A short work composed by St. Ignatius of Loyola and written originally in Spanish.
The autograph Manuscript of this "Spiritual Exercises" has unfortunately been lost. What is at present called the "autograph" is only a quarto copy made by a secretary but containing corrections in the author's handwriting. It is now reproduced by phototypy (Rome, 1908). Two Latin translations were made during the lifetime of St. Ignatius. There now remain:
The antiqua versio is dated by the copyist "Rome, 9 July, 1541"; the vulgate version is later than 1541, but earlier than 1548, when the two versions were together presented to Paul III for approval. The pope appointed three examiners, who praised both versions warmly. The Vulgate, more carefully executed from a literary point of view, was only chosen for printing, and was published at Rome on 11 September, 1548, under the simple title: "Exercitia spiritualia". This princeps edition was also multiplied by phototypy (Paris, 1910). Besides these two Latin translations there exist two others. One is the still unpublished text left by Bl. Peter Faber to the Carthusians of Cologne before 1546; it holds a middle place between the literal version and the Vulgate. The second is a new literal translation by Father Roothaan, twenty-first general of the Society of Jesus , who, on account of the differences between the Vulgate and the Spanish autograph, wished to retranslate the "Exercises" into Latin, as accurately as possible, at the same time making use of the versio antiqua . His intention was not to supplant the Vulgate, and he therefore published the work of Frusius along with his own in parallel columns (1835).
The Spanish autograph text was not printed until long after the Vulgate, by Bernard de Angelis, secretary of the Society of Jesus (Rome, 1615); it has often been republished. The most noteworthy English versions are:
The reader of the "Exercises" need not look for elegance of style. "St. Ignatius", says F. Astrain, "writes in coarse, incorrect, and laboured Castilian, which only at times arrests the attention by the energetic precision and brevity with which certain thoughts are expressed." There are outpourings of the soul in different colloquies, but their affecting interest does not lie in words; it is wholly in the keen situation, created by the author, of the sinner before the crucifix, the knight before his king, etc.
The book is composed of documents or spiritual exercises, reduced to the order most fitted to move the minds of the faithful to piety, as was remarked in the Brief of approval. We find in this work documents (instructions, admonitions, warnings), exercises ( prayers, meditations examination of conscience, and other practices), and the method according to which they are arranged. The sources of the book are the Sacred Scriptures and the experiences of spiritual life. Ignatius indeed was little by little prepared by Divine Providence to write his book. From 1521 the thoughts which precede his conversion, the progress of his repentance, the pious practices which he embraces at Montserrat and at Manresa helped to give him a knowledge of asceticism. His book is a work lived by himself and later on lived by others under his eyes. But a book so lived is not composed all at once; it requires to be retouched, corrected, and added to frequently. These improvements, which neither Polanco nor Bartoli hide, are revealed by a simple examination of the Spanish text, where along with the Castilian there are found Latin or Italian expressions together with Scholastic terms which the writer could not have used before, at least, the beginning of his later studies. Ignatius himself admitted this to Father Luis Gonzales: "I did not compose the Exercises all at once. When anything resulting from my own experience seemed to me likely to be of use to others, I took note of it". Father Nadal, Ignatius's friend and contemporary, writes of the final redaction: "After having completed his studies, the author united his first attempts of the Exercises, made many additions, put all in order, and presented his work for the examination and judgment of the Apostolic See ".
