The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius provide a retreat the opportunity to experience more deeply the love of our God, the Creator of all life. They were developed by Saint Ignatius Loyola in 1523 after reflecting on his own spiritual transformation.
Ignatius spent the first thirty years of his life as a soldier and courtier in Spain. In 1521 he led the Spanish troops defending a castle from a French attack. He was horribly wounded by a cannonball that smashed one leg and damaged the other. Over the next year he endured several painful surgeries. During this year he began to convert his quest for courtly glory into one for heavenly glory.
When Ignatius underwent his remarkable conversion he recorded the movements and reactions of his spiritual faculties in great detail, and was inspired to organize them in a fashion that would guide others undergoing the same profound experience of God that he had. He experienced, composed and presented the Exercises as a layman, and was ordained much later.
His Exercises were not a series of pious sermons or edifying notes to be read; they were prescriptions that were meant to put a person in direct communication with God. The retreatant who undertakes the Exercises becomes a self-learner by incessant self-activity striving to dispose himself to God's grace in order to attain the end for which he was created.
The Exercises were designed to be done in 30-day silent retreat under the daily guidance of a spiritual director. St. Ignatius knew that even 500 years ago, most people’s lives were too complicated to allow them to take a month off. So, he also designed a way to experience the Exercises by praying one time a day at home and meeting once a week with a spiritual director. This is often referred to as a Retreat Within Daily Life.
Retreat houses also offer weekend and eight-day experiences of the Exercises.