These observations would form the body of his Spiritual Exercises , the classic Christian devotional book that created the idea of the "retreat" and has since been central to the experience of the Jesuit order. In 1599, the first official directory to the Spiritual Exercises was published as a guide for spiritual directors leading others in the prayer regimen.
The 400th anniversary of its publication is being marked at a major Jesuitana exhibition opening Oct. 29 at the John J. Burns Library. A 17th-century copy of the directory will be among the early Jesuit books on display.
The directory's publication signified the Spiritual Exercises' place in Catholic devotional life in Europe, according to Burns Senior Reference Librarian John Atteberry. "It was a recognition that the Exercises would continue to play a major role in the Jesuit order," he said.
The commemoration comes at a time of unprecedented ecumenical interest in the Ignatian approach to meditative retreat, said Prof. Emeritus James W. Skehan, SJ (Geology), who guides faculty and staff through the Spiritual Exercises in a program that extends from Thanksgiving through the end of the academic year.
"Ignatius developed the little book of the Spiritual Exercises in the process of discerning a conversion pathway for himself as he turned from a pattern of dissolute living to a life devoted passionately to Christ and His Kingdom," said Fr. Skehan, author of Place Me With Your Son: Ignatian Spirituality in Everyday Life .
"It is clear to me that since Vatican II, an unprecedented and rapidly growing interest has been unfolding worldwide in directing and practicing the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius," he said. "This resurgence has been stimulated, in part, by the recognition by Anglicans and other Christians that the exercises are an appealing and effective instrument for cultivating a deep personal relationship with Christ and the Trinity."
Fr. Skehan noted he has been joined by an Episcopal priest in directing one retreat and has registered a minister from Eastern Nazarene College for an upcoming program.
"There probably has never been as much interest and involvement in spiritual retreats worldwide as there is today," he said.
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