It seems probable that the "Exercises" were completed while St. Ignatius was attending lectures at the University of Paris. The copy of Bl. Peter Faber, written undoubtedly about the time when he followed the Exercises under Ignatius's direction (1533), contains all the essential parts. Moreover, some parts of the book bear their date. Such are: the "Rules for the distribution of alms ", intended for beneficed clergymen, masters, or laureates of the university, in which occurs a citation of the Council of Carthage, thus leading one to suppose that the writer had studied theology ; the "Rules for thinking with the Church ", which appear to have been suggested by the measures taken by an assembly of theologians at Valladolid in 1527 against the Erasmists of Spain, or by the Faculty of Paris in 1535, 1542, against the Protestants. The final completion of the "Exercises" may be dated from 1541, when a fair copy of the versio antiqua , which St. Ignatius calls "Todos exercicios breviter en latin", was made. It may be asked how far the work of composition was carried out during the residence of the saint at Manresa. This spot, where Ignatius arrived in March, 1522, must always be considered as the cradle of the "Exercises". The substance of the work dates from Manresa. Ignatius found there the precious metal which for a long time he wrought and polished. "A work," as Fr. Astrain rightly says, 'which contributes throughout so admirably to realize the fundamental idea set up by the author, is evidently not an invention made by parts, or composed of passages written at various times or under varying circumstances." The "Exercises" clearly bear the mark of Manresa. The mind of Ignatius, during his retirement there, was full of military memories and of thoughts of the future; hence the double characteristic of his book, the chivalrous note and the march towards the choice of a state of life. The ideas of the knight are those of the service due to a sovereign, of the shame that clings to the treason of a vassal (first week), and in the kingdom, those of the crusade formed against the infidels, and of the confrontation of the Two Standards (second week). But during his convalescence at the castle, the reading of the lives of the saints gave a mystical turn to his chivalrous ideas ; the great deeds to be imitated henceforth are no longer those of a Roland, but of a Dominic or a Francis.
To help him in his outline of evangelical perfection, Ignatius received a special assistance, which Polanco and Ribadeneira call the unction of the Holy Ghost. Without this grace, the composition of the "Exercises" remains a mystery. How could a rough and ignorant soldier conceive and develop a work so original, so useful for the salvation and the perfection of souls, a book which astonishes one by the originality of its method and the powerful efficacy of its virtue ? We ought not, however, to consider this Divine assistance as a complete revelation. What St. Ignatius knew of spiritual ways, he had learned chiefly from personal experience and by the grace of God, Who treated him "as the schoolmaster does a child". It does not mean that he had not the advice of a confessor to guide him, for he was directed by John Chanones at Montserrat; nor does it mean that he had read nothing himself, as we know that he had books at hand. We must therefore consider the revelation of the "Exercises" not as a completely supernatural manifestation of all the truths contained in the work, but as a kind of inspiration, or special Divine assistance, which prevented all essential error, and suggested many thoughts useful for the salvation of the author, and of readers at all times. This inspiration is the more admissible as Ignatius was favoured with great light in Divine things. Ribadeneira, writing from Madrid, 18 April, 1607, to Fr. Girón, rector of Salamanca, dwells on the wonderful fruits of the "Exercises", fruits foreseen and willed by God. Such a result could not be the effect of merely human reading and study, and he adds: "This has been the general opinion of all the old fathers of the Society of us all who have lived and conversed with our blessed father".
Another tradition concerns the part taken by the Blessed Virgin in the composing of the "Exercises" at Manresa. It is not based on any written testimony of the contemporaries of St. Ignatius, though it became universal in the seventeenth century. Possibly it is founded upon earlier oral testimony, and upon a revelation made in 1600 to the Venerable Marina de Escobar and related in the "Life of Father Balthazar Alvarez ". This tradition has often been symbolized by painters, who represent Ignatius writing from the Blessed Virgin's dictation.
Although Ignatius had been educated just like the ordinary knights of his time, he was fond of calligraphy and still more of reading; his convalescence at Loyola enabled him to gratify this double inclination. We know that he wrote there, in different coloured inks, a quarto book of 300 folios in which he seems to have gathered together extracts from the only two books to be found in the castle which were "The Flower of the Saints" in Spanish and "The Life of Jesus Christ " by Ludolph of Saxony or the Carthusian, published in Spanish at Alcalá, 1502 to 1503. "The Flower of the Saints" has left no apparent trace in the "Exercises", except an advice to read something similar after the second week. Ludolph's influence is more noticeable in expressions, ascetic principles, and methodic details. The part of the "Exercises" treating of the life of Christ, is especially indebted to him.
