But the modern man will ask: "What is Christ to mean to me?" And what is His message for our time, for our cities, for our men and women? Does Christ really matter? Is there any workable theory as to how He is to matter? These and many other such questions we may sum up under a single heading, "The Christ of Experience," and attempt but a partial answer thereto, for otherwise "the whole world would not hold the books that should be written."
St. Ignatius of Loyola certainly thought that he had such a workable theory of the practical significance of Christ, and endeavored with all his might to press it upon his fellow-men, so much so, indeed, that it appears fairly safe to say that he considered the giving of his Spiritual Exercises to be the most important work of the members of his Order. These Exercises represent, as it were, his philosophy of the life and teaching of Christ, and that in the form which he thought best suited to influence men; they represent Christ, but Christ in action, and Christ in action means the Christ of experience. The chief truths of our religion are there, but organized by a master-mind for a tremendous offensive.
The delicate psychology of the Exercises and their historical significance need not be dwelt upon here. The end of the nineteenth century, indeed, marked a new era in their history, in that it saw them extended to all ages and classes of Catholics, even to the opening of a number of special houses for the purpose. A survey of the movement may be found in Father Charles Plater's Retreats for the People, in the Westminster Library. It has even spread to those outside the Church, and in Paul Bull's Threefold Way we have an attempt to interpret the Exercises to Anglicans, while in the pamphlet Towards a New Way of Life: a Review and Re-dedication, published by the Student Christian Movement, we have a presentation that is meant to be palatable even to Nonconformists. Needless to say, in these two non-Catholic works there are some significant "adaptations" of the Exercises; all the same, much remains that is good and solid, and cannot but bear fruit in the well-disposed.