holy will.
6. When the one who is giving the Exercises perceives that the exercitant is not affected by any spiritual experiences, such as consolations or desolations, and that he is not troubled by different spirits, he ought to ply him with questions about the exercises. He should ask him whether he makes them at the appointed times, and how he makes them. He should question him about the Additional Directions, whether he is diligent in the observance of them. He will demand an account in detail of each one of these points. Consolation and desolation are treated in # 316–324; the Additional Directions are given in # 73–90.
7. If the director of the Exercises observes that the exercitant is in desolation and tempted, let him not deal severely and harshly with him, but gently and kindly. He should encourage and strengthen him for the future by exposing to him the wiles of the enemy of our human nature, and by getting him to prepare and dispose himself for the coming consolation.
8. If the one who is giving the Exercises should perceive from desolations, from the wiles of the enemy, and from consolations that the exercitant has need of them, he should explain to him the rules of the First Week and of the Second Week for the understanding of different spirits, # 313–327, and 328–336.
9. It should be observed that when the exercitant is engaged in the Exercises of the First Week, if he is a person unskilled in spiritual things, and if he is tempted grossly and openly, for example, by bringing before his mind obstacles to his advance in the service of God our Lord, such as labors, shame, fear for his good name in the eyes of the world, etc., the one who is giving the Exercises should not explain to him the rules about different spirits that refer to the Second Week. For while the rules of the First Week will be very helpful to him, those of the Second Week will be harmful, since they deal with matter that is too subtle and advanced for him to understand.
10. When the one who is giving the Exercises perceives that the exercitant is being assailed and tempted under the appearance of good, then is the proper time to explain to him the rules of the Second Week, which we mentioned above. For commonly the enemy of our human nature tempts more under the appearance of good when one is exercising himself in the illuminative way. This corresponds to the Exercises of the Second Week. He does not tempt him so much under the appearance of good when he is exercising himself in the purgative way, which corresponds to the Exercises of the First Week.
11. While the exercitant is engaged in the First Week of the Exercises, it will be helpful if he knows nothing of what is to be done in the Second Week. Rather, let him labor to attain what he is seeking in the First Week as if he hoped to find no good in the Second.
12. He who is giving the Exercises must insist with the exercitant that since he is to spend an hour in each of the five exercises or contemplations which are made every day, he must always take care that he is satisfied in the consciousness of having persevered in the exercise for a full hour. Let him rather exceed an hour than not use the full time. For the enemy is accustomed to make every effort that the hour to be devoted to a contemplation, meditation, or prayer should be shortened.
13. We must remember that during the time of consolation it is easy, and requires only a slight effort, to continue a whole hour in contemplation, but in time of desolation it is very difficult to do so. Hence, in order to fight against the desolation and conquer the temptation, the exercitant must always remain in the exercise a little more than the full hour. Thus he will accustom himself not only to resist the enemy, but even to overthrow him.
14. If the one who is giving the Exercises sees that the exercitant is going on in consolation and in great fervor, he must admonish him not to be inconsiderate or hasty in making any promise or vow. The more unstable in character he knows him to be, the more he should forewarn and admonish him. For though it is right to urge one to enter the religious state in which he knows that vows of obedience, poverty, and chastity are taken, and though a good work done under vow is more meritorious than one done without a vow, nevertheless, it is necessary to consider with great care the condition and endowments of each individual, and the help or hindrance one would experience in carrying out his promises.
15. The director of the Exercises ought not to urge the exercitant more to poverty or any promise than to the contrary, nor to one state of life or way of living more than to another. Outside the Exercises, it is true, we may lawfully and meritoriously urge all who probably have the required fitness to choose continence, virginity, the religious life, and every form of religious perfection. But while one is engaged in the Spiritual Exercises, it is more suitable and much better that the Creator and Lord in person communicate Himself to the devout soul in quest of the divine will, that He inflame it with His love and praise, and dispose it for the way in which it could better serve God in the future. Therefore, the director of the Exercises, as a balance at equilibrium, without leaning to one side or the other, should permit the Creator to deal directly with the creature, and the creature directly with his Creator and Lord.
16. Hence, that the Creator and Lord may work with greater certainty in His creature, if the soul chance to be inordinately attached or inclined to anything, it is very proper that it rouse itself by the exertion of all its powers to desire the opposite of that to which it is wrongly attached. Thus if one’s attachment leads him to seek and to hold an office or a benefice, not for the honor and glory of God our Lord, nor for the spiritual welfare of souls, but for his own personal gain and temporal interests, he should strive to rouse a desire for the contrary. Let him be insistent in prayer and in his other spiritual exercises in begging God for the reverse, that is, that he neither seek such office or benefice, nor anything else, unless the Divine Majesty duly regulate his desires and change his former attachment. As a result, the reason he wants or retains anything will be solely the service, honor, and glory of the Divine Majesty.
17. While the one who is giving the Exercises should not seek to investigate and know the private thoughts and sins of the exercitant, nevertheless, it will be very helpful if he is kept faithfully informed about the various disturbances and thoughts caused by the action of different spirits. This will enable him to propose some spiritual exercises in accordance with the degree of progress made and suited and adapted to the needs of a soul disturbed in this way.
18. The Spiritual Exercises must be adapted to the condition of the one who is to engage in them, that is, to his age, education, and talent. Thus exercises that he could not easily bear, or from which he would derive no profit, should not be given to one with little natural ability or of little physical strength.
Similarly, each one should be given those exercises that would be more helpful and profitable according to his willingness to dispose himself for them.