Ignatius, having recovered his health and determined to lead a hermit's life, left Loyola for Montserrat and Manresa. He spent the greater part of the year 1522 in the latter town, three leagues distant from Montserrat, under the direction of his confessor, Dom John Chanones. According to a witness in the process of canonization Ignatius went to see Chanones every Saturday. He could moreover have met him or other Benedictines at the priory of Manresa, which was dependent on Montserrat. It is possible that he received from them a copy of the "Imitation of Christ" in Spanish for he certainly had that book at Manresa; they must have given him also the "Ejercitatorio de la vida espiritual", of Dom Garcia de Cisneros, published at Montserrat in 1500. Ribadeneira in his letter to Fr. Girón thinks it very probable that St. Ignatius was acquainted with this Castilian work, that he availed himself of it for prayer and meditation, that Chanones explained different parts to him, and that the title "Exercises" was suggested to him by the "Ejercitatorio". The Benedictines made use of this book for the conversion or edification of the pilgrims of Montserrat; in fact the tradition of the monastery relates that Chanones communicated it to his penitent. The "Exercises" borrow very little expressly from the "Imitation of Christ" . There is, however, to be noticed a general concordance of its doctrine and that of the "Exercises", and an invitation to read it.
Was the "Ejercitatorio" more closely followed? In trying to solve this question it is not sufficient to draw conclusions from the resemblance of the titles, or to establish a parallel with a few details; it is necessary above all to compare the plans and methods of the two works. Whilst the "Exercises" consider the word "week" in its metaphorical sense and give liberty to add or to omit days, the "Ejercitatorio" presents a triple series of seven meditations, one and not several for each day of the real week. The whole series of twenty-one meditations is exhausted in just three weeks, which answer to the three lives: the purgative, the illuminative, and the unitive . The author seeks only to raise the "exercitador" gradually to the contemplative life, whereas St. Ignatius leads the exercitant to determine for himself the choice of a state of life amongst those most pleasing to God. The "Ejercitatorio" does not mention anything of the foundation, nor of the kingdom, of the particular examination, of the election, of the discernment of spirits , nor of the rules for rightly regulating one's food and for thinking with the Orthodox Church , nor of the three methods of praying. Only a few counsels of Cisneros have been adopted by St. Ignatius in the annotations 2, 4,13, 18, 19, 20, and the additions 2, 4. Some of Cisneros's ideas are to be found in the meditations of the first week. The other weeks of St. Ignatius are entirely different. The similarities are so reduced in fact to a very small number.
But the work of Cisneros itself is only a compilation. Cisneros admits having reproduced passages from Cassian, Bernard, Bonaventure, Gerson etc.; moreover, he does not give the names of the contemporaries from whom he copied. Amongst other books Cisneros read and copied the "De spiritualibus ascensionibus" of Gerard Zerbolt of Zutphen (1367-98) and the "Rosetum exercitiorum spiritualium" of John Mombaer, or Mauburnus (died 1502), who was also indebted to Gerard. Almost all in Cisneros that pertains to the method of spiritual exercises is extracted from the "Rosetum". The different ways of exercising oneself in the contemplation of the life and passion of Jesus Christ are taken from the "De spiritualibus ascensionibus". All Cisneros's borrowings were disclosed by Fr. Watrigant (see bibliography). Zutphen and Mombaer, like Thomas à Kempis, belonged to the Society of the Brothers of Common Life , founded towards the end of the fourteenth century by Gerard de Groote and Florence Radewyns. This society caused a revival of spiritual life by the publication of numerous ascetic treatises, several of which appeared under the title of "Spiritual Exercises". The Brothers of Common Life, or the Devoti, devoted themselves also to the reform of the clergy and monasteries. The Benedictine Congregation of Valladolid, on which Montserrat was dependent, had been under the influence of Lewis Barbo, who was connected with the brothers. We must therefore conclude that Ignatius may have profited by the result of Zutphen's and Mauburnus's labours whilst he read Cisneros or listened to Chanones's explanations at Manresa. Later, when he understood Latin, during his studies at the Universities of Alcalá and Paris, or while travelling in Flanders he may himself have become acquainted with the works of the Devoti. A greater analogy is to be noticed between Zutphen and Ignatius, two practical minds, than between Loyola and Cisneros.
