First Spiritual Exercises

The First Spiritual Exercises: Retreat in Daily Life provides employees of Gonzaga University an opportunity to experience the dynamics and graces of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola.

This four-week retreat features daily individual prayer and reflection as well as weekly conversation with other participants. The retreat and small group conversations are facilitated by experienced guides using the book First Spiritual Exercises: Four Guided Retreats by Michael Hansen, SJ. This book, provided by Mission and Ministry, includes four distinctive retreat experiences, each of which is offered at least once across a two-year rotation.

We have successfully offered this retreat experience both in-person and over Zoom. 

For 2021-2022, the First Spiritual Exercises will be offered at least once per semester and during the summer.

  • Fall 2021: “Inner Peace in Divine Love” (Retreat 1)
    •  Mondays from 3-4pm in October & November
      • 10/11, 10/18, no session 10/25 for Founder's Day holiday
      • 11/1, 11/8
To register or for more information, please contact Lauren Hackman-Brooks in Mission and Ministry at


Frequently Asked Questions

The Spiritual Exercises are a set of structured spiritual exercises woven with a particular dynamic into a retreat by St. Ignatius.” (Hansen, 13) Rooted in Ignatius’ own experience, the Spiritual Exercises became and continue to be a core ministry of the Society of Jesus. The Spiritual Exercises can be experienced in their entirety as a 30-day retreat or as a 30-week retreat in everyday life (such as with SEEL Spokane). They also serve as the foundation for shorter retreats such as those hosted by Jesuit schools and Jesuit retreat houses. 

The “First Spiritual Exercises” are “the first spiritual exercises learned by Ignatius, the first he gave to others, and the first to give to one who wishes to progress in the spiritual life (Hansen, 15). This format of the Exercises does not presume past experience with Ignatian spirituality and is relatively brief compared to the full Exercises 

“Ignatius saw the First Spiritual Exercises as being useful for everyone.” (Hansen, 17)

In the first year of this program, over 25 Gonzaga  faculty, staff and administrators participated in the First Spiritual Exercises from a variety of academic departments around the university including: Philosophy, Chemistry, Nursing, Engineering, and Religious Studies, as well as professionals from Admissions, the Controller's Office, Financial Aid, Enrollment Management and Student Affairs.

Seekers and people of all faiths are welcome to this retreat experience, which is rooted in the Catholic Christian and Ignatian tradition. So far at Gonzaga, persons from the following self-reported religious and spiritual identities have participated in the retreat: Catholic, Protestant, non-denominational Christian, Buddhist, and spiritual but not religious. 


People come to the retreat with many different hopes and desires. The following are a few reasons why employees have registered for this retreat:

  • I am new to GU, just completed my first academic year. I’d love to participate because it feels like it would allow me to deepen my own spiritual perspective, and to learn about the Jesuit experience.
  • I have participated in a few Ignatian in-person retreats and prayer sessions over the years. Lately things feel a little crazy... I want to do something that fits into my schedule and allows me to bring my spiritual life more to the front of my priorities.
  • I want to engage meaningfully with colleagues while working remotely.
  • It will allow me some self-care moments but also a space to pray for our students, my colleagues and the world-at-large during this pandemic.
  • I read the description... and my conscience gave me a little nudge – ‘you always said you were going to do this!’
  • I completed the SEEL Retreat 20 years ago and I would like to get back in renew my commitment to the Spiritual Exercises and thought this might be a great way to start again. 

Participants commit to: 

  • Daily prayer (25-40 minutes) ~5 times per week
  • Presence at all 5 one-hour sessions (informing the facilitator of any unavoidable conflicts)
  • Openness to: the retreat content, sharing one's experiences with others, receiving the experiences of others
  • A “listening book” or journal is also suggested

Retreat 1 is an excellent place to begin, especially for those who are unfamiliar with Ignatian Spirituality or do not currently have a practice of daily prayer

That being said, the retreats can be made in any order and may be selected based on one’s schedule availability or interest in particular retreat topic. 


Past participants have shared the following comments about their experience: 

  • “In this time of COVID-19, I had lost touch with what being part of a faith sharing community means to me. This helped me reconnect to that value. And it was grounding to participate in these exercises as a new hire--to establish a new community for myself here and to reaffirm my love of Ignatian Spirituality.”
  • "The sense of community brought God's love to light in this format.”
  • “It was great to take an hour out of a day to meet and discuss with others. The fact that it was only an hour kept me from ‘skipping’ when I felt overwhelmed by work or other pressures, or if I was behind in my retreat practice.”
  • “Working at the law school, I rarely feel connected to the larger Gonzaga community... This retreat helped me experience the ‘best’ of GU and refreshed my commitment to being here by reminding me of the incredible people that are here. Being able to explore and discuss my faith within a work environment is amazing.”
  • “I gained respect for Ignatian spirituality and found it to be very helpful in approaching time in everyday life and time set apart for devotion. I also gained some friends along the way in this group.”