The Spiritual Exercises journey is a structured prayer experience. St. Ignatius offers some helpful advice to those making the Spiritual Exercises journey and we are wise to listen to his counsel.
"If we seem to be going through a drier period and 'nothing' seems to be happening, our faithfulness to a definite prayer time is a sign of our faithfulness to God."
John A Veltri, S.J.
The following guidelines of St. Ignatius help to develop a rhythm and pace for prayer which can be adjusted as the retreat goes on. 1. Time of Prayer: Commit to setting aside time each day, preferably at the same time. Ideally, the pilgrim should set aside an hour to an hour and half per day for the different aspects of the retreat prayer: Preparation, Exercise, Review, and Examen. 2. Place of Prayer: A quiet and comfortable space that you can return to regularly is recommended. It is helpful to keep the same space for prayer throughout the retreat. Candles, icons, rosaries, or a crucifix may be helpful to remind you of the sacredness of the space (SE#20). 3. Withdraw: St. Ignatius knew "the progress will be greater the more the exceristant withdraws from ...worldly affairs" as much as possible (SE#20). Before your prayer period, it is important to minimize as much sensory and information overload as possible to help you transition into your prayer time. 4. Daily Routine: Keeping our focus on attentiveness St. Ignatius has two recommendations. "After retiring, just before falling asleep, for the space of a Hail Mary, I will think of the hour when I have to rise, what I am rising, and briefly sum up the exercise I have to go through" (SE#73). "What I wake up, I will not permit my thoughts to roam at random, but will turn my mind at one to the subject I am about to contemplate"(SE#74). We center our day on the prayer to come. 5. Flexibility: St. Ignatius offered the Exercises to souls of all ages, occupations, and education, meeting others where they were in life. He notes: "the Spiritual Exercises must be adapted to the condition of the one who is engaged in them"( SE#18). Though the Exercises have a structure, where and when we pray the retreat becomes naturally embedded within our daily life as a contemplative in action.