We may therefore look upon the question of a supposed plagiarism on the part of St. Ignatius to the detriment of Cisneros, as being definitively settled. This question was raised by Dom Constantine Cajetan, or rather by some one who assumed his name, in a treatise published at Venice in 1641: "De reigiosa S. Ignatii . . . per patres Benedictinos institutione . . .". The Jesuit John Rho answered him in his "Achates" (Lyons, 1644). Both the attack and reply were put on the Index, no doubt on account of their excessive acrimony. Besides, the general assembly of the Congregation of Monte Cassino which met at Ravenna in 1644, by a decree dissociated itself from the aggressor. The quarrel was afterwards renewed on several occasions, chiefly by the heterodox, but always without success. Benedictines and Jesuits agree to acknowledge that if St. Ignatius owes anything to Montserrat, he has retained his entire originality. Whatever may be said about the works he read and what he borrowed, his book is truly his own. A writer is never blamed for having previously searched and studied, if his own work is impressed with his personality, and treats the subject from a new point of view. This has been successfully accomplished by St. Ignatius, and with all the greater merit, as he could not change anything of the traditional truths of Christianity or pretend to invent mental prayer.
Ignatius's originality appears at first sight in the selection and co-ordination of his material. To select some of the great truths of religion, to drive them deeply into the heart, until man thoroughly impressed falls at the Lord's feet, crying out like another Saul "Domine, quid me vis facere?", such is the genius, the ascetic character, of St. Ignatius. But to bring about this result it was necessary for the selected truths to be linked together in a logical series and animated by a progressive movement. The methodic order and irresistible deduction of the "Exercises" distinguish them from a large number of spiritual works. Above all the originality of St. Ignatius is displayed in the care with which he combines the subjects of meditation and ascetic principles, and the minute advice that guides and moderates, when necessary, the application of the "Exercises". We find in the annotations at the beginning, in the notes strewn here and there, in the rules for the discernment of spirits a real system of spiritual training, that makes adequate provision for the different states of soul of the exercitant, and warns him, or rather his director, of what is most fitting, according to the circumstances of the case. Nothing is left to chance. One sees how to adapt the general progress of the retreat to different persons, according to their occupation" the degree of their fervour, and the advantage they derive from the "Exercises", This art of proportioning spiritual instruction to the powers of the soul and to Divine grace was entirely new, at least under the precise and methodic form given to it by St. Ignatius.
The two words that form the general title of St. Ignatius's book bespeak at once the soul's action and labour, and the interior struggle. The still more explicit title which we find immediately after the annotations leaves one no doubt : "Spiritual Exercises to conquer oneself and regulate one's life, and to avoid coming to a determination through any inordinate affection". A method is here offered, which with God's grace teaches and helps one to overcome oneself, that is to say one's unruly passions, and by gaining control over every conscious act, to acquire inward peace — a method of self-conquest and self-government. A general idea of the "Exercises" may best be gained from Diertins's summary: After setting forth the end for which God created man and all other things, the book, ever considering this truth as the first foundation, leads us in a short time by the way known as the purgative way to acknowledge the ugliness of the sins which have caused us to stray shamefully from the end, and to cleanse our souls from sin. Setting before us the example of Christ, our King and Leader, the author then invites us, in what is termed the illuminative life, to avoid the devil's standard and to follow the standard of this very good and wise Chief, and to imitate His virtues ; indeed he almost forces us to do so by the meditation of the three classes, or grades, of men (the first of which is reluctant to follow Christ, the second eager to do so, but with limitations, and the last bent on following Him at once wholly and always). These resolutions are strengthened more and more in the third week, at the sight of Jesus Christ walking before us with His cross. Lastly, in the unitive way, which comprises the fourth week, he enkindles in our hearts a desire for the glory of Jesus risen, and for His purest love. To this are joined annotations, additions, preludes, colloquies, examinations, modes of election, rules for rightly regulating one's food, for discerning spirits, for the scrupulous, for thinking with the Orthodox Church, etc. The whole, if applied in the prescribed order possesses the incredible strength of leading one to solid virtue and to eternal salvation. The four weeks have been summed up still more briefly in as many sentences:
