Two meditations from the Spiritual Exercises illustrate how the exercitant comes to embrace the mission to glorify God through the salvation of souls. The first is the meditation on Hell from the First Week. The point of this exercise is
“to ask for interior sense of the pain which the damned suffer, in order that, if, through my faults, should I forget the love of the Eternal Lord, at least the fear of the pains may help me not to come into sin.”
Ignatius guides the exercitant toward a graphic and frightening contemplation of the eternal torments with the “wailings, howlings, cries, blasphemies against Christ our Lord and against all His Saints”. He is to smell “smoke, sulphur, dregs and putrid things”; he is to taste
“bitter things, like tears, sadness and the worm of conscience”;
he is to touch the fires and the burning souls. The experience of Hell shows the retreatant the horrors of sin, and awakens in him a deep sadness and a desire for God’s mercy. The exercise concludes, as always, with a colloquy in which one brings to memory
“the souls that are in Hell, some because they did not believe the Coming, others because, believing, they did not act according to His Commandments.”
Hell, therefore, is not a mere metaphor in this meditation, but a graphic experience of the horror of damnation.