" The Spiritual Exercises."—The spirit of Saint Ignatius was Pauline,— intrepid yet tender; motivated by two great principles,—love of Jesus Christ and zeal for the salvation of souls. These two principles were brought together in his motto: A. M. D. G., "Omnia ad Majorem Dei Gloriam" (All for the greater glory of God). It was this spirit, which breathed in "The Spiritual Exercises," a method of asceticism, that is the very soul of the constitutions and activities of the Society of Jesus.
This little book is said to have converted more souls than it contains letters.Certainly the results it has produced down the centuries cannot be exaggerated. The importance of its method is proved by the mere fact that 292 Jesuit writers have commented on the whole work. The purpose of the Exercises is definite and scientific upbuilding of the reason, will and emotions, by meditation and contemplation on the fundamental principles of the spiritual life and by other exercises of the soul. First, God is rated rightly as the soul's end and object.
Reason is convinced that God is the end for which the soul is created, and all things else are only means to bring the soul to God; hence it follows that that is good which leads the soul Godward, and that is evil which leads the soul awayward from God.The soul's awaywardness from God results in sin; so sin is studied both in itself and in its consequences to the soul. Secondly, Jesus Christ is put in His place in the soul, by meditations on His ideals and contemplations on His private and public life.
The soul now aspires to the very height of enthusiastic and personal love to Him; and to the most self-sacrificing generosity in following the evangelical counsels.Thirdly, the high resolves of the soul are confirmed by the imitation of Christ in His passion. Lastly, the soul rises to a sublime and unselfish joy, purely because of the glory of its risen Lord; and leaps with rapturous exultation into the realms of unselfish and perfect love of God, such as Saint Paul evinced when he cried out: "To me, to live is Christ; to die were gain" (Philippians i, 21).