This method of spiritual progress had already been traced by St. Paul ( Hebrews 12:1-2 ). It cannot be repeated too often that, if St. Ignatius displayed his originality in uniting and co-ordinating the materials of his book, he did not compose the matter itself. He derived it from the ever open treasury of the Catholic Church, from Scripture and Tradition, from the Bible and the Fathers. The Gospel is the marrow of the "Exercises". The spirituality of St. Ignatius is in constant harmony with the teachings of Christ and His Apostles. What is the "homo vincat seipsum" but an echo of the "abneget semstipsum"? And whence came Loyola's idea of giving us the soldier's theory, a warlike book which contains all the plan of a campaign of man's struggle against himself, if not from the Saviour's words, which are a declaration of war : "Do not think that I came to send peace upon earth: I came not to send peace, but the sword" ( Matthew 10:34 ). The spirituality of the "Exercises" belongs, therefore, to the active and militant kind. We must also remark that the work is not a mere book for reading or a mere manual of devotion; it gives us in the high sense of the word a psychological and pedagogic method. Mr. Orby Shipley, a convert from Protestantism to Catholicism, judged them rightly, when he said in the preface of his edition (London, 1870): "This treatise is not so much a manual as a method — and a method the value, the extraordinary power, of which does not appear at first sight. One of its great marvels consists in the fact that it has done so very much by such very simple means . . . They are no mere theoretical compositions, but they have been framed upon the closest study of the human mind ; . . . they enter into its several emotions, encounter its numberless difficulties, and probe to their very depths its several springs of thought and action".
To obtain the desired result St. Ignatius uses only a few words, but these are so selected as to make a deep impression on the mind and, if seriously meditated on by the exercitant and fostered in his soul, will soon develop into powerful thoughts and become a source of great spiritual enlightenment and consequently of earnest energetic resolutions. However, though the method of St. Ignatius leaves the exercitant to think for himself, the author does not intend that the latter should use it without guidance. He places the "Book of Exercises" in the hands of a director, and entrusts him with applying it to the exercitant. He teaches him how to guide a soul in the choice of a state of life and in the work of self-reform. The annotations, which provide a key to the "Exercises", are intended more especially for the director. The greater part of them — the second, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, twelfth, thirteenth, fourteenth, fifteenth, seventeenth, eighteenth, a total of twelve out of twenty — is written for "el que da los Exercicios" (the person who gives the exercises). The fifteenth advises him to proceed with great discretion, so as not to interfere between the Creator and the creature, and to abstain especially in the case of a retreat of election, from any suggestion regarding the determination to be taken, even should it be, strictly speaking, for the very best. This advice shows how falsely some critics of the Exercises represent them as bringing undue influence to bear on the will, with a view to enslaving or paralyzing it. From this also appears the absurdity of Muller's thesis in "Les origines de la Compagnie de Jésus" (Paris, 1898), in which he strives to show the Mohammedan origin of the Exercises and of the Society of Jesus. In this way, therefore, the director in compliance with the author's desire respects the soul's freedom, a freedom already regulated by the authority of the Church, of which he is the representative. He also considers the soul's capacity; the Exercises contain in themselves matters useful to all, but taken altogether they may not be suitable to every one. The eighteenth annotation forbids them to be given indiscriminately; without considering who the exercitant is. Finally to sum up, all St. Ignatius's spirituality lies in traditional Catholic instruction, in a method favourable to personal activity, and in the importance of prudent direction.
