Pedro Arrupe sent a letter to all major superiors in the Society of Jesus in September 1972. The letter was based on reports he had received from throughout the Society on three topics: how provinces were prioritizing and adapting their ministries, that state of the communities’ lifestyle, and how Jesuits were practicing the Spiritual Exercises. Below appears the selection on the Exercises from Arrupe’s letter. This selection appears as it did in a publication from Jesuit Sources.
For more sources from Arrupe, please visit The Arrupe Collection.
…. The third question was intended to see how the Exercises of Saint Ignatius influenced our own lives as Jesuits and our apostolate today.
Most Jesuits are faithful to making their annual Exercises. My desire is that this should be applicable to all, because they are so necessary in this periodic renovation. I consider it very important that the duration of the Exercises should not be shortened, nor easily broken up into shorter periods without very special reasons that should be judged by the Superior.
The Exercises should be made annually, but it is also important to renew and revitalize this Ignatian practice. For some it could become mere routine. Others have tried to find a substitute for this spiritual exercise of personal discernment and renewal of their own life, having recourse to a more exclusively intellectual and less demanding reflection, assisted by a good preacher or a few fine books, sometimes also discarding the silence that is so indispensable.
I was very pleased to learn that in some Provinces a good number of Jesuits made the Spiritual Exercises personally under the guidance of a skilled director. In some Provinces a few Jesuits made the entire month of the Exercises, as actual circumstances dictated and allowed. Others have found it profitable to make the Exercises together with their community. What is clear from the information received on this and on other details is that these different forms of making the Exercises show a genuine spiritual renewal in an area that is of capital importance for our conversion. I strongly desire that this movement may continue to spread ever more widely.
Provinces in many countries report that the Exercises of Saint Ignatius, as a principal instrument of the apostolate, are suffering a setback. Certainly they are given to fewer groups and above all to fewer large groups. On the other hand, they are being given to persons who are more capable of making them individually and in a more exacting manner. With the Exercises we .are still helping a good number of religious sisters, while on the contrary in some places we are giving them to fewer groups of priests. We should ask ourselves what, on our part, has caused this reversal, especially since it concerns an important service to the Church which the Society has always tried to render with particular dedication and consoling results, including some excellent vocations.
It will also be necessary to renew the methods and adaptations in giving the Exercises to younger generations, and in this area much remains to be done.
It is good to note that courses that prepare Jesuits as directors for the Exercises are on the increase, but I should like to observe that theological updating on the content and the presentation of the meditations is not sufficient. We must also go more deeply into the typical internal dynamism of the Ignatian Exercises, which apart from disposing a person for the action of grace, also yields its own special fruit….
Other Apostolates Today: Selected Letters and Addresses—III, ed. Jerome Aixala. St. Louis: The Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1981, “The Exercises and the Jesuit,” pg. 275–277.