Hence, one who wishes no further help than some instruction and the attainment of a certain degree of peace of soul may be given the Particular Examination of Conscience, # 24–31, and after that the General Examination of Conscience, #32–43. Along with this, let him be given for half an hour each morning the method of prayer on the Commandments and on the Capital Sins, etc., # 238–248. Weekly confession should be recommended to him, and if possible, the reception of Holy Communion every two weeks, or even better, every week if he desires it.
This method is more appropriate for those who have little natural ability or are illiterate. Let each of the Commandments be explained to them, and also the Capital Sins, the use of the five senses, the precepts of the Church, and the Works of Mercy.
Similarly, if the one giving the Exercises sees that the exercitant has little aptitude or little physical strength, that he is one from whom little fruit is to be expected, it is more suitable to give him some of the easier exercises as a preparation for confession. Then he should be given some ways of examining his conscience, and directed to confess more frequently than was his custom before, so as to retain what he has gained.
But let him not go on further and take up the matter dealing with the Choice of a Way of Life, nor any other exercises that are outside the First Week. This is especially to be observed when much better results could be obtained with other persons, and when there is not sufficient time to take everything.
19. One who is educated or talented, but engaged in public affairs or necessary business, should take an hour and a half daily for the Spiritual Exercises.
First, the end for which man is created should be explained to him, then for half an hour the Particular Examination of Conscience may be presented, then the General Examination of Conscience, and the method of confessing and of receiving Holy Communion.
For three days, let him meditate each morning for an hour on the first, second, and third sins, # 45–54. For three more days, at the same time, he should take the meditation on personal sins, # 55–61. Then for three days, at the same hour, he should meditate on the punishment due to sin, # 65–71. Along with all of these meditations, he should be given the ten Additional Directions, # 73–89.
In the mysteries of the life of our Lord, the same order should be observed which is explained later on at great length in the Exercises themselves.
20. To one who is more disengaged, and desirous of making as much progress as possible, all the Spiritual Exercises should be given in the same order in which they follow below.
Ordinarily, the progress made in the Exercises will be greater, the more the exercitant withdraws from all friends and acquaintances, and from all worldly cares. For example, he can leave the house in which he dwelt and choose another house or room in order to live there in as great privacy as possible, so that he will be free to go to Mass and Vespers every day without any fear that his acquaintances will cause any difficulty.
There are many advantages resulting from this separation, but the following three are the most important:
First, if in order to serve and praise God our Lord one withdraws from numerous friends and acquaintances and from many occupations not undertaken with a pure intention, he gains no little merit before the Divine Majesty.
Secondly, in this seclusion the mind is not engaged in many things, but can give its whole attention to one single interest, that is, to the service of its Creator and its spiritual progress. Thus it is more free to use its natural powers to seek diligently what it so much desires.
Thirdly, the more the soul is in solitude and seclusion, the more fit it renders itself to approach and be united with its Creator and Lord; and the more closely it is united with Him, the more it disposes itself to receive graces and gifts from the infinite goodness of its God.
Which have as their purpose the conquest of self and the regulation of one’s life in such a way that no decision is made under the influence of any inordinate attachment
22. To assure better cooperation between the one who is giving the Exercises and the exercitant, and more beneficial results for both, it is necessary to suppose that every good Christian is more ready to put a good interpretation on another’s statement than to condemn it as false. If an orthodox construction cannot be put on a proposition, the one who made it should be asked how he understands it. If he is in error, he should be corrected with all kindness. If this does not suffice, all appropriate means should be used to bring him to a correct interpretation, and so defend the proposition from error.
Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save his soul.
The other things on the face of the earth are created for man to help him in attaining the end for which he is created.
Hence, man is to make use of them in as far as they help him in the attainment of his end, and he must rid himself of them in as far as they prove a hindrance to him.
Therefore, we must make ourselves indifferent to all created things, as far as we are allowed free choice and are not under any prohibition. Consequently, as far as we are concerned, we 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.
Our one desire and choice should be what is more conducive to the end for which we are created.
The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius
First Week
There are three different times of the day and two examinations involved in this practice
First, in the morning, immediately on rising, one should resolve to guard carefully, against the particular sin or defect with regard to which he seeks to correct or improve himself.
25. Secondly, after dinner, he should ask God our Lord for the grace he desires, that is, to recall how often he has fallen into the particular sin or defect, and to avoid it for the future.
Then follows the first examination. He should demand an account of himself with regard to the particular point which he has resolved to watch in order to correct himself and improve. Let him go over the single hours or periods from the time he arose to the hour and moment of the present examination, and in the first line of the figure given below, make a mark for each time that he has fallen into the particular sin or defect Then he is to renew his resolution, and strive to amend during the time till the second examination is to be made.
26. Thirdly, after supper, he should make a second examination, going over as before each single hour, commencing with the first examination, and going up to the present one. In the second line of the figure given below, let him make a mark for each time he has fallen into the particular fault or sin.
These are to serve as a help to more ready removal of the particular sin or fault
1. Every time one falls into the particular sin or fault, let him place his hand upon his breast, and be sorry for having fallen. He can do this even in the presence of many others without their perceiving what he is doing.
28. 2. Since the first line of the figure to which G is prefixed represents the first examination of conscience, and the second one, the second examination, he should observe at night whether there is an improvement from the first line to the second, that is, from the first examination to the second.
29. 3. The second day should be compared with the first, that is, the two examinations of the present day with the two of the preceding day. Let him observe if there is an improvement from one day to another.
30. 4. Let him compare one week with another and observe whether he has improved during the present week as compared with the preceding.
31. Note
It should be noted that in the figure below the first G is larger, and signifies Sunday. The second is smaller, and stands for Monday, the third for Tuesday, the fourth for Wednesday, and so forth.

Excerpted from "The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius: Based on Studies in the Language of the Autograph" by Ignatius of Loyola. Copyright © 1968 by Ignatius of Loyola. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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