The commentators who have attempted to explain and penetrate the doctrine of the "Exercises are theorists who consider either the entire book or certain parts of it, and show the book's order and connexion and when necessary justify the thought. Several of them, not satisfied with simply discussing the method, deal also with the practice. Those whose names we give here belong to the Society of Jesus, but they did not write solely for their order: sixteenth century — Achille Gagliardi ; seventeenth century — Francisco Francisco Suárez, Antoine Le Gaudier, Luis de la Palma, Giovanni Bucellani, Tobias Lohner, Ignatius Diertins; eighteenth century — Claude Judde , Jean-Joseph Petitdidier, Baltasar de Moncada, Peter Ferrusola; nineteenth century — Johann Philipp Roothaan , Pierre Jennesseaux, Antoine Denis, Marin de Boylesve, Jaime Nonell, James Clare. Franz de Hummelauer, Jaime Gutiérrez.
We refer the reader to Diertins's narration of the "persecutions" to which the "Exercises" were subjected during the lifetime of St. Ignatius. He counts no less than twelve. The first attacks may be attributed to the surprise felt by ecclesiastics at the sight of a layman treating of spiritual matters, before having made his theological studies; the others arose from some difficulty of interpretation or from erroneous judgments as to the meaning of the text. These malevolent or over-zealous censurers were answered by Nadal and Francisco Suárez, who were justified by the approbation of the Holy See. The attacks of the present day are generally unscientific, inspired by passion, and made without any preliminary examination of the question. When the adversary's mind conceives a caricature of the "Exercises" either because he has not read them, or because before reading them he has been influenced by the erroneous statements of other hostile critics, the attack appears legitimate; in reality it will be found to refer to something that is not in the "Exercises". Besides the attacks by their mutual opposition destroy one another. The "Exercises" cannot have, simultaneously, a machiavellian and an anodyne character, or be rapt in the clouds and yet crawl upon the soil. Long ago they were, and today are, charged with being a clever machinery destined to strike and move the imagination and finally through hallucination produce ecstasies. Michelet and Quinet in their too famous lectures revived this calumny, which has been answered by Fr. Cahour in his pamphlet: "Des jésuites par un jésuite". To this charge of charlantanry one reply will suffice, the answer made by a young religious, Rodrigo de Menezès, on being asked whether he had not been favoured with any kind of vision: "Yes, I witnessed a very affecting sight; the state of my soul, the nothingness of this world and the misfortune of losing God for ever".
This sight, if it can move a sinner to conversion, is not one likely to cause a steady mind to wander. And yet W. James mentions, as the culminating point of the "Exercises", "a half-hallucinated monoideism" ("L'Expérience reigieuse", Paris, 1906, p. 345). Certain critics have reproached the "Exercises" with favouring private inspiration, in the Protestant sense, and with opening a path to illuminism. This criticism was emphasized in the beginning by Thomas de Pedroche, O.P and arose from an erroneous interpretation of the fifteenth annotation, in which St. Ignatius advises the director not to substitute his own views for those God may have upon the exercitant. There is no question of leaving him an exaggerated liberty which might draw him beyond the limits laid down by the Church. We therefore see that some find in Ignatius's method illuminism, hallucination, and phantasmagoria; others see in it nothing dazzling, but rather dulness and insipidity. "There are people," said the Abbé Guetée, "who consider this book a masterpiece, and others find it but very ordinary" ("Histoire des Jésuites", Paris, 1858, I, 12). This charge appears again under a different form, — the "Exercises" afford but a scanty method, "a Japanese culture of counterfeited dwarfish trees" ( Huysmans, "En Route", Paris, 1896, p. 398). Finally, some Catholics see in it only a book for beginners, a retreat for the time of conversion, and a suitable means to guide one's first steps in the way of perfection. A Protestant clergyman, Rev. Mr. Carter, observes, on the contrary, that the method is rather wide and free, since "one of the first rules laid down by St. Ignatius for the director of a retreat is, that he is to adapt the Exercises to the age, the capacity, the strength of the person about to perform them" ("Retreats with notes of addresses", London, 1893, p. xxv).
