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Ignatian Spiritual Exercises on the Hallow app are facilitating encounters with God

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Zelda Caldwell - published on 06/03/22

The Spiritual Exercises teach a form of prayer based on the spiritual insights of the St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus.

Hallow, a popular Catholic prayer and mediation app, is now offering a 28-day micro-retreat based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. 

Over 50,000 people have signed up to listen to Fr. Timothy Gallagher, OMV, lead daily 15-minute long meditations, where they are invited to a deeper encounter with God through prayer. 

The Spiritual Exercises by St. Ignatius

The Spiritual Exercises are a sort of handbook to holiness written by a saint after his conversion to Christianity. As a Spanish soldier, Ignatius was wounded in battle in 1521. Only nominally Christian when he was wounded, he spent his long recovery time with only a book on the lives of the saints to divert him. He then began to reflect on his own sinfulness and the loving mercy of God. After experiencing a religious conversion, he set about writing the “Spiritual Exercises,” to help others come to see how God operates in their daily lives. He later went on to found the Society of Jesus.

Written between 1522 and 1524, the Spiritual Exercises remain a powerful tool in in spiritual direction. While the exercises were designed to take place over 30 days, many retreat centers offer weekend Ignatian retreats based on insights from the Exercises. 

Hallow’s 28-day Ignatian Spiritual Exercise Challenge

Gallagher, a member of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary, is the author of several books on Ignatian Spirituality. In each day’s audio-meditation, he prompts the listener to consider the word of God in two ways: by using the intellect to parse out the meaning in the passage, and through the imagination, as we are asked to picture ourselves in the scenes described in sacred scripture. As Gallagher explains, the exercises begin by contemplating of God’s love us as individuals, a foundation that, he says, is necessary for the rest of the exercises which involve self-examination.

Kevin Cotter, Head of Content at the Hallow app, explained why they decided to feature a 28-day Ignatian retreat among their other prayer offerings.

“The Ignatian Spiritual Exercises are one of the most dependable spiritual experiences offered in the Catholic Church and one that many users have requested. They have a rich history of helping people encounter Jesus Christ and the Gospel. In particular, they help people understand God’s purpose in their life and how to apply the gifts they’ve been given by God for his greater glory,” Cotter told Aleteia.

“At Hallow, our goal is to teach the world to pray and the Spiritual Exercises are an incredible way to go deeper in our relationship with God,” he said.

Many people who are not able to go on a 30-day Ignatian retreat can sign up for a 5-7 month-long program with a spiritual director. They then meet in private to go through the Spiritual Exercises together. As that too represents a significant time commitment, Hallow’s 28-day, 15-minute per day meditations make the Spiritual Exercises possible for most people.  

Cotter says that they are intended both for people who already have a rich prayer life, and those who wish they had one.

“Making an app that welcomes everyone is core to who Hallow is. Whether someone has intently followed the Lord their whole life or is looking to encounter God for the first time in a meaningful way, there’s relevant content on the app for them,” he said.

After listening to the first meditation, the listener receives a message saying that the next mediation will be available at the same time on the next day. Cotter said that what many people want is a way to make prayer become habitual.

“One of the most consistent pieces of feedback we’ve received is the ability for the app to help someone establish a regular prayer life, no matter what their previous background has been,” he said. “Many tell us that they’ve wanted a prayer life for so long but have struggled to develop this habit. Through the content presented, the automated routines on the app, and the format of audio that can be listened to anywhere, the app gives so many tools to make this habit more possible.”

Hallow’s daily meditations offered during Lent and Advent are their two most popular features. The app’s creators say they are pleased to see so many people signing up for the Ignatian exercises and the app’s other recent prayer challenge, an audiobook of  St. Therese’s Story of a Soul

“Honestly, I think people want to experience the richness of the Catholic faith, but don’t always have the format to follow or the right guide to lead them. We have the privilege of working with some of the best teachers and presenters in the Church while also sharing this content in a way that is accessible and easy to use,” said Cotter.

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