The praise bestowed on the "Exercises" far exceeds the adverse criticism. As they are considered a school of sanctity, it is interesting to know what the saints thought of them. The practice of Saints Philip Romolo Neri, Charles Borromeo, Francis de Sales, and Alphonsus Liguori is more eloquent testimony in favour of the "Exercises" than anything they have written; and it will be sufficient to recall the words of St. Leonard of Port-Maurice : "During these holy days we must exercise ourselves in the Divine art of making secure the great important affair of our salvation. As God has inspired the glorious founder of the illustrious Society of Jesus with this precious art, we have but to follow the method laid down by him in his admirable book of the Exercises." Since the approbation given by Paul III in 1548, the "Exercises" have often been favoured by the sovereign pontiffs ; the praises they have bestowed on them are mingled with recommendations of retreats, the usage of which, according to St. Francis de Sales, was revived by St. Ignatius. We need mention only Alexander VII, Clement XII, Benedict XIV, Clement XIII, and Pius IX. All their eulogies have been resumed by Leo XIII in his Brief of 8 February, 1900: "The importance of St. Ignatius's book with regard to the eternal welfare of souls has been proved by an experience of three centuries and by the evidence of those remarkable men, who, during this lapse of time, have distinguished themselves in the ascetic paths of life or in the practice of sanctity."
Mgr Camus, Bishop of Belley, calls the "Exercises" a book, a "Golden book of pure gold, more precious than either gold or topaz" ("Direction à l'Oraison mentale", Lyons, 1623, c. xix, p. 157); Mgr Freppel "A book that I should call the work of a man of genius, if it were not that of a saint, a wonderful book, which, with the ' Imitation of Christ ', is perhaps of all books written by man the one which gains the most souls to God " ("Discours-Panégyriques", Paris, 1882, II, 36, 37); and Cardinal Wiseman : "There are many books from which the reader is taught to expect much; but which, perused, yield him but little profit. Those are few and most precious, which, at first sight, and on slender acquaintance, seem to contain but little; but the more they are studied, the more instruction, the more solid benefit they bestow; which are like a soil that looks bare and unadorned, but which contains beneath its surface rich treasures that must be digged out and drawn from a great depth. To this second class I know no book that so justly belongs as the little work here presented to the public" (Preface to Fr. ed. of the "Exercises" by Seager, London, 1847, p. xi). Janssen says: "This little book, considered by the Protestants themselves as a first class psychological masterpiece, has been for the German nation, and towards the history of its faith and civilization, one of the most important writings of modern times. . . . It has worked such extraordinary influence over souls, that no other ascetic work may be compared to it" ("L'Allemagne et la Réforme", Fr. ed., IV, 402).
Non-Catholics also praise it. "The Spiritual", according to Macaulay, "is a manual of conversion, proposing a plan of interior discipline, by means of which, in neither more nor less than four weeks, the metamorphosis of a sinner into a faithful servant of Christ is realized, step by step" ("Edinburgh Review", November, 1842, p. 29). More recently, the Canon Charles Bodington, praising the Jesuit missionaries, so lavish of their sweat and blood, really "worthy of hearty admiration and respect", added: "Probably the noble and devotional side of the lives of these remarkable men has been largely sustained by the use of the method of the spiritual exercises left to them by their founder" ("Books of Devotion", London, 1903, p. 130). Finally, a short time ago Karl Holl (see bibliography), a German, declared the "Exercises" to be a masterpiece of pedagogy, which instead of annihilating personality serves to elevate the spirit. The Positivist P. Lafitte, in the lectures delivered by him at the Collège de France, declares: "These Exercises are to my mind a real masterpiece of political and moral wisdom and merit careful study. . . . The destination of these Exercises is to so organize the moral life of the individual that by a prolonged, solitary, and personal labour he himself realizes the most perfect balance of the mind " ("Revue occidentale", 1 May, 1894, p. 309).
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